COLUMN: Judd, Utley pottery once used in area kitchens

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Revere is not the only company that once made kitchen ware in Rome.

Decades before the Revere company started turning out pots and pans in east Rome, local men were turning out kitchen pottery in the city.

Norman L. Judd and Robert L. Utley were two of the most prolific local pottery makers. Some information about the two, from the files of the Rome Historical Society and online sources:

Norman L. Judd

According to an 1891 story in the Rome Sentinel, Judd was born in Goshen, Conn., and started making pottery in Vermont. He and his family moved to Rome sometime in 1810 or 1811. According to the story, “They came all the way to Rome in an ox cart, and their first stay over night ... was in the block house of old Fort Stanwix.”

Judd is also mentioned in the book, “American Redware,” by William C. Ketchum Jr. He reported that Judd set up his store in Rome, which was “a rough boomtown” at the time. Judd’s first pottery was in an alley near a coal yard in Rome, according to the Sentinel story. In February 1813, Judd became the owner of a nearby piece of property on which he had both his business and his home.

He made mostly red earthen ware, of red clay obtained locally. The Sentinel story reported, “Men now old mention as among their earliest recollections their boyish visits of curiosity to Mr. Judd’s pottery, to see how earthen ware was made, baked and dried, and of seeing rows and piles of it along the park and in the sun to dry.”
Judd took his wares around the country, in a one-horse wagon, to find customers.

In 1815, Judd became the owner of land on the north side of Liberty Street, next to his pottery.

According to the book, “The Potters and Potteries of Bennington,” by John Spargo, Judd wrote to a friend in 1814, about how hard he was working and how successful his business was. Judd said it was 8 p.m., and he had just finished turning some bowls. He asked his friend to send another man to him, to help Judd out, and said he could pay him well.

The book also told how fires were “the dread enemy of the potter,” and how Judd’s business was among those affected. In 1817, his shop was burned out, and he lost his goods and his tools.

“Mr. Judd was burned out three times, but he had the pluck and perseverance to go ahead, and try, try again,” the Sentinel stated.

Judd had been ready to leave town and start all over elsewhere, but the people of Rome came to his rescue, the book reported. They took up a collection, which allowed Judd to build a new and larger pottery. He remained in business until at least 1837, according to the book’s author.

Judd was the father of 8 children, 2 of whom were born before he arrived in Rome. In August 1852, his wife died and was buried in the old burying ground that is now Fort Stanwix Park. Soon after 1853, Judd moved to Chicago to live with his son, Norman B. Judd. He died between 1860 and 1863, at over 80 years of age.

Robert L. Utley

Robert Utley was born in Watertown in the mid-1800s. He moved to Rome around 1887, and for a time lived at 211 W. Court St. One of his shops was at 200-204 W. Dominick St. Another was at the northwest corner of Dominick and Washington streets. And Utley sold not only his pottery, but the spirits contained in them.

Utley advertised his products this way in an 1897 ad: “I sell Whiskies that have been distilled, fully matured in wood and bottled in bond under the direct supervision of the U.S. Internal Revenue Department, as certified by the U.S. Government Stamp over every bottle, thus guaranteeing the age, proof, absolute purity and
natural condition of the goods. Sold in bulk, by the bottle and in cases.”

And in an early 1900s Sentinel ad: “Our old bulk liquors for family and medicinal purposes. They are aged at the Government Warehouse under strict government supervision and are truly fine whiskies with a rich, ripe, distinctive flavor that never varies. Call for them at the old reliable liquor house of R.L. Utley Co.

Utley died in 1907 and is buried in Rome Cemetery.

Other local potters from the 1800s, mentioned in books or historical documents, include: Erastus Barnes in Clinton; William Hayes Jr. in Utica; and Col. Ardon Seymour in Rome.

This column was written by Chip Twellman Haley, retired Daily Sentinel news editor, utilizing the Rome Historical Society archive. Comments, old photos, suggestions for future columns or guest columns may be emailed to: chiphaley@yahoo.com. Copies of the books “Rome Through Our History, Volumes I and II,” collections of some of Haley’s columns, may be purchased from the Rome Historical Society.

The Rome Historical Society, 200 Church St., is open Tuesdays - Thursdays 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and by appointment. Go online at www.romehistoricalsociety.org, visit its Facebook page, or call 315-336-5870 for more information.

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