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American Stoneware Pots and Jars

THE COLLECTOR interested in quaint and homely American objects will find the fat, sturdy jugs, pots, and crocks of stoneware suited to his taste. There are many available today and the market values are reasonable except for articles made by a few of the early potters, but even these may be located where they may be bought cheap. Stoneware is made from gray and tan clays which vitrify at a strong heat to form a nonporous base, which was glazed by throwing a handful of common salt into the kiln. This gave the ware a pebbly surface. The good old pots were often beautiful in form and proportion, and decorated with cobalt blue and sometimes brown or purple designs painted freehand, etched with a dull point, or ornamented on the lathe. The great variety of shapes is one of the chief joys of the collector.



A certain amount of stoneware was produced in America in the 18th century, but before the Revolution there were only a few stoneware potters in New York; Huntington, Long Island; Norwalk and Litchfield, Connecticut; Boston; and Philadelphia. Remmey operated his stoneware pottery in New York during the Revolution, and a batter jug in the collection of the New York Historical Society is inscribed "Flowered by Clarkson Crolius, New York Feb 17th 1798." According to Barber's Pottery and Porcelain o f the United States, John Remmey started making stoneware pottery behind the old City Hall in New York City in about 1735. He died in 1762, but the business was carried on for three generations, and a great grandson later established a pottery in South Amboy, New Jersey, Henry Remmey worked in Philadelphia in 1810, while Richard Remmey worked in Philadelphia late in the 19th century. The pottery of William and Peter Crolius of New York City was continued after 1762 by Clark son Crolius to 1837, and by Clarkson Crolius, Jr., from 1838 to 1850. It therefore is evident that the collector must be careful whether the Remmey or Crolius is of the 18th or the 19th century. However, the collector need not expect to find much stoneware dated in the 18th century, for the bulk of that found today is of the 19th century. Nevertheless, age and rarity have little to do with the excellence of stoneware, for generally speaking American stoneware improved as the industry developed and much of that made as late as 1850 is exceptionally fine. In the 19th century, potters of stoneware were scattered throughout Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, West Virginia, and Ohio. Some potteries were small and took care only of local customers, while others were large factories with branches in several towns and considerable shipping business. Thus stoneware potteries were often located on navigable rivers, as waterways were the easiest and cheapest rnode of transportation. Some potteries sold their ware by means of peddlers' wagons.

Stoneware pots and jugs are of various types according to their decoration and method of manufacture. The earliest stoneware was incised, and this means of decoration continued between 1790 and 1900. Stoneware figures were modeled by hand in all factories between 1790 and 1900. These articles include Toby pitchers, heads, toys, bird and animal whistles, and banks. These are rare, especially the animals. Between 1825 and 1875 applied relief decoration was used on handles, as borders such as beading, and a classical figure of Diana with a deer was used at Bennington and St. Johnsbury, Vermont, in Massachusetts, and at other Eastern potteries. Applied leaves and fruit and borders of gadrooning are often found on stoneware made after 1825. From 1825 on, stoneware with blue decoration was also pressed in molds, and included pitchers, water coolers, doorstops, vases, and animals such as dogs and lions. Late stoneware had flowers and leaves molded on and then washed with a blue glaze. Stoneware was stenciled between 1840 and the end of the century. Stenciled eagles are often found on stoneware made in Ohio.

Stoneware jars and crocks are heavy and somewhat clumsy in shape, ranging in capacity from 1 quart to 30 gallons. While some shapes are graceful and of slender proportions, generally speaking, the articles made in stoneware are useful rather than ornamental and include jugs for molasses, rum, cider, and vinegar; crocks for butter and apple butter; water coolers, crocks for eggs, bean pots, batter pots, churns, pudding dishes, milk pans, mugs, pitchers, bottles, bowls, churns, money banks, inkwells, and miniature jugs and crocks. Batter pots had wide spouts and a handle, and churns were the kind that operated with a handle. The crocks and preserve jars are usually straight-sided but some are shaped in curves. Jugs were in a wide variety of shapes from common broad-bottomed ones to vase and urn shapes with narrow necks and bottoms.

Although the word stoneware suggests gray, the colors range from light gray and tan to a deep brown. Even the gray varies from blue and lead color to a soft pure tone, and the tans include sand, buff, yellow, orange, reddish brown, and cafe au lait. The glaze is generally dull, but this varies with the object and the location of the factory. Sometimes there is a lack of uniformity of glaze and sometimes a glaze is iridescent.

