I received word [recently] from Leslie Grigsby and Pat Halfpenny at Winterthur that S. Robert Teitelman had died at the age of 91. About 20 years ago I had been nominated for membership in the American Ceramics Circle. Back then, one required a sponsor and Bob called on the phone to determine if I qualified as someone worthy of his sponsorship. We had never met.
We talked about my collecting interests and then about his. I asked if he was aware of the Boston rope works jug that had sold earlier that year here in New England. “I’m looking at it as we speak,” he replied. “There was another jug that sold this summer that set a record price,” I continued. “It’s in the next room,” he chuckled.
Years later he gave a lecture entitled “My Fortieth Fortuitous Year of Collecting” in which he recounted that year when he set four consecutive world auction records for transfer-printed creamware of historical American interest.
I was present at the Northern Ceramic Society’s annual summer ceramics school at the University of Keele in Staffordshire when Robert lectured on his extraordinary collection and the research he conducted into the family and political/historical interest of each piece. He recounted incidents in the American war of independence to this largely British audience of collectors, scholars, curators and authors and, as he neared his conclusion, his voice rose to a crescendo, shouting “God Damn the British!”
He attended several of the “dish camps” at Eastfield Village, speaking at one of them. I invited him to lecture, saying that we were going to allow him two hours. “I’m not sure I can speak for two hours,” he replied, modestly. In fact, Don Carpentier and I allotted three hours for Robert’s talk and he filled the three hours easily, commenting afterwards that he’d never had such an enjoyable time.
Robert and I swapped jokes via the Internet until his fall last year, when he moved from his enormous New Jersey apartment where he’d lived for more than 50 years into smaller quarters in Haverford. He assured me that I should continue sending them and I did. I am one of many who will miss him.