The Dorchester Historical Society at 195 Boston St. will be open this coming Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for tours of several newly installed exhibits. Following the tours, the Society’s Annual Meeting will begin at 2 p.m. and will include a slide lecture by Robert Severy on the subject of Diverse Dorchester.
The public and society members can take this opportunity to view the new exhibits, which include displays from Baker Chocolate history, the Huebener Brick collection, a newly-enlarged Dorchester Pottery setting, and a new Roswell Gleason Pewter showing.
– EARL TAYLOR
Baker Chocolate –James Baker took over chocolate manufacturing at the Neponset River mills in 1780. Over the next 150 years the company grew to become Dorchester’s most famous company and its largest employer. In the late 19th century, Henry L. Pierce introduced the trademark chocolate lady or La Belle Chocolatiere, a symbol that became recognized around the world.
Huebener Brick Collection – Huebener collected one brick from each Dorchester house he thought significant, often when the house was being demolished. He then chose local artists to paint a picture of the house onto the brick. The collection, which numbers over 100 bricks, is not only a record of the architectural history of Dorchester but also an intriguing and possibly unique form of folk art. Edward Huebener, who was born in Dorchester in 1851 and died here in 1936, lived at a time when many of the fine, early Dorchester houses remained standing, so some of Dorchester’s early homes are known only from the paintings in the collection.
Dorchester Pottery – Founded in 1895 by George Henderson, the Dorchester Pottery Works successfully produced commercial and industrial stoneware until the 1970s. Dorchester Pottery’s wares evolved over the years from primarily agricultural products to decorated tablewares. Mash feeders and chicken fountains were cast from molds for the farmer. Acid pots and dipping baskets were in demand by jewelry manufacturers, and Henderson’s popular foot warmer was known as a “porcelain pig.”
In 1940, Dorchester Pottery’s line of distinctive gray and blue tableware was introduced. In 1914, Mr. Henderson built an enormous beehive kiln 28 feet in diameter of his own design made of unmortared bricks. When it was carefully stacked with two or three freight car loads of unfired pottery , the opening was sealed and the kiln was slowly heated with 15 tons of coal and four cords of wood to a temperature of 2500- 3000 degrees Fahrenheit.
After days of cooling, the door would be opened, brick by brick, and the fired pieces removed. The entire process took about one week to complete. By the 1950s when the Pottery turned out 1,700 distinct items, twenty-five percent was tableware, and by the 1960s tableware was one hundred percent of the works’ production.
Gleason Pewter – Roswell Gleason began working as a tinsmith in the 1820s, but later, with the encouragement of Daniel Webster, Gleason and one of his sons opened the first silver-plating establishment in America. His house and 15 other structures, including stables, outbuildings, and factory buildings were located on a property of 25 acres with a 1,000-foot frontage on Washington Street. Park Street was installed on the southern border of his land. Gleason’s ability to adapt to changing tastes and to keep abreast of technical advances in manufacturing allowed his company to prosper.
When Gleason began the production of silver-plate, the style of his work began to change from the simple, traditionally inspired design of his early work to a more heavily ornamented and opulent style which better suited the tastes of his Victorian clientele.