Pennsylvania Redware Auction Highlights


Matched Pair of Redware Spaniels, Stamped "JOHN BELL," Waynesboro, PA




JOHN W. BELL / Waynesboro, Pa Redware Whippet Figure



Pennsylvania is the state perhaps most identified in the collector's mind with redware, and it boasts an incredibly rich history of skilled potters making beautiful creations out of native clay. From the elaborate sgraffito plates made by early Pennsylvania German potters to the elaborate animal forms made by the Bell family in Waynesboro and everything in between, Pennsylvania redware has long been a cornerstone of the Americana collecting field.

A large percentage of American stoneware potters also produced redware (basically a modern collecting term for common American earthenware), but there were far more redware potters in the United States than there were stoneware ones. The skill and overall investment in making stoneware--and difficulty of procuring satisfactory stoneware clay--made it tough to start a stoneware enterprise, and it was often the case that American redware potters were not even primarily potters. Instead, they were farmers or other tradespeople looking to supplement their income while filling a need for their community. Stoneware needs appropriate clay to be able to reach the high temperature that turns the clay into, essentially, stone, and one advantage of stoneware over earthenware was that the stone body prevented liquid from leaching through the surface. Conversely, earthenware is a low-fired pottery that is porous even after firing, and required a lead glaze on at least the interior to prevent seepage. These lead glazes were understood to be toxic early in American history, and this was one reason for the growth of the American stoneware industry as the nineteenth century commenced. While the maker or area of origin contributes to the value of American redware, the most valuable pieces tend to be those with colorful or elaborate glazes / designs, and those of unusual forms--and you will notice this as you browse the Pennsylvania redware highlights pictured above, as well our Southern redware and New England redware ones.
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