Published: November 12, 2019
Review and Onsite Photos by Greg Smith, Additional Photos Courtesy Crocker Farm Auction
SPARKS, MD. – A total of 503 lots crossed the block in Crocker Farm’s October 26 American Stoneware & Redware Pottery auction, producing a total sales figure of $648,000.
“It was a quick turnaround from our July 20 sale,” auctioneer and specialist Luke Zipp said. “But there was a great deal of strong bidding for the quality we had.”
The sale’s top lot, a stoneware presentation water cooler with incised mermaid and seahorse motifs by Cornwall, N.Y., potter Moses Clark Bell, rode the wave of bids until it sold for $70,800. The cooler featured an incised and cobalt-decorated mermaid together with an incised-only seahorse. It was presented to Cornwall clothier Charles S. Brown and dated August 15, 1825. The piece measured 16 inches high and had previously sold in 2004 at Garth’s from the collection of Bob and Nancy Treichler.
In his video spotlight on the lot, Luke Zipp called it one of the finest pieces of stoneware the firm has ever sold and only the third mermaid the firm has ever seen.
The cooler sold to Delaware dealer Jim Kilvington who was in the gallery bidding on behalf of a client.
The pantheon of creativity surrounding the expression “size doesn’t mean everything” was put to the test with the first lot of the sale, a 10¾-inch-tall Edgefield, S.C., stoneware face jug, circa 1840-75, that was the largest example the firm had ever sold. The surface features a light-green alkaline glaze streaked with a reddish-brown, iron-rich slip. Crocker Farm noted that this example is among fewer than three known Edgefield vessels to have an iron slip applied. The jug was a fresh to market example from Long Island, N.Y., where it passed down through the family. A note found with the jug from the consignor’s grandmother, a collector, read: “Purchased from Vern House Antiques, Croton-on-Hudson, 1964. Two at Ford Museum, three at Ohio State Museum. Excellent. Paid $87.50.”
Bidders pushed it between estimate at $28,320, selling to a South Carolina collector. In a white-hot market for American face jugs where auction prices regularly reach the $60,000 to $70,000 range at this auction house alone, this result seemed tepid. One conclusion that can be drawn is that the market prefers the smaller, more delicate forms.
We asked Luke Zipp about the disparity.
“I think what the market prefers are standard examples, that’s what brings the strongest prices,” Zipp said. “I think it was a little too anomalous. If you didn’t see it in person, it was difficult to grasp the importance of it.”
The jug was similar in size to the largest Edgefield face jug known, an example produced by Thomas Chandler.
Before the sale got underway, Luke Zipp said the auction had one of the finest selections of New England redware the firm had ever offered at once. Among the highlights was a lidded redware jar with slip foliate decoration from the early Nineteenth Century. The 11-inch-high jar had provenance to the 1974 Christopher Huntington sale in Harrison, Maine, and sold at $10,030. A slip-decorated pitcher from the same collection, early Nineteenth Century and measuring 7-7/8 inches, sold at $3,835. It featured a light-celadon, lead-based glaze with manganese brushwork. A related example came out in Skinner’s 2016 Lew Scranton sale. Luke Zipp said that pitchers with this abstract style glaze are quite rare.
The third highest lot in the sale was an Alamance County, N.C., redware dish measuring 11 inches in diameter that sold for $22,420 to a North Carolina collector. It features copper, white and orange slips over a black manganese slip, which is distinctive to the region.
Fetching $4,130 was a 7¾-inch-tall stoneware jar with alkaline glaze by Greenville County, S.C., African American potter Rich Williams. A picture of Williams turning a jug in his shop, illustrated in Cinda K. Baldwin’s Great & Noble Jar: Traditional Stoneware of South Carolina, is regarded as the only period photo of an African American potter at work. The potter stamped his full name “Rich Williams” on the side of the jar, which was fresh to the market after having surfaced in Missouri. That he signed his full name is rare in itself, as many were just signed with his last. Williams is among the few African American potters of the late Nineteenth Century to own his pottery.
Only two face pipes by Wallace and Cornwall Kirkpatrick of Anna Pottery are known, and Crocker Farm offered the first in 2016 for $12,650. The other turned up in this sale, where it sold for $7,080. The 2016 example featured lively polychrome paint decoration to the headdress, though the 2019 example was in better condition, according to the auction house. The pipe sold to the same collector who purchased the Anna Pottery snake jug in the firm’s October 2018 sale, which set a record for the maker at $141,600. Both of the known pipes are inscribed and relate to the Modoc War, fought between the United States Army and the Modoc Native American tribe between 1872 and 1873 on top of the Northeast California lava beds, now the Lava Bed National Monument. The pipes are believed to represent the Modoc chief, Kintpuash, also known as “Captain Jack,” who was the only Native American ever to be charged with war crimes for leading ambush killings of General Edward Canby and Reverend Eleazar Thomas at a peace commission meeting. He was tried and hung for it in 1873, around the same time of this pipe’s manufacture.
