Flashback: Early American Crocks and Jars

April 3rd, 2009

This article notes the uses for antique pottery crocks and jars (both historically and at the time the article was published) and important potters who created them, and it describes the difference between stoneware and redware. It originally appeared in the March 1942 issue of American Collector magazine, a publication which ran from 1933-1948 and served antique collectors and dealers.

“Five good old-fashioned stone crocks! Not a nick or a chip on any of them. Look at this little brown one with the cover. Grandma kept her yeast in that. She never fooled around with the store kind. And you neighbors can all remember the ginger cookies and hermits she always kept in those two reddish ones with the splotches on ‘em. See that gray one there with the blue posy? That used to be full of green tomato pickles, made as only grandma knew how to make ‘em. This big one was her churn. You know some folks pay fancy prices for these old things as antiques, but I’m just here to sell them as honest crocks that will still hold good home-cooked food — if you can get your women folks to make any. How much am I offered ? Half a dollar each? Ten cents! Henry, I’m ashamed of you when I consider all the cookies you had out of them crocks when you wuz a boy.”

An Unusual Stone Crock: Made by Adam Caire of Poughkeepsie, New York, in the last quarter of the 19th Century. Its distinctive feature is the decoration in cobalt blue of a chicken pecking at corn.

An Unusual Stone Crock: Made by Adam Caire of Poughkeepsie, New York, in the last quarter of the 19th Century. Its distinctive feature is the decoration in cobalt blue of a chicken pecking at corn.

This was a country auction. Old Mrs. Tompkins was dead at eighty-five and her children were selling what they did not want of her possessions. Mounted on an empty feed bin in the front yard, auctioneer Graves was turning each piece into a bargain not to be missed, with his quick wit and ready tongue. Gradually the bidding rose until the auctioneer sensed he had reached the limit on the stone crocks and with this, “Sold! at three fifty the lot to Emma Jones,” five pieces of American pottery passed to a new owner.

Now these crocks may have been either early or late 19th-Century vintage, but the chances are that as collectibles any one of them was easily worth what Mrs. Jones paid for the lot.

The scene of the auction was a small farmhouse in southern New England which had sheltered at least four generations of Tompkins. The reddish brown jars with the “splotches” could have come from one of the five potteries that flourished in Norwalk, Connecticut, during the early years of the 19th Century. If the gray crock with the floral decoration also bore the inscription “Manhattan Wells,” it would be reasonable to assume that it was made by Clarkson Crolius of New York and was, consequently, of more value than the eight-sided mahogany Empire table at which Mrs. Jones had cast longing eyes.

The Crolius pottery was founded very early in the 18th Century and continued until 1870. Clarkson Crolius operated it during the first three decades of the 19th Century. A crock or jug bearing his mark or that of other members of this potting family, or of its rival, the Remneys, is worth owning. These two families were New York City potters to the third and fourth generations. In fact, Henry Remney, grandson of the founder, migrated to Philadelphia and there started the business that still bears the family name and still produces stoneware.

But while any collector gets a thrill out of owning a rarity, there are pieces made later and by less renowned potters that are just as satisfying to the eye. Such is the crock illustrated. It was made in Poughkeepsie, New York, by Adam Caire, son of an Alsatian potter who emigrated to America in 1839 and started the pottery which continued under that family name, save for a brief interlude, until the death of Adam in 1896. The latter had a partner from 1856 to 1878, so this piece, marked simply, “Adam Caire, Po’keepsie, N. Y.,” must have been made fairly late in the century. Its desirability is due to its design which, done free hand in cobalt blue, is both original and realistic.

Originally this four-gallon crock may have been a receptacle for butter, for lard, or for storing eggs in water glass (the country method for preserving them against winter scarcity). Present-day uses may range anywhere from a jardiniere to a wastepaper basket. Similarly the stoneware churn which was made, along with other household pieces, in potteries from Maine to Georgia and as far west as Iowa, may serve today’s needs in various ways.

Although the popular term for these humble objects is stoneware, the earliest examples in America were not made of it, but of the softer, more porous redware which is about the first type of pottery known to man. Bricks are one form of it and the pitcher that Rebecca took to the well in Biblical times was undoubtedly another.

As the red clay used was common to most localities, our early potters set up their simple apparatus: a grinding mill for the clay, a potter’s wheel for shaping the object, and a small kiln for firing, and went to work wherever there was demand for household wares. This was about everywhere in the Thirteen Colonies and later in the United States as the large check list in John Ramsay’s excellent book, American Potters and Pottery, shows. The redware products in household use were glazed, either on the outside or inside or both. Sometimes the potter inscribed his name in the soft clay; oftener the piece was unmarked.

Stoneware, on the other hand, quite often bears the maker’s stamp. Its composition, as the name implies, is very hard. It is made from a fine, dense clay and being fired at a high temperature attains a consistency akin to hard-paste porcelain. The glaze is obtained by throwing ordinary salt into a kiln full of the ware at high heat.

As there were deposits of this special clay in both New Jersey and New York, potters in these two colonies were the first to make household utensils in this ware. There are records of such potteries in the late 17th Century, but though hardness and durability were distinct assets, the appeal of stoneware to the general public did not begin until after the American Revolution. Even then redware was far from becoming an also-ran. Potters all over the country kept on making it in various forms, along with stoneware, right down to the beginning of the 20th Century.

This article originally appeared in American Collector magazine, a publication which ran from 1933-1948 and served antique collectors and dealers.

