MICHIGAN BAR AND THE GOLD RUSH

GO WEST YOUNG MAN!

IN THE 1850'S IN CALIFORNIA, SETTLERS THERE HAD STRUCK GOLD. THE NEWS SPREAD ACROSS AMERICA LIKE WILDFIRE. THERE WERE CRAZY REPORTS OF MEN CUPPING THEIR HANDS IN THE STREAMS AND COMING UP WITH HANDFULS OF GOLD.


AFTER RESEARCHING 18TH AND 19TH CENTURY STONEWARE FOR YEARS NOW, WE HAVE LEARNED ONE THING FOR SURE. IT'S A LABOR INTENSIVE JOB. 12 CORDS OF CHOPPED HARDWOOD, THREE OR FOUR MONTHS WORTH OF TIME ON A KICK WHEEL IN THE POTTERY MAKING JUG, CROCKS, FLASKS AND CHURNS. THEN SPRING COMES AND IT'S TIME TO FIRE THE KILN AND STOKE THE FIRE. STAY UP FOR THREE DAYS STRAIGHT AND TEND THE FIRE ALL THE WHILE INHALING WHAT WE NOW KNOW AS NOXIOUS FUMES. THAT'S THE TRIMMED DOWN TWICE READERS DIGEST VERSION. IT'S NOT EVEN CLOSE TO THE WORK INVOLVED.


THOMAS GAFFNEY HAD BEEN TRAINED AS A POTTER, IN A POTTERY SOMEWHERE, IN AMERICA'S EAST. HE HEARS THAT "CALL OF THE WEST"  WE ALL HAVE READ ABOUT. 


"GO WEST YOUNG MAN! THERE'S GOLD IN THEM THAR HILLS!"


GAFFNEY DROPS HIS TOOLS, TAKES OFF HIS APRON AND HEADS WEST. THE EXACT TIMELINE OF GAFFNEY'S ARRIVAL IN CALIFORNIA IS UNDOCUMENTED, BUT WE ARE FAIRLY SURE HE WAS THERE IN THE MID TO LATE 1860'S. THIS WAS JUST ABOUT THE TIME OF THE CIVIL WAR, WHICH MAY HAVE BEEN AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO GO TO CALIFORNIA IN THE FIRST PLACE.

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THOMAS GAFFNEY AT MICHIGAN BAR

EVIDENCE FOUND

J. W. ORR FOUNDED MICHIGAN BAR POTTERY IN CONSUMNES, SACRAMENTO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA IN 1859. THE POTTERY MADE SEWER PIPE AND STONEWARE. ORR SOLD THE BUSINESS TO ONE DAVID ADDINGTON WHO CARRIED ON MAKING STONEWARE THERE. THEN, BY 1870 IN CENSUS RECORDS, THOMAS GAFFNEY SHOWS UP LISTED AS A POTTER IN CONSUMNES COUNTY.


THIS TIDBIT OF DOCUMENTED INFORMATION PUTS GAFFNEY IN MICHIGAN BAR IN THE MID TO LATE 1860'S, AND GIVEN THERE WAS BUT ONE POTTERY THERE OPERATING AT THE TIME, ONE WOULD CONCLUDE HE WAS INDEED AT MICHIGAN BAR. 


THEN OF COURSE THERE WAS THE EVIDENCED STONEWARE.


FEW PIECES OF STONEWARE WITH ADDINGTON'S STAMP HAS BEEN UNCOVERED BUT THANKFULLY A SMALL COLLECTION OF THOMAS GAFFNEYS HANDIWORK LIVES ON TODAY.

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WEST & COMPANY AND THOMAS GAFFNEY

BLOOMING MARKETS ATTRACT NEW BUSINESS

BY THE LATE 1850'S OVER 300,000 NEW SETTLERS HAD COME TO CALIFORNIA, SOME IN SEARCH OF GOLD, OTHERS IN SEARCH OF THE FRUITS OF THE ENORMOUS NEW MARKET THAT WAS BLOSSOMING THERE. STAGGERING TO THINK, THAT IS 1848 THERE WAS LESS THAN 800 NON-NATIVE RESIDENTS IN CALIFORNIA. THERE WAS AN ESTIMATED 156,000 INDIGENOUS AND SPANISH/MEXICAN (CALIFORNIOS) PEOPLE THERE, BUT ONLY 800 SETTLERS FROM THE EAST. BY THE 1850'S THAT HAD BECOME 300,000!


