A Couple of Recent Articles About Us

Antiques and the Arts Weekly and Maine Antique Digest both published some nice articles about us lately–the former about our July auction, the latter about our history as a company, featuring an extended interview with my dad, Anthony. Feel free to have a look at them at the following links:

White Hot Southern Pottery Drives Crocker Farm’s $1.1 Million Sale (Antiques & The Arts Weekly)

The Zipps of Crocker Farm: All in the Family (MAD)

Thank you very much to both publications!

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A Summer 2017 Auction Preview

Samuel Troxel Plate, Dated 1833
Lot 1, this extraordinary example of redware by renowned Montgomery County, PA potter, Samuel Troxel, is one of the finest examples of Pennsylvania redware to cross the auction block in many years.
Our Summer 2017 auction—to be held Saturday, July 22, at our historic gallery in Sparks, Maryland—will be a special event in the history of our auction business. The depth of quality represented in this sale rivals all auctions we have ever held, and included in its over 600 lots will be a number of important pieces from several key regions of manufacture—worthy of the most discriminating public and private American ceramics collections.

Headlining this auction is an outstanding sgraffito-decorated redware plate with bird-in-flowering-urn motif, with rare inscription by the Montgomery County, PA master, Samuel Troxel, dated January 25, 1833. This work, which shares the same date as an iconic Troxel plate in the collection of the Philadelphia of Museum of Art, survives in rarely-found fine condition, and is considered one of the greatest Pennsylvania redware objects to come to auction in the past several years.

Edgefield, SC Stoneware Face Jug (Harvest Jug), c1845-55
Edgefield District, South Carolina Face Harvest Jug, circa 1845-1855.
Also of importance is an exceptional selection of Southern pottery, led by five stoneware face vessels. Four of these are 19th century products of South Carolina’s Edgefield District, each possessing their own distinctive character and decorative merits. Lot 111, a harvest or monkey jug, will be sold with a rare 1882 stereopticon image of an African-American boy, sitting at a table with a jug by the same maker. Based on the jug’s form, presence, and its historical association with a famous Southern photograph, it may easily be regarded as one of the finest Edgefield face vessels to come to auction in the past decade or more. (Lots 112, 113 and 114 are the remaining three rare Edgefield face vessels.)
Iconic Davis P. Brown Face Jug
The Iconic Davis P. Brown for Graham’s Furniture and Hardware Store in Bakersville, North Carolina.
The fifth piece of this group is a monumental devil face jug with North Carolina store advertising, marked by Davis P. Brown of Arden, NC, circa 1941 (Lot 126). Including a detailed provenance, as well as a noteworthy publication and exhibition history, this work is considered to be one of the most recognizable American face vessels ever produced and one of the greatest of 20th century manufacture.

Harrington & Burger Parrot Crock
Visually-Striking, Exceptional Harrington & Burger (Rochester, NY) Stoneware Jar w/ Parrot Scene.
Representing the Northeastern U.S. are a number of exceptional figural-decorated stoneware pieces, including a five-gallon New York State cream jar with parrot-clutching-cherries motif, impressed “HARRINGTON & BURGER / ROCHESTER” (Lot 40) and a three-gallon jug with man’s profile, marked by potter Frederick H. Cowden of Harrisburg, PA (Lot 50). In addition to these two fantastic examples, this auction features several other pieces of northeastern U.S. stoneware with elaborate designs: a crock with an outstanding chicken scene, made by J. & E. Norton in Bennington, Vermont; two nice deer crocks, one made by the Nortons in Bennington
F.H. Cowden (Harrisburg) Jug w/ Man's Profile
Very Rare Example of F.H. Cowden (Harrisburg, PA) Stoneware Bearing the Design of a Large Gentleman’s Bust.
and bearing impressed advertising for a Glens Falls, NY merchant, the other by Hubbell & Chesebro of Geddes, New York; an attributed Fort Edward, NY four-gallon jug with a very elaborate pheasant decoration; an M. WOODRUFF, / CORTLAND, New York, jar with a folky house scene.

