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Housed in our main facilities, the Historical Society permanent exhibit displays over a thousand pieces of locally produced glass pottery products, and toys, complemented by collections of locally produced furniture and silver. The locally produced glass, pottery, and toys are of research quality, and available for study by scholars.
Glassware produced in Cheshire County was manufactured in Keene and in Stoddard. In Keene, The New Hampshire Glass Factory operated for nearly 40 years from 1814 to 1853. Their Washington Street factory produced mostly window glass. A second glass factory opened in Keene in 1815 on Marlboro Street. Under the various names of its different owners, the Marlboro Street factory produced a variety of glassware to about 1842, including their celebrated pictorial flasks, flint glass, inkwells, decanters, and bottles of various shapes and sizes. Around 1840, a third glass factory opened on Gilsum Street, but little is known about its short-lived operations.
Stoddard Glass was produced between 1842 and 1873 from five different firms in the small town of Stoddard, about 15 miles northeast of Keene. These glass factories employed hundreds of residents and were the major economic enterprise in Stoddard during the middle of the 19th century. These factories produced mineral water bottles, food preserving bottles, flasks, snuffs, inks, stubby beer bottles, demijohns, rolling pins, and the rare Masonic Seeing Eye bottle.
Complementing the glassware collection from Keene and Stoddard are pieces produced in New Hampshire's other glass manufacturing towns: Temple, 1780 to 1782; Suncook, 1839 to 1850; and Lyndeborough, 1866 to 1886. In addition to New Hampshire produced glassware, Sandwich Glass made by the Boston and Sandwich Glass Works of Sandwich, Massachusetts between 1825 and 1888 and and limited edition Art Glass pieces from the late 19th and early 20th century are part of the Society's glassware collection.
Pottery was another important product produced in Cheshire County. The most well known manufacturer was the Hampshire Pottery Company. Located on lower Main Street in Keene, the company produced a wide variety of functional and decorated pottery pieces. The exhibit contains examples of many rare and common pieces the company produced during its existence between 1871 and 1923. Representative pottery includes stoneware jugs and crocks, pitchers in brown and saltglaze, Majolica and Royal Worcester type pieces, matt pieces, and decorated souvenir items.
Ground granite was also a material used to make pottery. Established in 1890, the Keene Granite and Terra Cotta and Tile Company operated for four years on Water Street in Keene producing a variety of vases, urns, and pitchers. Along with examples of ground granite pottery in the collection, there are pottery pieces finished with a process called Copper Luster. This metallic glaze was developed to make pottery pieces resemble copper, with most pieces surviving today made in the 19th century.
For more than half a century Keene was home to one of the country's leading toy manufactures. Beginning with the Wilkins Toy Company in 1890, the firm made a popular line of cast iron trains and horse drawn fire engines. In 1894 Harry T. Kingsbury bought the firm and changed the name to Kingsbury Manufacturing Company in 1918. The company produced popular lines of innovative toys that paralleled the development in the transportation industry. In 1942 the manufacturing of toys was suspended during World War II, but never resumed after the war. The collection consists of more than 250 pieces representing many of the company's more popular lines.
The collection also includes examples of Staffordshire pottery and porcelain, with most of the pieces in the exhibit produced in the Staffordshire district in England during the 19th century. Pewter, commonly used in the late 18th to the mid 19th century, includes a communion set of the Park Hill Church in Westmoreland. Other items on display include sterling silver flatware, which was produced by the Newburyport Silver Company at their Railroad Street factory in Keene between 1905 until about 1915.