Exceedingly Rare and Important JOHN BELL / WAYNESBORO Redware Jar Inscribed by V.C. Bell for Itinerant Potter

Spring 2021 Stoneware Auction

Lot #: 224

Price Realized: $8,400.00

($7,000 hammer, plus 20% buyer's premium)

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Auction Highlight:  Spring 2021 Auction | John Bell Pottery | Redware

Spring 2021 Auction Catalog

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Exceedingly Rare and Important Redware Jar with Manganese Floral Decoration and Elaborate Incised Signature, Dated Twice "1875," Stamped "JOHN BELL / WAYNESBORO'," PA origin, 1875, ovoid jar with heavily-tooled shoulder, rounded rim, and extruded lug handles, decorated on the front and reverse with a large lead-and-manganese tulip motif featuring elongated stamens. Dated "1875" in freehand lead-and-manganese glaze under each handle, with additional highlights to the handle's terminals. Impressed with John Bell maker's mark at shoulder. Lead-and-manganese-glazed interior. Underside incised with an elaborate inscription by the jar's decorator and son of John B. Bell, Victor Conrad Bell (1845-1925), which reads, "this crock was made / by Daniel Caughman / Berlington Vermont / Sept the 14 1875 / Victor C. Bell." As noted by John Kille in his Ceramics in America 2005 article, "Bell Family Presentation Jar," and discussed in Rice and Stoudt's The Shenandoah Pottery, Victor Conrad Bell severed an artery in his wrist as a child, making it difficult for him to throw pottery. As a result, he served as a decorator at the family shop. This jar is related to at least four other cobalt-decorated stoneware jars with similar decorations, 1874 dates, and initials or inscriptions for Bell family members, all of which were likely decorated by Victor Conrad Bell. Two of these jars bear inscriptions by Victor's uncle, Solomon Bell, identifying the latter as the potter. In the case of this redware jar, the piece has been thoughtfully inscribed by Victor Bell to honor another potter, an itinerant craftsman from Burlington, Vermont. That craftsman, called here Daniel "Caughman," must be Daniel J. Coughlin, an itinerant potter born about 1838 and raised in Burlington, the son of a Canadian-born stone cutter named Lawrence Coughlin. Daniel "Caughlin" appears in the 1850 census as a 12-year-old boy living with his family in Burlington, sharing their dwelling with a potter named Nathan Miner and his family. In 1860, Coughlin shows up in Charlestown (Boston), Massachusetts, where he is a listed as a potter in what appears to have been a large boarding house. (This listing gives an incorrect age of 38 and birthplace of Canada; that this is the same man, however, is borne out by a June 1863 Civil War draft registration record that lists Coughlin as a 26-year-old potter born in Vermont and living in Charlestown.) In 1870, he is almost certainly the Daniel "Coffin" who appears in West Hartford, Connecticut, the census man denoting his occupation as "Works in Pottery." That pottery would have been the large Goodwin family pottery, as he was living very close to its proprietor, Harvey Goodwin, along with many other pottery employees. In 1880, Coughlin appears yet again in the census as a potter in the small town of Morganville (Genesee County), New York--roughly twenty miles or so southwest of Rochester--living with another potter named Charles Ford. From there, we can find no definitive trace of Coughlin or what became of him. His obvious itineracy as demonstrated in his various census listings paint the picture of a man who moved from town to town, picking up work where he could. This jar is the sole surviving document of the fact that Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, too, was one of these towns. Another example of collaborative work at John Bell's Waynesboro shop, this vessel immortalizes an otherwise-unknown artisan and gives insight into the use of itinerant labor even at small family concerns. Both highly decorative and extremely rare, this object was probably made as a scarcely-used presentation piece, as it survives in pristine condition. Excellent, essentially as-made condition with no cracks, chips, or even the typical glaze wear to interior. Only minor residue to exterior. H 11 3/4".




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