David Morgan / New York Stoneware Incised Bird Jug
Extremely Rare David Morgan, Lower East Side, Manhattan Incised Bird Jug.
Headlining many lots of important, early northeastern U.S. stoneware is a turn-of-the-19th-century jug with incised bird motif, stamped “DAVID MORGAN / NEW YORK”, believed to be one of two signed Manhattan pieces decorated in this manner to have survived (Lot 62). Alongside this remarkable example of early Manhattan stoneware is an extremely rare early-period Thomas Commeraw pitcher (impressed “N. YORK / COERLEARS HOOK”), bearing a freehand incised design (Lot 63).
Thomas Commeraw Stoneware Pitcher
Very Rare Thomas Commeraw Pitcher with Incised Design, late 18th century.
For those interested in 18th and early 19th century American stoneware, this sale provides extreme depth in this category, including a very fine circa 1790 elaborately-incised Manhattan stoneware jar; a heavily-decorated 18th century product of the Kemple family in Ringoes, New Jersey; a pre-Revolutionary miniature Manhattan jug; an attributed Clarkson Crolius jug with elaborate incised and impressed design; a very rare half-gallon Thomas Commeraw jug; an important 1797 jar made at Pot Baker’s Hill in lower Manhattan (inscribed “P.B.H.,” this is the only known example referencing what was the most important center of stoneware production in the United States.)

John Nice Redware Sugar Bowl
Elaborately-Decorated John Nice, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Redware Sugar Bowl, c1830.
Other highlights include: Over fifty lots of early Northeastern U.S. stoneware with incised and impressed decorations, including pieces from Manhattan, Albany, Connecticut, and New Jersey. 19th century Southern pottery, including slip-decorated pieces from the Edgefield District of SC; a Salem, NC green-glazed redware fish flask; a Bethabara or Salem, NC redware bowl with two-color slip decoration; a six-gallon Baltimore stoneware jar with profuse cobalt flower basket decoration; a ten-gallon Lincoln County, NC jar, stamped “JCM”; and an extremely rare Virginia stoneware presentation pitcher with incised bird decoration in the Remmey style.
Virginia Stoneware Incised Bird Pitcher
Incised Bird Pitcher Pitcher in the Baltimore Style, probably by John P. Schermerhorn, Richmond, Virginia.
Pennsylvania redware from a sixty-year private collection, including an exceptional sugar bowl with applied decoration, attributed to John Nice, Montgomery County, PA; a slip-decorated sugar bowl, attributed to John Leman, Montgomery County, PA; and a diminutive sgraffito-decorated plate with tulip and compass motifs. Fine Western PA and WV stoneware with stenciled and freehand decoration. Pieces from the Dr. Raymond L. Owen Collection, including a pair of John Bell, Waynesboro, PA redware spaniels, scarce stoneware miniatures, and a large selection of Crawford County, GA stoneware. 20th century Southern stoneware face jugs and figurals by Arie Meaders, Lanier Meaders, the Brown family, and B.B. Craig.

We would like to thank all of our consignors for their contribution to this special event. Numerous pieces in this auction have comparable works in the nation’s leading institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Winterthur, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Smithsonian Institution, the New York State Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Barnes Foundation. July’s auction will present one of the best opportunities in decades to acquire a museum-quality example of American utilitarian pottery. And while this particular auction may make such pieces seem almost commonplace, we can assure you, they are not.

You can browse all 600+ lots of our auction here. Thank you for your interest in our Summer 2017 Auction of American Stoneware & Redware Pottery, and we look forward to seeing and speaking with you over the next couple of weeks.

