Exceedingly Rare and Important Anna Pottery Stoneware Railroad Conductor Pitcher

October 25, 2014 Stoneware Auction

Lot #: 117

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October 25, 2014 Auction Catalog

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Unique and Important One-Gallon Cobalt-Decorated Stoneware Pitcher with Hand-Modeled Decoration of a Railroad Conductor, Incised "Here,s to Paps Heath," and Signed "Anna Pottery / Anna Ill / Aug 1884," wheel-thrown, ovoid pitcher with flared rim and applied strap handle, the front decorated with a hand-modeled figure of a portly gentleman embellished with heavy cobalt highlights. This figural decoration includes outstanding detail, characteristic of the Kirkpatrick brothers' highest-quality folk art creations. These include a three-dimensional robust body, which extends around and melds seamlessly into the wall of the pitcher, a rotund goateed face, bulging eyes, incised hair, buttoned and lapeled coat, striped shirt, a distinctive cap, tucked pocket watch chain, and well-executed shoes with incised heels on underside. The attitude of the subject is leisurely, with both hands tucked casually into the man's swelled pockets, one exposing its thumb on the pocket's exterior. Cobalt highlights to the incised details make them stand out to the viewer. Additional highlights applied over the incised wrinkles in the man's clothing and the crosshatching under the lapels and arm add depth and three-dimensionality to the sculpture. Potting knife marks visible on the figure's pants and shoes reveal the amount of handwork involved in sculpting this creation. Additional profuse cobalt-highlighted crosshatching, a trait found on some of the Kirkpatricks' finest works, forms a striking background around the man, setting him apart from the simply-thrown pitcher behind him. Based on the figure's clothing, distinctive cap, and pocket watch, it is very likely that he represents a railroad conductor, and may portray someone personally known to the Kirkpatricks. The inclusion of the pocket watch is a major clue as to the man's occupation, as railroad conductors relied on pocket watches of exceptional quality to keep their trains running on good time. The Kirkpatricks' great familiarity with the Midwestern railroad system, shown in their interest in using incised railroad maps on their famous pig bottles, further corroborates this idea. The slogan at the top, "Here's to Paps Heath", may refer to Marvin M. Heath (1841-1918), a railroad conductor from nearby Pana, Illinois, active in the region for several decades of the late 19th century. Heath evidently had a reputation of high regard. He was praised in the Monday, May 22, 1871 edition of the Daily Illinois State Journal of Springfield, Illinois, with the following passage: "M. M Heath of the S I & S E railroad [Springfield & Illinois Southeastern Railroad], is the prince of good fellows. He numbers his friends along the line by hundreds, and is truly worth their friendship and esteem." A second passage from the July 6, 1874 of the Daily Illinois State Register of Springfield, IL states, "M. M Heath, one of the popular conductors on the S I & S E Railroad, has gone east for a few weeks, and will rusticate among the secluded shades of Cincinnati during that period." Clearly Marvin Heath was a well-known and well-loved figure in the state of Illinois. "Paps" is his presumed nickname.

Another theory for the slogan across the pitcher's top is that the words are actually intended to read "Here's to Paps Health," a tongue-in-cheek statement in the usual Kirkpatrick style, given the fact that the pitcher presumably held beer.

The underside of the pitcher is incised with the signature "Anna Pottery / Anna Ill / Aug 1884". While a great number of jug forms by the Kirkpatrick brothers are known, relatively few Anna Pottery pitchers are known, needless to say, even fewer of this quality.

This pitcher is a truly remarkable example of American folk art, which showcases the Kirkpatricks' proficiency at throwing, hand-modeling, and incising, as well as their ability to bring life and personality to their clay creations. Such a piece exemplifies why many consider the Kirkpatricks to be the finest American folk potters of their day. Provenance: A fresh-to-the-market example from a New England private collection. Excellent condition with one chip to shoe. H 9 3/4".


Exceedingly Rare and Important Anna Pottery Stoneware Railroad Conductor PitcherExceedingly Rare and Important Anna Pottery Stoneware Railroad Conductor PitcherExceedingly Rare and Important Anna Pottery Stoneware Railroad Conductor PitcherExceedingly Rare and Important Anna Pottery Stoneware Railroad Conductor PitcherExceedingly Rare and Important Anna Pottery Stoneware Railroad Conductor PitcherExceedingly Rare and Important Anna Pottery Stoneware Railroad Conductor PitcherExceedingly Rare and Important Anna Pottery Stoneware Railroad Conductor Pitcher

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(Our next auction takes place July 21, 2018.)

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