Very Rare J. SWANK / JOHNSTOWN, PA Stoneware Cake Crock Inscribed "Newton Swank / The Best Work Man in the Shop / 1877"

July 18, 2015 Stoneware Auction

Lot #: 390

Price Realized: $1,495.00

($1,300 hammer, plus 15% buyer's premium)

PLEASE NOTE:  This result is 7 years old, and the American ceramics market frequently changes. Additionally, small nuances of color, condition, shape, etc. can mean huge differences in price. If you're interested in having us sell a similar item for you, please contact us here.

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July 18, 2015 Auction Catalog

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Very Rare One-and-a-Half-Gallon Stoneware Cake Crock with Cobalt Floral Decoration with Newton Swank Inscription, Stamped "J. SWANK & CO. / JOHNSTOWN, PA", Dated 1877, cylindrical crock with squared rim and applied tab handles, decorated on the front and reverse with a sweeping vine featuring curved leaves, culminating in a tulip blossom. Brushed cobalt highlights to handle terminals. Incised on underside "Newton Swank / the best work / men in the / Shop / 1877". Impressed under one handle with J. Swank & Co. maker's mark and a one-and-a-half-gallon capacity mark. There were two Newton Swank's who could have been responsible for this pot. Newton B. Swank (1859-1945) was the son of Johnstown stoneware manufacturer Jacob Swank; Newton Swank (1859-1928) was the son of John Swank, Jacob's brother. The 1907 book, History of Cambria County Pennsylvania (Vol. III), by Henry Storey, states, "Jacob Swank ... was born January 6, 1828, in Somerset county. He ... for several years carried on a pottery at Davidsville, Somerset county. Mr. Swank came to Johnstown, 1854, where two years afterward Hiram Swank joined him and together they engaged in the pottery business under the firm name of J. Swank & Company. The business was continued several years with good success, and in 1862 the firm purchased [a local] hardware business, which was thereafter conducted under the firm name J. & H. Swank. In 1882 the partnership interests were divided, Jacob taking the hardware store and his brother the pottery. Later Newton Swank, a son, became a partner, the firm name being changed to that of J. Swank & Son." In the 1880 census, we find both Newton Swank's, each living with his respective father. Newton B. Swank is listed as a "Clerk in H[ardware] Store"; his father, Jacob is listed as a "Hardware Merchant." Newton Swank, on the other hand, is listed as an "Engineer," but living at his father's "Potterery" (sic.) This fact, coupled with the omission of what would seem to be a crucial middle initial "B" on the bottom of this pot, lead us to believe that the maker was probably Newton Swank, son of John. While the history of the prolific Swank pottery has been very well fleshed out, the role of John Swank and his son Newton have not, to our knowledge, been significantly explored, making this a ripe topic for further research. Few inscribed pieces of Swank stoneware are known. This crock, with its humorous incised inscription, offers rare insight into the personality of its maker. Chips to interior and exterior of rim. A flake to underside of one handle, Two hairlines from rim, measuring approximately 2 1/2" each.

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