Art for the People

Art for the People: Decorated Stoneware from the Weitsman Collection

New York Metropolis Hall

This exhibition features 40 uniquely decorated stoneware vessels, including jugs, crocks, pitchers, jars and water coolers. The artful designs on the 19th-century stoneware are today considered to be prime examples of American Folk Art. Most pieces were created in cities and towns across New York State. Many are “presentation pieces” – oversized and frequently decorated with elaborate and unusual cobalt blue designs. Tools used to decorate the stoneware are also included in the exhibition, as well as broadsides, a rare portrait of a potter and photos of potteries and their staffs.

Adam J. Weitsman of Owego acquired all of the stoneware in the exhibition and loaned or donated the pieces to the State Museum. Weitsman began collecting stoneware in 1980 when he was 11 years old. Since then he has scoured New York State and the East Coast, continuing to acquire rare pieces at antique shows, estate sales and auctions. In 1996, he donated his collection of 100 pieces to the State Museum to ensure that the collection would be preserved, studied and appreciated for years to come. Pieces acquired since then form the basis for the current exhibition. Most have never been displayed before.

Fun Facts: Did you know?!

  • Among the common decorations of birds and flowers were special presentation pieces, or stoneware made for family members. They featured unusually well-crafted, unique designs.
  • In the twentieth century, plastic and aluminum replaced pottery as the chief material for kitchen equipment.
  • Although most potters were not trained artists, the whimsical, sometimes crudely incised or cobalt blue decorations they created on stoneware are now appreciated as prime examples of American Folk Art.