SHERMAN — The Sherman Library announces the amazing story of Sherman as seen through the eyes of traveling photographers at the turn of the century and as expressed through the hands of a craftsman replicating the ceramics of the era. Gloria Thorne has curated a display from the photographic collection of The Sherman Historical Society on how people lived in Sherman from about 1850 to the 1890s. Paul Fortenberry has created jugs, urns, pitchers, and water pots like those used in the day. The photographs and ceramics will be on display at the Sherman Library through August 28, 2019.
The photographs taken by itinerant photographers show how the people of Sherman farmed, where they bought their goods, where they lived and who they were: a staunch and proud community here in the lower Berkshire foothills. These photographers of the day were extremely talented. They had a keen eye, a sense of dignity and strong wills, for this was not an easy occupation. Their cameras were designed with many parts and they traveled with dangerous chemicals and heavy plates of glass. All of this was all carried in a buggy that also held a tent, from which they worked along a dirt farm road. The original photographs were done with glass plates from these photographers. Using copies, Visual Impact in Danbury has printed the photographs for the show.
Imagine these photographers eating at the many farm tables or households from Leach Hollow to Church Road, as they traveled about. People were expecting them, so appointments must have been made some time before the photographs were staged. The costumes themselves all match and are from the mid to later 1800s. Sherman was mostly a farming community and set off from the more advanced surrounding towns. Horse and buggies were still being used into the 1920-1930s. It’s too bad that we know so very little of these men who so ably recorded our history at this period in time.
The ceramics on display include jugs, urns, pitchers, water pots, and more made by Paul Fortenberry. Several pieces in the show are made with clay sourced from the White Silo Farm in Sherman, which was used long ago to make the foundation bricks of the pioneer homes in Sherman. The pottery is inspired by birds, owls, squirrels and other animals that live around Paul’s woodland home. Combining farming with pottery, he uses fallen branches for fuel for his wood kiln and uses ashes from his wood stove to make glazes. By using these natural resources, his work is similar to that of the early craftsman. The early farmer needed to preserve food over the winter, so before there were tin cans, glass jars, and refrigeration, he made preserving vessels: pitchers, churns and jugs. With the decline of the family farm, locally made pottery died out.
Gloria Thorne began with the Sherman Historical Society in 1979 when Mary Mallory Hadlow began the process of deeding the old Northrop property to the Society. In 1981 Gloria became Program Chairman and in 1986 she was elected president, a job she held for the next 20 years. Under her direction Northrop House came to life, telling the history of Sherman and collecting only local furnishings under the tutelage of Mary Hadlow and Alice Schneckenburger. Gloria was instrumental in the purchase of The Old Store for S.H.S. in 1998. Since retiring as president in 2006 she has maintained the active files of history, photography and biographies for Sherman. Gloria currently resides in Fort Myers, Florida, and comes back to Sherman in the summers. She now serves as an honorary director on the S.H.S. Board and is also the historian for the Congregational Church in Sherman, which is celebrating its 275th anniversary this year.
Paul Fortenberry studied pottery at Columbia University. He and his wife lived in a loft in lower Manhattan, where he worked as a commercial artist and in his spare time he made and sold pottery through gift shops, bookstores and the American Crafts Council’s America House on 53rd Street and 5th Ave. across from the Modern Museum of Art. After working in commercial art for Macmillan, Harcourt, Knitted Outerwear, Times, Chemical Bank, an illustrator colleague invited him to take the Department of Education’s Commercial Art test for teaching in the public schools. Paul was assigned to the High School of Art & Design on 57th Street and Second Ave. He retired from this position in 2006. His loft days are now replaced with an A-frame cabin among an 8-acre tract of woods in Pawling, N.Y. Paul finds it a privilege to bring back this craft using the same technology and earth used by the early craftsman.
For more information about the Sherman Historical Society, visit www.shermanhistoricalsociety.org. For more information about Visual Impact, visit www.visualimpactweb.com. For more information about this show and the Sherman Library, visit www.shermanlibrary.org.