Before technology developed and refrigerators appeared in our lives, stoneware crocks played an essential role in American kitchens. People used this airtight container to hold their heat-sensitive foodstuffs, like vegetables, salted meats, and butter.
Antique stoneware crocks were mainly used because of their affordable, practical, and durable nature. Their core was sturdy enough to hold significant amounts of food, and their primary material was ceramic.
However, nowadays, antique stoneware crocks are just a piece of American history. Therefore, collectors are excited to hunt high-quality antique vessels.
If you are passionate about antique stoneware crocks but don’t know what features to look for, you are at the right place. I will provide you with tips and tricks and a complete guideline for valuing and identifying unique markings. So let’s familiarize ourselves with this topic.
First Thing First – What Is An Antique Stoneware Crock?
Some of you might have heard about stoneware crocks but have no clue about their purpose throughout history. So, a crock is a type of pottery that is long-lasting and water-tight. People used mainly ceramic to make them. This way, they kept the food away from viable bacteria. On the other hand, stoneware is primarily clay with a waterproof rating lower than 2 percent.
Consequently, when it comes to material, making stoneware crocks is quite diverse, as they can be made from multiple types of clay. Luckily for their appearance, these food containers have different colors and textures, allowing the users to choose that crock that fits their needs and preferences.
However, most antique stoneware crocks were relatively minimalist and straightforward, with a gray salt or brown glaze. Additionally, ceramic artists would add blue decorations.
A Slice of Stoneware Crocks’ History
Stoneware crocks have been a vital food container in the kitchen ever since the 18th century. These items were initially made in France, but the leading importers back in those days were Germany and Britain. This lasted up until the end of the revolutionary war.
Due to the high market and price competition, starting in the early 1800s, Americans began to produce their crocks. The main areas where crocks were pioneered throughout America were New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. In the late 1800s, New England and Ohio started to make stoneware crocks.
These items continued to be popular throughout the decades and remained an essential utensil in American kitchens. As a matter of fact, people have been using them until the 20th century. Here are some of the historical purposes of stoneware crocks:
- Firstly, stoneware crocks were used to keep foodstuffs and beverages at the optimal temperature, considering refrigerators were not even in the plan during this era. These food goods were salted meat, butter, jelly, grains, pickled vegetables, or grains. By that time, people had kept soda and beer in the vessel.
- Antique stoneware crocks have water-tight features; nevertheless, people were able to keep their food away from insects, rodents, and children. Nothing could touch or contaminate their contents.
- Stoneware crocks were also helpful for Lacto-fermenting foods, like cucumbers and cabbages.
Simple Tricks To Identify Antique Crocks
When identifying antique stoneware crocks, you need to keep in mind some essential factors:
Antique crocks were usually handmade, so the design on the container was crude, relatively simple, or something that looks easily made all by hand.
- The oldest designs were engraved into the clay, then filled with something that looked like a cobalt blue shade.
- Ceramics artists added flowers, trees, and birds as the earliest designs all over the antique crocks.
- If you cannot distinguish all the decor elements, take a close look in a different light, and you will be able to observe the details.
The Makers’ Marks
Most stoneware crocks were signed even by more prominent pottery companies. You may easily find the maker’s mark almost on any antiques of this kind. The maker’s mark will help you identify the age and style easier. This way, you can determine the value of your crock. Here are some tips and tricks regarding this topic:
- Usually, the maker’s mark or stamp is easy to find on the bottom of the stoneware crock.
- The maker’s mark can be a letter, symbol, logo, or directly the manufacturer’s name.
- Master artists mostly signed at the bottom of the crock.
- If you still cannot detect the mark as a pro, try rubbing the surface of the crock gently using a piece of paper over it. Use rubbing charcoal, crayon, or chalk across the paper.
- An excellent resource for identifying a maker’s mark is The Marks Project, an online dictionary of all American ceramic effects dating from 1946. This great online source may be truly helpful in determining the piece’s age and origins.
- Some people may misinterpret the mark, so keep in mind that a single number (whether it is stamped or painted) would indicate the size, not the artist’s signature. As such, a three would mean 3 quarts or 3 gallons.
- Some manufacturers chose a sidewall stamp to put their signature on a specific stoneware crock rather than placing it on the bottom.
- A great clue regarding the maker’s mark is the style, font, and placement.
Identifying the age of a crock is quite challenging. Most important stoneware crock pieces were imported from Europe until the American Revolution ended (around 1783.) Starting with the 1700s, American potters were finally making their crocks and importing them from Germany or England. Here is how easy you can identify the age of antique stoneware crocks.
- Only after 1775 did American potters start applying salt glazes on their crocks.
- The cylinder shape of stoneware crocks was popular starting in 1860.
- If you notice a mark or maker’s signature at the bottom of the crock, it was most probability made after 1810.
- Makers from the 1900s used to mark their crocks with “limited” or “Ltd.”
- If you notice a “made in” specification, you might deal with stoneware from the 1900s.
- Marks that say “Nippon” are the reference for crocks made in Japan right before 1921.
- Is there a sticker? It means the crocks were made in the late 1800s or later.
