An Eye-Catching Poughkeepsie, New York, Stoneware Jug

This monumental jug may have sat in the window of the Poughkeepsie Pottery to advertise its wares.

This monumental jug may have sat in the window of the Poughkeepsie Pottery to advertise its wares.

Grand in its size and decoration, a unique Poughkeepsie, NY stoneware jug will be offered without reserve in our March 5 auction of antique American stoneware and redware. Measuring 21 1/2″ tall, the jug was thrown on the potter’s wheel in two sections to accomodate its monumental size. A seam line near the shoulder reveals that the majority of the jug was thrown as a cylinder, and the remainder of the jug (including its rounded shoulder and squared spout) were affixed and sealed to the vessel. While the height of the jug is extremely rare, its slender form is perhaps equally unusual. The jug’s width is comparable to that of a two-gallon example, but with a height twice that.

The incredible size of the piece suggests it was made to catch one’s attention, and the decoration supports this notion. Extending upward and covering 18″ or so of the jug’s vertical surface is a large slip-trailed cobalt tree with graduated limbs. This tree was lightly incised into the surface of the jug prior to being applied in cobalt slip, a technique which allowed the decorator to map out his design. (Interestingly, the Fenton & Hancock stoneware cooler with decoration of a Civil War general and his wife, which set a record in our November 2006 auction, features similar incising under the decoration.)

7068-both-sidesPerched near the peak of the tree are four fan-tailed birds with crests, and flanking the tree’s heavily-shaded trunk are a seated dog and a reclining doe with cobalt-spot-decorated bodies. The doe sports an unusually long tail, perhaps more fitting of a dog. Realistic sizing plays no role in the decoration, as the birds appear too large for the tree, and the dog towers over the deer. Other New York State and New England decorators were known to disregard the actual scale of design elements. For example, Norton stoneware from Bennington, Vermont is famous for such folksy discrepancies, featuring fanciful designs, such as an oversized flower basket beside a small deer or a large deer beside a much smaller tree.

70683The animal scene on the Poughkeepsie jug captures four distinctive designs the pottery was known for: the fan-tailed bird, the dog, the deer, and a tree with graduated limbs. It is these distinctive designs, most notably the bird and the tree, that lead to a strong attribution to the pottery of Philip Riedinger and Adam Caire of Poughkeepsie, NY. A great deal of information is provided on this potting firm in William C. Ketchum’s seminal book, Potters and Potteries of New York State, 1650-1900. According to Ketchum’s research, the partnership of potters, Adam Caire and Philip Riedinger, began in 1857 at a long-standing pottery on Poughkeepsie’s Main Street. Prior to that time, Riedinger had been operating at the same location with another partner, Louis Lehman. Caire, the son of potter, John B. Caire, having finished his six-year apprenticeship in Hartford and Amboy, purchased Lehman’s interest in the operation. Thus, the partnership of Riedinger & Caire was born, a formidable business that would survive until Riedinger’s death in 1878. The operation was known as the Poughkeepsie Pottery, and during its later years, employed sixteen potters, including a prolific artisan named Samuel Brady (Ketchum, p. 118). Brady would operate a pottery in Ellenville, NY with partner, John J. Ryan, between 1881 and about 1897 (Ketchum, p. 143, 466). Numerous examples of Brady & Ryan stoneware from Ellenville show strong Poughkeepsie Pottery influences. Similarities are particularly evident in the partnership’s bird designs.Harmony movie

70684The eye-catching appeal of the jug suggests it may have sat in the storefront of the Poughkeepsie Pottery to advertise the company’s wares. Oral history of many other large-sized decorative pieces, including one or more coolers produced by J. & E. Norton of Bennington, a Decker jar from Tennessee, and an oversized Perine pitcher from Baltimore, indicate they sat in prominent locations to promote the potteries that made them. Quietly hidden away until recently in a New York State home, this great jug is sure to turn heads once again, just as it surely did over 125 years ago.watch full movie The Invisible Guest 2017 online





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J.M. Thompson London, Ohio Redware Jar — Morgantown, Virginia School

J M T & CO / LONDON redware jar by James M. Thompson in London, Ohio.
J M T & CO / LONDON redware jar by James M. Thompson in London, Ohio.
A rare Ohio redware jar will be sold in our April 10 auction. Consigned by a woman in Ohio, the 8 1/2″ ovoid-formed pot features a rounded foot, heavy tooling around the shoulder, and an unusually-shaped flaring rim. The surface is covered in a reddish-brown lead and manganese glaze, typical of most redware produced in America throughout the late 18th and 19th centuries. Most significant about the jar is the large impressed maker’s mark, “J M T & CO / LONDON,” which extends across the midsection.

