Solomon Bell

 

BELL, SOLOMON
(1817–1882)
was a potter who, along with other members of his family, was responsible for disseminating Shenandoah Valley pottery traditions. Born in Hagerstown, Maryland, thethird potter-son of Peter Bell, he moved to Winchester, Virginia, in 1824 with his father, who taught him to make pottery. Solomon’s ware was produced while inWinchester (c. 1839–1845), at the Peter Bell pottery shop, under the incised marks “P Bell” as well as “Solomon Bell,” except during 1840, when he worked with his brother, John Bell, in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. Never married, in 1845 Solomon moved to Strasburg, Virginia, where he joined his brother, Samuel Bell (1811– 1891).The glazed metallic oxides used in earthenware production in the Solomon Bell shop were manganese dioxide (brown), copper oxide (green), cobalt oxides (blue),and lead-oxide superglazes. Solomon’s ware was rarely decorated in the Rockingham-glaze style (with its deep brown, mottled, and/or running coloration contrastedwith a cream to yellow ground) as was the pottery produced by his brother, John. He used slip
engobe,
liquid clay applied to a piece pottery before it has been firedand usually before it has dried, as a mask and a decorative accent to the local red earthenware. In addition, his use of manganese, copper, and engobe under a lead-oxide superglaze gave his pottery a polychrome effect with an Old World flavor. This particular style of glaze provided a prototype for the Eberly potters of Strasburg,Virginia (1875–1908), who produced it so abundantly that it is now recognized as the “Strasburg Glaze.” Some of Bell’s products were also decorated withcommercial paints.Solomon Bell learned his molding technique in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, at his brother John’s shop. He duplicated so many of his brother’s molds that more than afew of the products produced by each brother are similar. Solomon produced primarily utilitarian, molded ware, in both Winchester and Strasburg, Virginia. Hisceramic folk art style of manipulating, altering, and decorating his molded ware, so evident in his animal forms of dogs, cats, lions, and bears, has been compared to thatof Anthony W. Baecher’s, among the Shenandoah Valley’s outstanding nineteenth century ceramic folk artists. Bell’s hand formed animals, particularly his singular lion doorstop, are considered some of the best examples of ceramic folk art in the United States. Solomon Bell also produced handmade ware with molded additions, andhis salt—glazed stoneware was often elaborately decorated with abstract cobalt floral painting.
See also
John B.Bell; German American Folk Art;

Museum of Early Southern Arts; Pottery, Folk
.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Comstock, H.E.
The Pottery of the Shenandoah Valley Region.
Chapel Hill, N.C., and London, 1994.Rice, A.H., and John Baer Stoudt.
The Shenandoah Pottery.
Strasburg, Va., 1929