Bringing a Piece of Miller House History Home

Bringing a Piece of Miller House History Home

We have some exciting news! We’re pleased to announce that we’ve recently acquired a signed red-ware crock made by celebrated Hagerstown potter Peter Bell! 

Born in Hagerstown, MD on June 1st, 1775, Peter Bell was the fifth of six children born to Captain Peter Bell, a German immigrant, and Elizabeth Leiter Bell. Due to the high concentration of good soil and water sources in the area, Hagerstown was a central hub for earthenware production, specifically red-ware. It was here that Peter Bell trained as a potter from a young age. 

In 1802, Peter Bell purchased a half lot of land in Hagerstown (lot 91) from John Grumbaugh for the sum of three hundred pounds. Coincidentally, lot 91 is the present location of the Miller House, which was built in 1825. Upon acquiring the half lot, Bell constructed a two-story building. On the lower level, he operated his pottery business, where he sold handsome red-ware pitchers, jugs, pipe bowls, dishes, pots, mugs, and canning jars. The second floor was a living quarters for his family. 

Despite running a profitable business, Peter Bell went bankrupt in 1823. This was partly due to the fact that he owed his brother Frederick a large sum of money, and partly due to the fact that many of his customers were indebted to him. He listed his half lot as collateral for his debt to his brother and moved to Winchester, Virginia where he opened another pottery business dealing primarily in stoneware. Peter Bell returned to Hagerstown in 1845. He died shortly thereafter on June 18th, 1847. 

Today, Peter Bell’s surviving works are prized among collectors. Independent of the various surviving works expert appraisers attribute to the late great master potter, Peter Bell leaves behind a legacy as the patriarch of a pottery dynasty. Peter Bell learned his craft from a young age, and so too did his sons John, Samuel, Solomon, and Upton. In fact, he taught them everything he knew, including his mastery of glazes.Three of them, John, Samuel, and Solomon, became master potters, with John opening his own shops in Chambersburg, PA, and Waynesboro, PA. Samuel and Solomon potted together in Strasburg, Virginia. 

In general, Peter Bell did not mark his pottery – the few pieces he did mark were imprinted with a simple, “P. Bell.” What makes this red-ware crock so special is that it’s signed! 

Regardless of whether it was made on-site, we’re immensely pleased to welcome it back to lot 91. 

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