The initials “J M T” refer to potter, James M. Thompson, Jr., of London, Ohio. Born in 1786, Thompson was the younger brother of John W. Thompson, patriarch of the Thompson family of potters active in Morgantown, WV for most of the 19th century. James’ nephew, and perhaps the most well-known member of the family, was David Greenland Thompson, who produced a large number of stoneware pieces with cobalt people decorations around the year 1870, which are highly prized by collectors today. Much of what is known about James can be found in the well-researched article “The Potters and Pottery of Morgan’s Town, Virginia,” by Don Horvath and Richard Duez, featured in the 2004 edition of Ceramics in America. According to Horvath and Duez, Thompson likely learned the potting trade from Jacob Foulk in Morgantown around 1804. Though no apprenticeship records have been found, Thompson’s involvement in a court case against Foulk suggest a relationship between the two (Horvath and Duez, p. 121). Another book entitled “The History of Madison County, Ohio,” which was written in 1883, offers additional insight into Thompson’s potting career. According to this book, he traveled to London, Ohio in 1813, and established a pottery there in the same year. He was one of the first settlers in the town of London, and, judging by the early date of his arrival, may have been one of the earliest potters in all of Western Ohio. A lawyer named John Dungan, who traveled through London in 1835, described the town as having “two potteries. . . one located on South Main street, in the rear of the present residence of Judge Clark, carried on by James M. Thompson, and the other located on the site of the Presbyterian Church carried on by W.W. Burchnell.” (A signed redware jar by William Burchnell exhibiting Morgantown influence was sold by Crocker Farm, Inc., in July of 2009.) As further noted by Horvath and Duez, Thompson is listed in the 1850 U.S. Census for Mt. Pleasant Township, Madison County, Ohio, as a potter, age sixty-four, born in Virginia, living with his wife, Sarah, also a native Virginian ( Horvath and Duez, p. 121).

Morgantown potter James M. Thompson's London, Ohio maker's mark.
Morgantown potter James M. Thompson's London, Ohio maker's mark.
While Thompson’s career in Ohio spanned forty years or more, Horvath and Duez note that no examples of his work from Morgantown or London were known as of the publication of their article. This jar is the first signed product of this potter to have surfaced. Earlier this year, we received photos from a woman in Ohio, who inquired about consigning the jar. We were instantly intrigued by the impressed word “LONDON,” after having sold a jar by potter, William Burchnell, from the same town. We believe the ovoid form and stylish rim date it to somewhere around the year 1830. The impression of the mark across the midsection is unusual for any early American pottery, and suggests that Thompson wanted his business name to be very noticeable, literally “front and center” when his pots were used. The length of the mark also suggests he may have used a coggle wheel, rather than a very long rectangular stamp, which would be more difficult to apply against a heavily-curved surface. The Morgantown Thompsons were very familiar with such tools, where they were frequently used on both stoneware and redware to ornament a vessel’s shoulder and handles. Several coggle wheels from the Thompson family’s Morgantown operation have survived, and are currently in the collection of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

New discoveries in stoneware and redware are one of the more exciting parts of this business. With each newly-found maker’s mark comes greater insight into the tastes of a specific potter. And as with any antique, just one signed “missing link” piece can help put a name on thousands of otherwise unattributable works.



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Captain J.F. Caulkins’ Rum Jug

Capt. Caulkins' jug, which survived a shipwreck off the Carolinas in 1872.
Capt. Caulkins' jug, which survived a shipwreck off the Carolinas in 1872.
A small-sized stoneware rum jug with an interesting history will cross the block in our April 10 auction. Standing just 5 1/4″ tall, the jug was made for Brooklyn, New York sea captain, Julius Frank Caulkins, and bears his initials, along with the inscription “His Jug,” across the front. The vessel is consistent in form and color to stoneware produced in Caulkins’ home state of New York, circa 1860-1870.

The captain was born on January 27, 1833, and eventually became master of the ship “Energy,” a fully-rigged vessel built in South Boston in 1860. It measured 168 feet long, had a 34 foot beam, and weighed 967 tons.

“Energy” was wrecked on Hunting Island, South Carolina, on October 20, 1872. Fortunately, Caulkins, his wife, and his prized jug survived. Apparently, there was some discussion as to whether the jug’s contents played a role in the grounding of the ship. Caulkins account of previous damage sustained by “Energy” nine years earlier was printed in the February 1, 1863 of the New York Times:

DEAR SIRS: After encountering a succession of the heaviest gales I ever experienced, in which I lost sails, stove boats, twisted off the rudder-head, and sustained other damage, I was compelled to bear up for this place to repair damages. I shall proceed at once with the necessary repairs, which I hope will be completed in about 10 days, when I shall leave for your port.

Yours truly, JULIUS F. CAULKINS,

Master of ship Energy.

