Thursday, November 6, 2014

Isaac's Crockery

Crockery Butter Churn with Lid
When the Administrator of Isaac Werner's Estate retained three neighborhood men to inventory and appraise Isaac's personal property, they recorded the following:  3 pieces of Crockery, 25 cents, and Crockery Ware No. 6, 90 cents.

My Grandmother Beck had a ten-gallon crock that was passed to my mother.  Every summer Mother would fill it practically to the brim with sliced cucumbers to make 3-day Lime Pickles, placing a lid on it to contain the contents.  The finished jars of 3-day lime pickles stood in rows on the shelves in the basement that my mother filled every summer with canned vegetables and plum jelly.  She tinted the pickles with food coloring a bright green, and my father loved them.  My favorite pickles were the dill spears she also canned.

I don't recall the crockery butter churn pictured at left, and I believe my mother may have bought it in a yard sale after I was grown and no longer at home.  I don't recall ever churning  butter, but it is probable that Grandmother Beck used a butter churn for her large family of seven children, so perhaps this churn was at the farm when I was a child, collecting dust and cobwebs in storage somewhere.

Isaac Werner never had a cow, but he did record in his journal that he sometimes traded the potatoes he raised for butter churned by neighbors who lived in Livingston.  How he used the crockery that the appraisers of his estate inventoried is unknown, but crockery was a part of most settlers' households.

Small sampling of broken crockery discovered at farm
Pottery manufacture began early in the settling of America, potters' clays of different types available in many regions.  Red-burning clays were easily found near the surface and required simple kilns and equipment.  Buff-burning clays with a finer texture came later, and by the 1800s factory wares were available.  Studying the names of early towns provide indications of pottery making, with names like Potter's Creek and Jugtown.

In 1895 when the appraisers inventoried Isaac's property, they referred to "crockery;" however, that term was not being widely used in the 19th century, according to the source I consulted, when pottery was the preferred term.  Today the predominant houseware of the 19th century is generally called American Stoneware or stoneware pottery.

When I was digging weeds and digging and planting Bermuda grass this summer, I found many pieces of crockery that had been discarded by my family, a few of which are shown in the photograph above.  Salt-glazing is typical on American Stoneware, but Albany Slip made from a clay peculiar to the Upper Hudson Region of New York produces a dark brown glaze.  My great grandmother, Susan Cummings Beck was born in New York State, and although I have no clues from which to identify the manufacturer of the pieces of crockery I saved, I do have examples of dark brown glaze on some of the pottery shards.

Both the 10-gallon pickle crock and the butter churn pictured in this blog have the Western Stoneware maple logo.  The Monmouth Pottery Company in Monmouth, IL operated from 1894 to 1905, and by 1902 they were using the maple leaf design with the company and town names on their wares.  In 1906 Monmouth Pottery sold to the Western Stoneware Company of Monmouth, IL, merging with seven different stoneware and pottery companies that used the logo of Western Stoneware and the maple leaf, differentiating among the seven plants by using the plant number on the stoneware produced in each individual plant.  Obviously the crock pictured in this blog was produced in Plant 5.  Eventually there were plants in ten different locations:  one each in NY, NJ, and MD, three in VA, and four in PA.

To read more you may want to consult and   There are also many photographs on the internet of pottery currently offered for sale to collectors.


The Blog Fodder said...

As the Swede said "I yust learn to say Crock and dey change it to Yug."
We had two 5 gallon crocks and a three gallon that were used to hold water except during sauerkraut season. Interesting about sourcing these locally at "Jugtown" etc. Never thought about where they came from long ago.

Lynda Beck Fenwick said...

Cute joke and very appropriate.