Published: April 1, 2008
Crocker Farm’s March 8 auction of American stoneware started off gangbusters right from the get-go.
The first lot to cross the block was a scarce and important folk art stoneware jar with an incised man decoration and comical slogan that attained $63,250.
“We had gotten more interest in this piece than in any other we have sold,” said Tony Zipp, whose family runs Crocker Farm. The firm conducts several stoneware specialty auctions a year.
The 10-inch straight-sided jar, circa 1799‱801 New York City, is noteworthy as pieces from this period with human decoration were exceedingly rare. This jar is decorated with an incised and cobalt-highlighted figure of a well-dressed man and a speech bubble extending from the figure’s mouth, “I have sh** my trowsers, but that[‘s] nothing.”
The jar is incised with the name of Bill Remey (sic), possibly meaning William Remmey who was a member of the Remmey family of potters, but it is unknown if he created the piece or another potter immortalized an unfortunate moment.
Performing well at $34,500 was a rare and important water cooler in the form of a woman, as Nineteenth Century figural stoneware was nearly nonexistent. This example from Taunton, Mass., dated July 1824, is incised, “Betsy Baker is my name” and shows a woman with one hand on hip and the other on her stomach. The jug has a figural blouse in a bold cobalt and the iron-oxide apron with a cobalt fringe.
Zipp said the buyer had chased this item for more than 30 years and through three collections. The unusual piece likely would have set a world record had the missing head-form lid still been attached, he said.
Characterizing the sale, Zipp said the better lots here and in recent auctions, are “bringing prices never realized. The prices, from sale to sale, keep going up,” Zipp said, noting that Crocker usually has two auctions a year but is having four this year.
Shenandoah Valley redware was a big draw in the sale, attracting private, trade and museum buyers. “Shenandoah pottery did extremely well,” Zipp said. The standout was a rare and fine lead and manganese glazed redware wall pocket in a cornucopia form with scalloped edge and applied bird and floral decorations, signed Anthony W. Bacher, 1879, that more than doubled its high estimate to achieve $35,650 from the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, Va. The lot was one of an unmatched pair of wall pockets that sold at Sotheby’s about 15 years ago for $2,800, Zipp said. “We were very happy with that,” he said of the final selling price, noting the piece had a strong floor bidder competing with the museum.
A Shenandoah Valley multiglazed redware wall pocket, attributed to J. Eberly & Co., Strasburg, Va., circa 1890, decorated with a large applied figure of a bird on a plant with three stamp decorated blossoms, realized $4,830.
Standouts included a pitcher and washbowl set, attributed to J. Eberly & Co., circa 1890, that fetched $25,875. The wheel-thrown footed bowl had applied strap handles with faux screwhead ends and the matching pitcher had a pronounced foot, high spout and spurred handle with faux screwhead terminal. Both were glazed with lead, manganese and copper over a cream ground slip. It and the next lot, a slip decorated redware plate attributed to J. Eberly & Co. or S. Bell & Son, Strasburg, Va., came from a 60-year Midwestern collection.
The circa 1890 drape-molded plate had a coggled edge and was decorated with green and cream-colored slip-trailed flower heads set apart by crossed manganese chain links. Strasburg plates are scarce, especially with this high level of decoration, and this one easily achieved $25,300, also selling to the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. Gene Comstock, author of the definitive book on Shenandoah pottery, attended the auction preview, Zipp said, and gave his blessings on this plate, declaring it to be made by the Bell family.
Other redware offerings were a rare diminutive redware creamer stamped “Baecher/Winchester, Va.,” at 4½ inches high, circa 1885, that nearly tripled its high estimate to bring $17,825; a rare lead and manganese glazed redware lidded sugar bowl with a bird finial, attributed to Anthony Bacher, Adams County, Penn., circa 1855, at $2,875, and a large multiglazed redware flowerpot, Strasburg, Va., attributed to S. Bell & Son or J. Eberly & Co., at $3,680.
Another standout was a rare two-gallon jar decorated in cobalt with a slip-trailed folk art face surrounded by eight slip-trailed rays, stamped “T. Harrington/Lyons,” circa 1860 New York State that sold for $5,290.
A rare salt glazed stoneware match safe with a sow and piglets, incised “F. Korsmeyor Cario, Ill., What is Home without a mother, 1889,” sold for $5,175. Zipp said had the piece not had considerable repair, it would it have brought five to six times more, but the firm was satisfied with the results.
Pennsylvania pottery consistently brought solid prices, usually above estimate. Highlights include a rare six-gallon stoneware jug with cobalt stars, stamped “Hamilton & Co/ Greensboro, Penn.,” that realized $6,440; a four-gallon Hamilton & Jones crock, freehand decoration, at $3,565, an 1860 Hamilton four-gallon crock at $2,185, and a 12-gallon freehand decorated crock, stenciled “Excelsior Works,” at $2,242.
Thomas Chandler pottery proved its worth with a rare two-gallon alkaline glazed jug, impressed with maker’s mark, circa 1850, and a rare alkaline glazed milkpan, also circa 1850, that each sold for $6,900.
Leading a wide array of cobalt decorated wares was a rare four-gallon water cooler with an enthusiastic slip-trailed floral decoration, stamped “B.C. Milburn/Alexa,” that attained $15,525. Other standouts in this category, and all noted for their rarity, were a Shenandoah Valley fruit jar stenciled “PLUMBS” that brought $6,785, a one-gallon milkpan, B.C. Milburn, at $4,485, and a two-gallon ovoid jar, stamped “J. Swann/Alexa.,” at $5,175. Both the milkpan and the ovoid jar went to The Lyceum: Alexandria’s History Museum in Alexandria, Va.
“Alexandria pottery performed well,” Zipp said.
An early ovoid jug with a folk incised bird holding a stylized incased fish in its talons, possibly New Jersey, late Eighteenth Centuryarly Nineteenth Century, sold for $6,900.
Three cobalt decorated pitchers that performed solidly were a half-gallon example attributed to the Remmey Pottery, Philadelphia, circa 1865, that attained $2,990; a one-quart pitcher with the date 1851 in cobalt on the base, southeastern Pennsylvania origin, that brought $4,025; and a rare one-gallon example with slip-trailed cobalt, stamped “Baltimore/H. Remmey,” circa 1820, at $3,335.
All prices reported include the 15 percent buyer’s premium. A single-owner collection of Bell family pottery comprising around 200 lots will headline the firm’s May 21 sale. For information, 410-337-5090 or www.crockerfarm.com .
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