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Don Carpentier, 1951-2014

This week the American decorative arts community lost one of its most important figures when Don Carpentier passed away after battling ALS for three years. I met Don last year and although I only knew him a short time, he quickly became my friend and someone with whom I frequently conversed about a new-found passion of his–the work of the Bissett family of stoneware potters in Old Bridge, New Jersey. For those unfamiliar with Don, his accomplishments in the fields of decorative arts, early American material culture, and historic preservation were absolutely staggering. As a young man he began moving historic buildings to his parents’ property in East Nassau, New York–a project that would coalesce into Eastfield Village, a group of period buildings that serve as a campus for lectures and programs on historic preservation and material culture. (Martha Stewart once featured Eastfield on her television show, and you can watch that video here.)

Stoneware "Sun Face" jar by Xerxes Price
I first met Don over email in the spring of 2013 and in person at Eastfield in June of that year, where I was speaking as part of the annual ceramics symposium held there–commonly referred to as “Dish Camp.” In the lead-up to the event, Don and I conversed over email and he asked me if I knew anything about the Bissett family of potters, because he was a descendant of Asher Bissett–a stoneware potter who had more or less fallen through the cracks of history and whom relatively few stoneware collectors had ever heard of. Don also told me that he was descended from Xerxes Price, a more famous stoneware potter who worked in Sayreville, NJ. By serendipity a person on Eastfield’s mailing list lived on the old Bissett homestead in Old Bridge and had discovered tons of wasters and kiln furniture on the property; she contacted Don when she saw he was going to present on Bissett at Dish Camp. Don was given some of this kiln refuse and was allowed to dig a well on the property that housed most of this material; he was very excited at the prospect of finding whole, extant examples of the Bissetts’ work (which he eventually did–lots of them). He was also anxious to locate shards that had been excavated by a well known early researcher of New Jersey stoneware named Robert Sim (as well as a young friend of his, James Brown) around the middle of the 20th century; I gave him some advice on where I believed Sim’s shards were but I had no idea that Don would do anything more with them than flesh out an obscure pottery whose work few collected or talked about.

Don's recreation of Xerxes Price's tin stamp
Many of you reading this have either attended Dish Camp or know someone who has, but it is basically a great weekend spent amongst historic buildings, doing nothing but talking about ceramics. The lectures are held in the 1836 Universalist Church that Don moved to Eastfield in the early 1980’s, and attendees are encouraged to bring ceramics along with them and display them on the huge tables that run across the floor of the church, where the pews would be. The Friday I arrived I met Don and he was excited to show me what he had been working on. On a table at the back of the room I was blown away to see an almost exact replica of Xerxes Price’s famous man-in-the-moon stamp, fashioned out of tin. A master tinsmith, Don had whipped it together earlier that week and had rolled out a piece of clay to show it off. He also had a large amount of Bissett kiln refuse and could not wait to tell me about the mistakes he was finding in the established history of Old Bridge stoneware, and how his ancestors he felt had been more or less written out of that history.

Don’s presentation at Dish Camp included an anecdote about the first piece of pottery he ever made, as a boy–an ashtray that was fashioned to look like a fireplace, so when you put your cigarette inside, smoke poured out of the chimney. Since Don, in his adult life, had become nothing less than the preeminent maker of reproduction British diptwares, he seemed pretty convinced that something deep inside of him, which came down from his ancestors, had (perhaps unstoppably) compelled him to work with clay. If you aren’t familiar with Don’s mochaware, you should check it out. I remember the day he nonchalantly mentioned that he had made all the shell- and feather-edge pottery in the Russell Crowe movie, Master and Commander, and had also created primitive metal ware for Noah.