After years of cheating death, an incident five years after the wreck in South Carolina would prove fatal for the captain. On January 3, 1877, Caulkins was lost at sea aboard the steamer, “George Cromwell,” which wrecked near Newfoundland. All hands were lost.

For stoneware enthusiasts, presentation pieces stir our curiosity when they come along. We often wonder who, exactly, they were made for, and why they were made for that particular person. Oftentimes, they are a relative of a potter or an important figure within a certain community. However, presentation pieces are often difficult to research, particularly when they are inscribed only with the owner’s initials. Fortunately for this little jug, it remained in the captain’s family. Having survived 150 years (and a shipwreck) Caulkins’ jug ultimately descended to his great grandson, its consignor. And while so much information on pottery is lost at sea, so to speak, this one’s colorful history has thankfully survived.



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Wm. Kelly Young Collection: Anatomy of a Bell Redware Dog

An important large-sized redware dog by the Bell family will cross the block in our January 30th auction of the William Kelly Young collection. Measuring 8 3/4″ long by 8 5/8″ tall, the figure is one of a small number of this size known to have been produced by members of the Bell family in Strasburg, VA and Waynesboro, PA. The standing pose and robust body form, finished with a curled tail and large flattened ears, are characteristic of the Bells’ work. Examples of this general style by various members of the Bell family are documented in The Shenandoah Pottery by Alvin H. Rice and John Baer Stoudt, Folk Pottery of the Shenandoah Valley by William Wiltshire, III, and The Pottery of the Shenandoah Valley Region

Large-Sized Standing Redware Dog by the Bell Family. To be sold in the Wm. Kelly Young Collection on 1/30/10.
Large-Sized Standing Redware Dog by the Bell Family. To be sold in the Wm. Kelly Young Collection on 1/30/10.

by H.E. Comstock. These pieces include a few by John Bell and his son, Charles Frederick Bell, of Waynesboro, a pair by Samuel Bell of Strasburg, which descended to his son, Ashby, and a pair by Samuel’s son, Charles Forrest Bell, now in the Henry Ford Museum. An oustanding punch-decorated dog with monkey rider, attributed to one of Samuel’s sons, also bears similarities in form and size. Interestingly, the dog selling in our January 30th auction is pictured on p. 264 of The Shenandoah Pottery, catalog-numbered 157, indicating that it was collected by Alvin Rice in the Shenandoah Valley prior to 1929. The damage visible in the photo, including an area where a basket was once connected to its neck, has since been restored.

The dog is constructed from two conjoined, wheel-thrown cylinders, one forming the body and the other forming the neck. (Many of the animals produced by various Pennsylvania makers have a similar hollow-bodied construction.) Several balls of clay were placed inside the dog’s body prior to firing, causing the figure to rattle when shaken. To prevent damage during the firing, vent holes were bored into the corners of the dog’s mouth, the lower breast, and between the back legs. The famous Solomon Bell redware lion in the MESDA collection, as well as a John Bell stoneware lion, are also vented through the breast and mouth, as noted by Shenandoah pottery authority, H.E. Comstock (Comstock, pp. 151, 232).

    As noted by authority, H.E. Comstock, the Bells used a distinctive stamp, composed of an oval with an inner arching line, to produce the eyes and decorated the bases of many of their animals.
As noted by authority, H.E. Comstock, the Bells used a distinctive stamp, composed of an oval with an inner arching line, to produce the eyes and decorated the bases of many of their animals.

The animal’s fur is produced from numerous diagonally-incised lines. The toes with incised demarcations and unusual incised toe nails are also visible on two of the feet. One of the most distinctive “Bell” features of the dog is its impressed eyes, composed of an oval with an inner arching line. This decorative stamp is used to create the eyes and embellish the bases of several animals produced by the Strasburg and Waynesboro Bells (Comstock, p. 155).

The surface is decorated in daubs of manganese and cream-colored slip and coated in a clear lead glaze. The use of a simple lead and manganese glaze is typical of Bell animals, as well as most animals produced by various other 19th century potters. However, the addition of cream slip spotting is unusual for animals made by the Bells (or those by any potter for that matter). The overall color is remarkably similar to a pair of cats and a seated dog attributed to Solomon Bell and pictured on pp. 232 and 233 of The Pottery of the Shenandoah Valley Region.

True Bell animals are quite rare and have been increasingly difficult to find in the antiques market. The family’s notoriety for producing figural pieces, coupled with the desirability of Bell pottery in general, has led to numerous erroneous Bell attributions. (A look at the Sotheby’s catalog for the auction of the Pauline Heilman collection, held way back in 1982, will give you an idea of these frequent errors.) This dog is a different story. With a firm attribution and Rice provenance, this example is the first of its size and origin to sell at auction in some time, with many of the “BELLS” and whistles one looks for in a quality American redware dog.



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