I’ve been snooping around the web lately, searching for distant relatives on my father’s side. Long lost Botbyls. My Great Grandpa, as it turns out, was born in 1892 in North Jersey and given the name Joost, because apparently Joost was an ok thing to be called back then. Fast forward a hundred years to my bus stop in South Jersey and (Johnny & Tommy can back me up on this) that name wasn’t going to end well for anyone. My Great Great Grandpa was born in Paterson, NJ, in 1859, and given the name Joost Andrew. (See where this is going?) His father, Pieter Joostz Botbijl, was born in the Netherlands in 1834. This explains my love for winter and all things chilly.
So, somewhere in all my “research” I come across a picture of this vintage stoneware whiskey jug that says, Registered, Forbes & Botbyl, Paterson NJ. For the past 16 years I have scrawled this funny name of mine across the bottoms of tens of thousands of pots, and here it is on the face of this old-school whiskey jug. It turns out that these jugs were made by a potter named Dan Mercer as advertisements for Forbes & Botbyl’s thriving North Jersey liquor business. Mercer lived and worked sometime between 1910 and 1950, and signed his work Dan Mercer Ware, Parkersburg W.VA.
I relish in the history and the irony that another Botbyl would later be born, grow up, move away, learn to make pots, and sign those pots with that same funny name. Now, I couldn’t say whatever became of the lowly Forbes family, but it seems the Botbyls are really going somewhere.