Among his favorite pieces in the sale, Luke Zipp pointed out a stoneware jar with Federal eagle and flag decoration that was produced early in Baltimore, circa 1795-1815. “It takes a lot to get me excited these days,” Zipp said, “But this jug is something I’ve never seen before. There’s an argument that early Baltimore potters were only making domestic pottery without decoration… and then the Remmeys came down and made it beautiful. But this example runs contrary to that.” The jar’s dipped iron-oxide treatment extending to the shoulder area is a style that dates to Baltimore’s earliest stoneware production. The 7½-inch-high jar went out at $4,425.
One piece of stoneware in the sale is infamous among the Zipps: the J. Eberly & Co or Peter Hermann lamb doorstop, which sold for $2,714. As a boy in 1989, Brandt Zipp took a class trip to dig at the site of the Hermann pottery in Baltimore and it was at that time the Zipps learned of this example in the collection of a descendent of the potter. Eberly produced this lamb doorstop in redware from a mold, and whether that mold made its way to Hermann or the Eberly potters decided to use Baltimore clay instead is unknown.
An addendum to the catalog was produced when a Texas alkaline-glazed stoneware pitcher came in late. Made by Joseph Clifford Demerval “Cliff” Rushton, and circa 1873-70, the 10-5/8-inch-high piece would go out at $2,832. “Texas was not a very common place for potters,” Zipp said. “Though it was a melting pot of a lot of styles, and Edgefield had a lot of interest,” noting the similarities in the mottled glaze. Many of the families that would go on to set up shop in Texas, by way of Alabama – the Cogburns, Prothros, Duncans, Leopards and Rushtons – started out in Edgefield, S.C.
Five crocks with images of man’s best friend were found in the sale. “One dog would have been great, but we’ve never had this many before,” auctioneer and patriarch Tony Zipp said, standing in front of the pack as they sat idly and rather obediently on the pedestals inside the gallery door. At the top of the group was a 4-gallon crock by Samuel Hart, Fulton, N.Y., with a dog carrying a basket that brought $4,425. It was followed at $2,478 by a 6-gallon New York crock with a unique pointing dog decoration not known to have been produced in number by any area potteries. A 3-gallon example, attributed to Brady & Ryan, Ellenville, N.Y., featured a reclining dog and advertising for “C. Romer / Groceryman. / Rondout, N.Y.” It brought $1,652. A 3-gallon crock stamped “New York Stoneware Co. / Fort Edward, N.Y.” featured a rare small breed dog, perhaps a dachshund, that sold for $767 – below estimate and possibly reflecting a broader sentiment on small dogs in general, which are terrible. It brought the same price as a 1-gallon crock with a stenciled dog decoration that the house believed to have been made by Somerset Potters’ Works, Somerset, Mass., circa 1800.
A number of works from the Cowden family of potters claimed notable results. At the top, $18,880, was a stoneware presentation syrup jug made by patriarch potter John W. Cowden, Harrisburg, Penn., circa 1860. Two brushed cobalt tulips adorned this piece above the inscription made out to Muncy, Penn., merchant James M. Bowman. It sold to a collector who lives in Muncy. During the Civil War, John W. Cowden aligned interests with Isaac J. Wilcox to create the Cowden & Wilcox pottery, located in Harrisburg, Penn. Two jars from the duo featuring a brushed cobalt man in the moon decoration would do well: $8,260 for a circa 1865 example with the man in the moon smoking a pipe, the only pipe-smoking variation the auction house has ever seen; and $2,832 for a mustached man in the moon, one of only a few examples known. Also of note from the maker was a two-handled jar, 14-5/8 inches tall, featuring a generous quantity of cobalt brushed grapes in a cluster. The clusters usually have six or eight grapes, but this one featured 15. Bidders responded favorably, snatching it up for $3,835.
Selling 156 lots into the sale for $5,900 was a 4-gallon stoneware jar with incised floral decoration and crimped handles. The piece was inscribed “C. Atterbury / August 24th, 1807” and attributed to the Manhattan, N.Y., area, possibly by a member of the Crolius Family. The firm believes it was produced by the same potter who made the Elizabeth Crane bowl in the collection of the Museum of American Folk Art and the Henry Edoson flask in the Weitsman collection at the New York State Museum. “C. Atterbury” refers to Catharine Atterbury, born Catharine Boudinot, December 2, 1781, the daughter of Elisha Boudinot, a prominent New Jersey figure in the Revolutionary War and an eventual New Jersey Supreme Court Justice. Catherine married Lewis Atterbury, an Englishman who immigrated with his uncle, Benjamin Bakewell, around 1793. Bakewell is one of the most recognizable figures in early American glass for establishing Bakewell & Co in Pittsburgh, a business that ran for 80 years and cemented his legacy as the father of the flint-glass business in America. At 14¼ inches, the auction house called this jar the largest example known from this unknown potter. Catherine Atterbury’s silhouette is held by the New-York Historical Society.
The firm’s next sale will be in March. All prices reported include buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For more information, 410-472-2016 or www.crockerfarm.com.
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