Potters were familiar tradesmen in the 19th century, playing a necessary role fashioning utilitarian and decorative containers for local households. John Bowman enlisted in the Union Army in 1862 and after his discharge in 1865 he apprenticed with his father, a potter, in Benevola. In 1868 John E. Bowman established Boonsboro Pottery and manufactured a variety of red-clay earthenware, including jugs, crocks, pie plates, chamber pots, vases, pitchers, toys, and even bird houses and roach traps. While a few competitors also sold earthenware in the Boonsboro area, John Bowman helped satisfy Boonsboro’s pottery needs for nearly 40 years. He closed his business due to competition from steam-powered potteries and the introduction of glass containers, the same industrialization advances that silenced the numerous potteries in the Shenandoah Valley.
Earthenware crock (left) and ovoid redware jug made by John Bowman. Photos courtesy Boonsboro Historical Society (left) and www.crockerfarm.com.