WITH SOLID DOCUMENTED INFORMATION FROM THE YEARS SURROUNDING THE CIVIL WAR ALMOST NONEXISTENT, WE HAVE MADE A.....LET'S CALL IT AN EDUCATED GUESS.

WE THINK THE GOLD MINING THOUGHT, IF IT WAS CROSS GAFFNEY'S BUSINESS GOAL, WAS IN THE END A DREAM MORE THAN REALITY. 


THOMAS GAFFNEY SEEMS TO HAVE GONE TO WORK AT MICHIGAN BAR IN THE LATE 1860'S AND STAMPED HIS WARE. THERE'S ALSO CROCKS AND CHURNS FOUND, STAMPED "WEST & CO.". AUTHOR AND RESEARCHER, JOHN O'NEILL, TURNED UP MERCHANT CHARLES WEST, A STORE OWNER IN THE AREA. AS WAS COMPLETELY CUSTOMARY AT THAT TIME, STORE MERCHANTS WOULD CONTRACT A POTTERY TO EMBLAZON THE COMPANY NAME ON THE STONEWARE FOR SALE AT THEIR MERCANTILE. THIS WAS AN EARLY EFFORT TO BOTH ADVERTISE AND PROMOTE DEPOSIT AND RETURN BUSINESS. IN THIS CASE, THE PIECES ALL SEEM TO BE CHURNS AND LARGER CROCKS WHICH WOULD SURMISE THAT WEST HAD THESE FOR SALE IN THE STORE AND THE GOAL WAS TO ADVERTISE HIS MERCANTILE. ALSO, WEST MAY HAVE HAD ACTIVE ROLE IN THE FINANCIAL END OF THE POTTERY AND COULD HAVE PARTNERED WITH GAFFNEY AT SOME POINT.

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PERHAPS HE WAS INFLUENCED OR ARE THEY BOTH GAFFNEY?

N.A. WHITE & CO. BINGHAMTON N.Y. STAMP

N.A. WHITE & CO. BINGHAMTON N.Y. STAMP

N.A. WHITE & CO. BINGHAMTON N.Y. STAMP

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THIS IS THE COBALT DESIGN ON A 5 GALLON CROCK AMERICAN STONEWARE COLLECTORS AUCTIONED A WHILE BACK STAMPED        "N. A. WHITE & CO. BINGHAMTON, N.Y."

WEST & CO. MICHIGAN BAR STAMP

N.A. WHITE & CO. BINGHAMTON N.Y. STAMP

N.A. WHITE & CO. BINGHAMTON N.Y. STAMP

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THIS IS A THE COBALT DESIGN ON A FIVE GALLON CROCK PICTURED IN 

"EARLY CALIFORNIA STONEWARE"

BY JOHN O'NEILL

IT IS STAMPED 

WEST & CO. MICHIGAN BAR

A CONCLUSIVE MATCH OR ASSUMED?

MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS

GIVEN THE DRASTIC SIMILARITIES BETWEEN WORK DONE IN BINGHAMTON NEW YORK AND MICHIGAN BAR CALIFORNIA, IS IT CONCLUSIVE ENOUGH TO CALL IT A MATCH AND PUT GAFFNEY IN BINGHAMTON AS THE DECORATOR FOR THE ROBERTS/WHITE POTTERY?

YOU BE THE JUDGE!

THERE ARE MANY OPINIONS IN THE STONEWARE WORLD ALWAYS OUTNUMBERING THE DOCUMENTED TRUTH. YOU BE THE JUDGE. WAS GAFFNEY IN BINGHAMTON?

ORDER JOHN O'NEILL'S BOOK "EARLY CALIFORNIA STONEWARE" HERE!

JOHN O'NEILL IS AN ACCOMPLISHED AUTHOR AND RESEARCHER OF 19TH CENTURY CALIFORNIA  STONEWARE. SEE JOHN'S EXCAVATION OF THE MICHIGAN BAR SITE AND IDENTIFY STAMPS USED BY EARLY CALIFORNIA POTTERIES. ORDER HIS 100 PAGE HARDBACK BOOK TODAY FOR $14.95 PLUS $5 SHIPPING AND HANDLING OR $19.95 TOTAL.

YOU CAN ORDER BY EMAILING US AT STONEWARE.USA@GMAIL.COM