A Bissett family stoneware pot on top of Don's kiln furniture
After Dish Camp, Don and I kept in touch as he forged ahead with his quest to see the story of his ancestors properly told, and their work brought forth into the light of day. Constantly he sought out photographs and documents that could help him put the pieces of the puzzle together. In October he published “The Morgan/Van Wickle Pottery: A Case of Mistaken Identity” in Maine Antique Digest, and I think he got a kick out of the controversy he had caused, as he accused Robert Sim of sweeping his ancestors’ work under the rug. Don believed that Sim had been obsessed with finding the work of the more high-profile Old Bridge pottery concern of James Morgan, Jr. and Jacob Van Wickle, and as such was sloppy in assessing what he was actually excavating–eventually pronouncing many products of Don’s ancestors as “Morgan/Van Wickle” and not “Bissett.” When Don wrote his article, he believed that Sim and Brown had never found any significant kiln refuse from that Morgan operation, and reading what Sim actually published on the matter, it was a good conclusion; later, after digging into the personal letters that Sim and Brown exchanged during the time period, he determined that some Morgan wasters were, in fact, found after Sim’s publication by a high school student poking around near a ball field distant from the Bissett pottery site. Unfortunately although shards from both the Bissett and Morgan sites were procured by Sim, ambiguous and sometimes incorrect labels make evaluating them very difficult.

Don’s work has laid the groundwork for further intensive studies on Old Bridge–and by extension, New Jersey–stoneware. Over the months he accumulated hundreds of images that he collated in binder form and would lay out digitally with accompanying text in order to preserve his findings and ideas. Ever critical of how previous researchers had handled their shards, Don marked each of his meticulously with a Sharpie; I will never forget sitting with him at a Wegman’s in New Jersey earlier this year as he carried boxes of shards into the restaurant area for me to look at. Coming from a background as a highly-respected historian of refined English ceramics, a potter himself, and a craftsman of several different early American handicrafts, Don brought an eye to the study of American stoneware that I had honestly never seen before. In particular his ability to determine what tools were used to produce a particular pot and to use the slightest nuances in tools employed to assist in attributions was a real eye-opener for me. Noting that an essentially identical stamped four hearts motif was used at three different potteries operating in the first quarter of the 19th century, Don procured images of all three and by using transparencies was able to determine the dings and other nuances that separated one from the other.

Don was a true encouragement to me in my own research pursuits and I was immediately struck by his kindness, sense of humor and giving mentality as he went about trying to answer questions about his own ceramic ancestry. In reading the tributes that have been pouring out on the internet over the last couple of days, I can see that he impacted so many people’s lives in the way he did mine. I think the least I owe Don is a tribute to him and the work he did in this last year to correct the history of New Jersey stoneware–and to help in whatever way I can to make sure his research sticks around and is built upon to the end he was looking toward. Rest in Peace, Don. I will miss you!

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Two April 2013 Stoneware Lectures

April 14, Harrisburg, PA: Harrisburg and Central PA Stoneware. April 27, Old Greenwich, CT: Manhattan Stoneware, 1795-1820.
Mark, Luke, and I will be giving a couple of stoneware lectures to be held next month:

On Sunday, April 14, at 2:30pm, Luke and I will be giving a new talk, Excellent Ware: The Harrisburg Stoneware Potters and Their Contemporaries, at the Historical Society of Dauphin County in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Afterwards we will be holding an appraisal event, during which we will evaluate attendees’ stoneware and redware. Admission is by donation at the door, but is free to members. The HSDC will also be charging a small fee for appraisals to help support their important organization. For more information, please visit the HSDC website, or call 717-233-3462.

On Saturday, April 27, at 2pm, Mark and I will again be delivering our lecture, Manhattan Stoneware, 1795-1820, as a special program during the Westchester Glass Show in Old Greenwich, Connecticut (at the Greenwich Civic Center). A well-respected event, the Westchester Glass Show is for the very first time encouraging exhibitors to offer ceramics for sale, as well, so this should be a fun time for stoneware collectors. Our talk will be essentially the same one we gave at the Gunn Memorial Library and Museum back in October, so if you missed that event, this is an opportunity to get an incisive look at the big three Manhattan stoneware makers–Clarkson Crolius, John Remmey III and Thomas Commeraw–as well as the former Manhattan potter who completely revolutionized Mid-Atlantic stoneware production–Henry Remmey, Sr. Our talk is free with admission to the show ($7). Here’s a link to a show circular with the important details.

We have really enjoyed sharing our love of this great American art form with you, and look forward to doing so many times this year!

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