More Age Tips and Tricks
If you notice foreign markings on the antique stoneware crocks, then it might be difficult to trace their origins and age. However, some collectors are genuinely intrigued by the mysteries behind the containers and spend a lot of time solving them. Other collectors don’t have the time and energy to do this work. For sure, tracing such pieces is challenging and time-consuming. Why? Because these stoneware crocks are rare.
Luckily, some antique crocks have stamps with their location and names. For instance, if you have a stoneware crock stamped with “Manhattan Wells,” it is crystal clear it was made in New York.
Most Popular Antique Crock Makers
There are many antique crock makers on this type of market, each of them very popular in the area they were located in. However, there are some particular names that professional collectors are interested in. So these are the most prominent names you should keep in mind, most of them coming from the U.S. (New York and New England).
Red Wing Stoneware
Red Wing Stoneware has a long history behind it, as it started producing crock in the late 1870s. The earliest containers had sidewall stamps, and today they value more.
Before 1896, all the decorative patterns were hand-drawn. After this year, the artists simply started stamping their products.
Monmouth Pottery Company
Monmouth Pottery started its activity in 1894 and made stoneware crocks in Illinois. Their creative signature were the salt glazes, Bristol glazes and Albany slip glazes.
However, their representative design featured two men standing inside a huge crock. Starting from 1902, the company changed its logo and started to use a maple leaf.
In 1906, a critical name in the industry appeared: The Western Stoneware Company. Their primary logo was also a maple leaf displaying the name in the center. The logo might also include a number from 1 to 7, mentioning the factory that created the specific piece of crock.
Since 1901, the Robinson Ransbottom Pottery creating unique-looking stoneware crocks. They were famous for the blue-green crown mark. However, there have been multiple crown versions, so that you might notice various numbers or words right inside it.
Valuing Stoneware Crock by Yourself
While the previous factors represent specific ways to identify a stoneware crock’s value, you may call for other sources of information. This way, you will learn about these antique treasures that are crucial to you as a collector.
Do not hesitate to use the Internet, our digital and endless knowledge resource. You can upload a picture with your antique piece on Google Images and wait for similar results to help you.
When it comes to makers, supposing you are not sure about the company that manufactured the antique crock, use the symbol as the primary reference. In this case, search on Youtube, Google, Pinterest, or eBay for similar logos.
There are different reference books offering details about antique stoneware crocks, with lots of explicative images.
Ask Professional Collectors
It is never too late to ask the professional about the origins, value, and age. You can either attend antique affairs or go to your city’s antique store. You might have to pay for this professional advice.
Factors To Determine A Crock’s Value
When collecting antiques, value is what you are looking for. Determining the worth of a stoneware crock is highly important. Several factors determine the value of an antique stoneware crock.
Some factors are more dominant than others and influence the final value of the antique pieces.
The clay color is essential in determining the value of an antique stoneware crock. The final shade is also a vital factor for identifying the maker.
For instance, the Robinson Ransbottom Blue Crown company mainly manufactured their containers in yellow clay.
On the other hand, companies like Weller made their products using white clay. These representative colors are the best clue for identifying the value and origins of stoneware crocks.
The design of a stoneware crock is a crucial element in determining the vessel’s value. The more intricate the invention, the higher will be the final price. Some of the most intricate designs are cobalt blue.
If you are looking for a genuine investment, then look for stunning, delicate designs, as these pieces of a vessel are genuinely worthy of having in your collection.
In contrast, stoneware crocks with basic decorations are cheaper. Their value will be potentially low. But how do you know if the ornaments were added afterward?
Well, there are simple signs: if you notice the blue decorations were enriched below the glaze, they were added before the vessel went through the firing process. On the other hand, if the decoration is added above the glaze, the value of the crock is lower.
Like many other antique products, various manufacturers are more highly rated than their peers. The same principle applies to antique stoneware crocks, as some makers were more appreciated than others at the time.
The easiest way to establish their value is by searching them on the internet or in books and seeing if they are valuable or not.
The size of an antique stoneware crock determines the price you will pay. Larger vessels are rare to find and cost more.
If the antique stoneware crock is in good shape, though it has been around for more than a century, then it is more likely to be truly valuable. Otherwise, containers in poor condition are less worthy.
Suppose you notice any hairline cracks or minor chips. In that case, this does not mean the value is decreasing, or the crock is in terrible condition. On the opposite, you might deal with an authentic vessel with the ideal antique feel.
Without any doubt, the maker’s mark is something that influences the final value. Some signatures or logos are more popular and precious than others. If the maker is genuinely famous, then the vessel’s value increases instantly.
Where To Buy Antique Stoneware Crocks?
You can buy genuine antique vessels from both online and offline sources. Here you can find the best deals:
- Amazon (better for replicas than genuine antique stoneware crocks)
- Online auction sites
- Local thrift stores
- Estate sales
- Garage sales
- Flea markets
- Local antique stores
Without any doubt, stoneware crocks are timeless beauties in your antique collection. They will undeniably add an elegant and unique touch to your home’s decor. I hope this guideline was comprehensive enough for you if you are a novice collector.
And if you don’t know how to use them as decoration pieces. In that case, you should know that nowadays, you may use antique stoneware crocks as decor pieces in the kitchen, kid’s room, or the dining area.
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