This object is on permanent display in the Northwest Florida: Waterways & Wildlife exhibit, located in the “Florida’s Pitcher Plant Bog” diorama.
So I’ve been gradually digging up my front yard to plant native wildflowers and often I turn up these really distinctive pieces of red clay pottery that have distinctive grooves on them. I first thought that maybe they’re some sort of Native American pottery and then I was out hiking in a local pine forest and I came across an intact pot. I took it in to one of the archaeologists and she said, “Oh, it’s a Herty pot.”
It turns out that Herty pots were used to collect turpentine from pine trees. The Southeast used to be covered with longleaf and loblolly pine forest and they would harvest the entire tree, both for timber and to extract pine resin. They used to be called the naval stores industry because the original use was to make pitch for sailing ships.
Charles Herty was a chemist at the University of Georgia and he realized that the Southern forests were being destroyed really quickly by this whole harvesting process. He devised a system for tapping the pine trees to collect the resin.
They would cut V-shaped notches in the pine bark and then put these little clay pots underneath them to catch the pine resin, and then teams of men would travel throughout the forest in wagons emptying these pots into barrels. It was one of the nastiest jobs that you could have in this area of Florida. It was very important to the local economy, but the workers who did this were largely African-American and they weren’t paid well; they were essentially indentured servants.
But when I see these pots out in fragments in pieces of longleaf pine forests here, it reminds me that one person can have a real impact on both conserving forest and in producing an economically important product.
Senior Biologist, University of Florida Herbarium
Florida Museum of Natural History
From Alachua Co., Florida
Dates to ~late 19th, early 20th century