Extremely Rare Photograph Depicting Swank's Johnstown Pottery, circa 1885

March 19, 2016 Stoneware Auction

Lot #: 287

Price Realized: $1,495.00

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

PLEASE NOTE:  This result is 4 years old, and the American ceramics market frequently changes. Additionally, small nuances of color, condition, shape, etc. can mean huge differences in price. Please Contact Us for a Current, Accurate assessment of your items.

March 19, 2016 Auction Catalog

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(Our next auction takes place March 21, 2020.)

Important and Possibly Unique Photograph of the Swank Family's Johnstown Pottery, Signed "Merriman / 534 Smithfield St / Pittsburg PA", circa 1885, depicting the pottery with twenty-two people pictured below the sign "JOHNSTOWN POTTERY", including potter, Hiram Swank, with distinctive face and beard at the center of the top row. Charming composition with boys kneeling in the front, a small child seated on one window sill, and two figures leaning out of the opposite window of the pottery, which bears the street number "37" on the dormer. The reverse bears the penciled script inscription, "Hiram Swank", believed to be the signature of the pottery owner himself. According to Phil Schaltenbrand's book, Big Ware Turners, Hiram Swank was a very well-known and respected businessman, potter, and citizen of Johnstown. He ran an earthenware pottery in the city from 1854-1856 before joining his brother Jacob in the firm of "J & H SWANK" in 1856. By the 1870s, Swank had established Hiram Swank & Sons, and by 1880 was working with a relative, Samuel Swank, on Morris Street, at an operation occasionally referred to as the Johnstown Pottery. Hiram Swank is credited with developing a stoneware pouring sleeve for the Cambria Iron Works during the Civil War, and also served as the Head of the Vigilant Fire Company in Johnstown. For a detailed account of the potter's life, see Schaltenbrand, Big Ware Turners, pp. 99-103. The photograph is included in a period Victorian frame, believed to be original to the photograph. For a second photo from a different angle, see Schaltenbrand's Big Ware Turners, p. 99. Provenance: A fresh-to-the-market example, recently discovered in the Johnstown, PA area. Glued to original carbboard backer, marked "Merriman / 534 Smithfield St / Pittsburgh PA". Photograph itself survives in fine condition with a 3/16" tear to left edge of photo. Cardboard backer with a 3/4" wrinkle to left edge, other typical light wear, and some light foxing and water damage to cardboard backer visible on front and significant on reverse. Cracks to decorative border of frame and other light wear to frame. Dimensions (of image): 8 1/2" x 6 1/2" ; Dimensions (of frame): 17 1/4" x 15 3/8".


Extremely Rare Photograph Depicting Swank s Johnstown Pottery, circa 1885Extremely Rare Photograph Depicting Swank s Johnstown Pottery, circa 1885Extremely Rare Photograph Depicting Swank s Johnstown Pottery, circa 1885Extremely Rare Photograph Depicting Swank s Johnstown Pottery, circa 1885

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