The chief interest of stoneware, however, is not in the shape or color, but in decoration. Usually, the decoration was simple and conventional and included flowers, insects, animals, and patriotic symbols, but certain potters used special designs which help us to identify their jugs. For example, the stoneware of the early Remmeys in New York is characterized by the use of the swag and pendant, the chain loop, and the leaf and seed. The holly leaf is characteristic of the wares of Warne and Letts of South Amboy, New Jersey. The earliest technique sketched the design in incised lines and it was filled in with cobalt blue. Later the designs were painted freehand or stenciled. Many pieces are not decorated at all and many have only crude daubs of cobalt blue. The finest pieces, however, have characteristic decorations, including birds, feathers, flowers, foliage, trees, conventional scrolls, and other designs. Birds include robins, bluebirds, cockatoos, and exotic and imaginative birds. The figure of a bird sits on top a jug-shaped money bank made by R. C. Remmey at Philadelphia in 1880. Eagles and roosters are often to be found, but generally animals and human figures are rare. Crudely sketched houses are sometimes seen, and one of more decorative interest than usual was made by A.O. Whittemore, Havana, New York, around 1868. A sailing ship is scratched in a jug marked "G. Goodale, Hartford." This is a rare piece. Inscription pieces, those either inscribed to a friend or with political inscriptions are also rare. One inscription piece is marked "Liberty Forever" and was made by Ware & Letts of South Amboy, New Jersey, in about 1807. It has the typical oak- or holly-leaf decoration used by this potter. Crude incised profiles and Indian heads are found on some jugs made by Joseph Remmey at South Amboy, New Jersey, in about 1823. His pieces are massive and he often employs incised loop designs. Three upright stalks of corn ornament a jug probably made for corn whisky. A bee is sketched on a crock made by Israel Seymour at Troy, New York, in the early 19th century. American flags and patriotic symbols often decorate stoneware jugs, but one such jug, made by G. Purdy at Atwater, Ohio, in about 1850 is more elaborate than most stoneware. It has a horn of plenty filled with flowers and a man astride a cannon holding crossed American flags. An unusual design of an angel's head and folded wings is painted on a crock made by William Macquoid & Co., of New York City, in the 1860s.

In addition to the ornamental decoration, a number indicating the capacity of the crock or jug is often incised or painted on the side and sometimes the date is scrawled in large letters. The maker's name, location, and, in rare instances, the date was painted or incised with a sharp-pointed instrument. However, the custom of stamping with the maker's name and address was not general until after 18o0, and later makers' names were put on with a die stamp. The inscription not only adds to the attractiveness of the piece but it also helps to locate potteries and thus gives the piece historic value.

In collecting stoneware jugs and crocks it is best for the beginner to look for good shape and pleasing proportions, good color, and decoration. After his collection demands the rarer piece he can seek the unusual design and the pieces by well-known early makers.

Although a list of makers of stoneware might be tiresome here, it is good to know that such lists exist, since they will serve as a means of dating a particular piece. The length of the list gives one an idea of the great number of factories that were making stoneware, particularly in the 19th century. A check list compiled by Carolyn Scoon of the New York Historical Society gives the name of thirty-eight manufacturers located in seventeen different towns and cities in New York State. These include potters in Athens, Albany, Troy, Utica, Rome, Ithaca, Binghamton, Cortland, Lyons, Port Edward, Brooklyn, Kings County, Ellenville, Fort Edward, Havana, Huntington, Suffolk County, Mount Morris, Olean, Penn Yan, Poughkeepsie, and West Troy (Watervliet). The makers listed represent a fair proportion of the stoneware makers of New York State and their geographical location gives us a picture of the early trade. A similar check list of stoneware potters of New England was made by Lura Woodside Watkins. It includes potters located in Bangor, Gardiner, and Portland, Maine; Keene and Nashua, New Hampshire; Bennington, Burlington, Dorset, Fairfax, Poultney, St. Albans, and St. Johnsbury, Vermont; Ashfield, Ballardvale, Boston, Charlestown, Cambridgeport, Chelsea, Dorchester, Medford, Somerset, Taunton, Worcester, and Whateley, Massachusetts; and Bridgeport, Greenwich, Hartford, New Haven, New London, Norwalk, Norwich, and Stonington, Connecticut. Stoneware was also made in South Amboy, Elizabeth, Newark, Flemington, Somerset, Middleton, and New Brunswick, New Jersey; in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and numerous other Pennsylvania towns; in Baltimore and Hagerstown, Maryland; in Louisville, Kentucky; Strasburg, Virginia; and in Middlebury, Jonathan Creek, Hillsboro, Mt. Sterling, Akron, Springfield, Putnam, Cincinnati, Canton, Cleveland, Zanesville, Crooksville and Atwater, Mogadore, Symmes Creek, Roseville, Athens, and Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.

Further information about American Stoneware:
American Pottery Chracteristics
Salt Glazed & American Stoneware @ Wikipedia


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