Friday, May 20, 2011

Bennington Door Knobs

I mentioned late last summer that the first doorknob I put back in the Einsel House was a gift from my grandmother.  Sometime in the 1960s, just before it was torn down, she had taken it as a souvenir out of the house where she was born in 1930.

I was immediately smitten with this doorknob, and so pleased to give it a new home at the Einsel House.  Unlike the other plain black and white doorknobs that were here when we bought the house, Grandma's door knob was beautifully swirled shades of brown.

I've learned since that this is called a Bennington knob.  The name comes from the town of Bennington, Vermont, where in 1849 Christopher Webber Fenton developed the method used to create the swirls and specks that characterize these door knobs.

Fenton's patent (titled "Improvement in Glazing Potteryware") explains how the knobs are created:

The article to be colored and glazed, being in the usual state for applying the glaze, is
immersed in a transparent under-glaze, then with a small box perforated with holes the colors are thrown or sprinkled on through the holes over the surface of the article in quantity to produce deeper or lighter shades, as may be desired, leaving a part of the surface for the body of the article to show through in spots. By fusion in the kiln the colors flow and mingle with the under glaze, and are carried about over the surface in various forms, and the article is thereby made to present a close imitation of the richest shells, varigated stones, or melting and running fluid, almost every variety of rich and beautiful appearance being produced by flowing and mingling of the colors with the underglaze, and the appearance of the article being varied according to the complexion of the body of the article and the colors and quantity thrown upon it.

True Bennington knobs actually created at Fenton's kiln are quite rare, but the Bennington name stuck for similar knobs created throughout the country.  Most Benningtons are either swirled (created by stirring different colors of clay together before glazing the knob) or speckled (created by sprinkling various shades of ground up clay over the knob before glazing).

There are now multiple Bennington examples here at the EH.  Grandma's gift prompted me to start a collection.  : )

 I'm completely smitten with these doorknobs.  Each one is so unique, yet their colors all play perfectly with the Einsel House's walnut woodwork.  They're like jewelry for the house.

That's the stubby little door to Cecilia's room above, complete with it's new knob (the bottom one pictured above).  I've got a few more doors that can still be dressed up, so I predict my Bennington collection will continue to grow.  : )


  1. Love the Bennington knobs. Your grandmother was a wise woman to save one.