Crocker Farm, Inc’s November 4 auction broke two world auction records for American stoneware. The top lot was a St Johnsbury, Vt., water cooler decorated with what was believed to be a Civil War-era soldier with his wife that realized $88,000.
The sale featured more than 430 lots of stoneware and redware with diverse offerings from as far north as New England and as far south as Tennessee. The water cooler set a world record hammer price for a stoneware specialty auction. Discovered in a basement in the 1970’s, it had never before been offered for public sale. The figures depicted on the cooler may have represented famous St. Johnsbury resident and Civil War General Asa Peabody Blunt and his wife, Mary. Period photographs of Blunt strikingly resemble the man depicted on the water cooler. The cooler sold in the room to a donor for the New York State Museum in Albany, N.Y.
The auction also saw what is believed to be a world record hammer price for Pennsylvania stoneware when a stoneware birdhouse made at the Newport, Penn., pottery of Michael and Theophilus Miller sold for $71,500. The birdhouse, a very rare form in American stoneware, was decorated with various incised and cobalt-washed decorations: a bust of a man, two birds in branches and the inscription, “M + T Miller / New Port / Perry Co / Penn.”
The birdhouse was found in a grape arbor in the early 1950’s by an Ohio antiques dealer and was sold to Jean Massar, a private collector whose estate was sold at Garth’s auction in Delaware, Ohio, in 1978. It was purchased there by the consignor, who paid, at the time, a record for stoneware sold at Garth’s, and owned it for nearly 30 years before consigning it to Crocker Farm. The birdhouse sold in the room to a collector of M & T Miller stoneware.
Other highlights included two stoneware jugs produced by the prolific pottery of Julius and Edward Norton in Bennington, Vt., that were decorated with cobalt deer scenes and sold for $18,700 and $17,050 respectively. A canning jar with the figure of a woman shooting a bird out of a tree was produced in Morgantown, W.Va., and realized $13,475.
Two New York stoneware churns of six-gallon capacity — one made in Lyons and decorated with a cobalt “starface” design, the other produced in Rochester and adorned with a rare turkey decoration — realized $12,100 and $8,800, respectively. A southwestern Pennsylvania stoneware pedestal water cooler made by potting brothers James and William Leet Hamilton in Beaver, Penn., realized $10,725.
A stoneware bank, already a rare form, was fashioned with the even rarer treatment of a bird figure finial; made at the Richard C. Remmey pottery of Philadelphia, the bank sold for $10,725, even with damage to the bird that occurred in the making.
Redware offerings included a few items of Shenandoah Valley origin that were standouts. A cornucopia-shaped wall pocket made in Strasburg, Va., probably by the Bell family, brought $8,525, a redware pitcher with a molded scene of children on each side and the inscription “S. Bell” sold for $6,600, and a signed “S. Bell & Son/ Strasburg” cream jar with multi-colored glaze brought $3,630.
All prices reported include the ten percent buyer’s premium. Crocker Farm Inc is owned and operated by the Zipp family — Anthony, Barbara, and three sons, Brandt, Luke and Mark — of Baltimore County, Md. The company’s next auction will take place in the spring. For more information, www.crockerfarm.com or 410-337-5090.