66 comments so far

  1. wendy vehanen Says:

    I have a crock that has a large acorn on it with corn wares UHL ;Pottery Co. 2-3 gal size. 2 handles can you tell me anything about it. value

    thanks for your time

  2. Julie Pintarelli Says:

    I have a crock from Red Wing Minn. that is a butter churn type. I have several other Red Wing crocks, but this one I have is a bit different. This crock has the “Union Stoneware Co. Red Wing Minn. stamp” centered (between) the “Birch Leaves” at the bottom, and the number “4” at the top. The ink on this crock is much darker blue (blue-black) than on some of the others I have here or seen abroad. Most of my crocks have the stamp at the bottom, then the Birch Leaves centered, and finally the number of the gallon of the crock at the top. Does this mean anything?? Value??

    Thank You

  3. chris hagan Says:

    new in the collection field, have a “H. Vance Benwood W. Va. 6.5″ jar” (it has a flower between the Vance and Benwood) is this a rare piece????

  4. Shelley Thompson Says:

    I have an antique crock, grey with brown inside, that we only used for storing news papers. I cleaned it out and used it for sauerkraut this year. When I went to process the sauerkraut, I picked up the crock I had a blue die all over my hands and arms. I realized the outside of the crock had a blue film on it….that I could not get all off with bleach. Does anyone know why this would happen or what happened?

  5. karla scott Says:

    i have a numbered 97/100, potter at the wheel, jasper bond, 7-10-87, red wing impressed and jb also impressed. it has little handles and 2 leafs on the back. the outside is blue-inside cream with brown spots. it is 3 1/2″ tall and less then 3 1/2″ wide. any info on this piece? thank you~karla

  6. melody sumner Says:

    I have a old crock from my family on the front of it, it has a round circle with a star inside of it with a circle in the middle of it with a #3in the middle of it can you tell me anything about it’s history. I heard that is a symbol of the devil is that true? it is 2 different colord browns

    Thank You
    Melody

  7. Bubba Says:

    We have a pickling crock that was made in Richmond Va..
    The design is a Blue Crown With th number 10 in the center of the crown

  8. Cindy Walker Says:

    I have a 15gal Blue Ribbon crock from the Buckeye Pottery Co. It has self handles on each side and is in excellent condition. Can you tell me it’s approximate age and value? I can’t find much information on this company.

  9. Cindy Walker Says:

    I have a 15gal Blue Ribbon crock with self handles from the Buckeye Pottery Company. Can you tell me anything about it’s age and value? I can’t find much information on this company.

  10. george Says:

    I have a large possibly 8-12 gallon jug marked York P inside of a triangle.
    someone told me it is an early pfaltzgraff. there is no pattern on it.
    Any info would be much appreciated.

  11. Julie Sutake Says:

    I have some pieces of red clay pottery/crocks. ( bean pot with lid, high and low jars and a small cream picher and 4-2 gal crocks)They are grey with 2 cobalt blue bands on them. They look similar to the Robinson Ransbottom pottery Williamsburg pattern but they are, like I said red clay which makes the glaze look grey. Any ideas who the maker is and the time frame? No markings are on them at all.
    Thanks for your help and interest

  12. Dottie Becker Says:

    I have a antique stone crock that looks like a canning jar with a metal lid. It is about 12 inches tall. I have never seen one of these. Any ideas as to the age, maker and value?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated

  13. robert nuzum Says:

    I have a light tan crock (7″ dia)x 9″ tall with 3.5″ mouth. White porcelain inside. Bottom mark is unusual triangle with YORK across the top and a LARGE “P” at the bottom. Found in the bottom of San Francisco Bay, covered in barnacles…with a large pile worm living under the barnacles.

  14. Lindsay Gilligan Says:

    I have two crocks that I’m trying to find info on. One has The glass(?) empire pottery company, Spokane WA. It is about 1ft in ht. and 6in across. The other has Douglass Stoneware with a 3 stamped on it. It is around 2ft tall and 1ft across. Thank you for your help.

  15. Stan Strunk Says:

    I have a crock from my grandparents Brown on the inside and white on the outside with a 12 inside a blue heart It measures about 17 across and about 18 1/2 high Any info would be appreciated Thank you for your help

  16. Debbie Says:

    I have a crock that belonged to my great grandmother.
    It is white with a cobalt blue print of a star inside a circle; inside the star is the number 10. I believe this was manufactured at Star Stoneware in Crooksville, Ohio. Does anyone know if this is truce and about what time these were made? Thank you for your help.

  17. Sherry Says:

    Is there a book to identify the designs and/or makers marks on crocks?

  18. Johnny Says:

    I have a number 8 crock with an indian head inside a blue circle which is inside a slightly larger blue crock was wondering who the crock was made my any info would be greatly appreciated.

  19. Donna Achilles Says:

    I have a large pickle crock that belonged to my grandparents, and probably their parents before that. It is brown on the inside and light grayish on the outside. On the front of the crock there is a blue crown with a #15 in the center of it. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

  20. Stephanie Says:

    I have a blue and cream crock with a lid and a metal handle across the front it says “bring back beer” and then it says helping prohibition one puff at a time. I am thinking it might have been used for storing cigars but can’t find any info on it.Thanks

  21. casey Says:

    I have a #6 crock, it is light tan and has a blue anchor below the number 6…no other markings are on the crock…no makers stamp on the bottom or anything…I believe the antique deal I bought it from got it on Ohio, but I am not sure. The number 6 looks like it is stamped and there is a slight blue streak along it perhaps from when the crock was rolled or turned during the stamping process. I would love to find out more about this crock because I was told that I got it for a really good price.

  22. sandra rodgers Says:

    sandra says, i have a stoneware (white with small blue band at top) that has a pour spout, built in handle and open hole in the top. I am not quite sure what kind of jug or pitcher it may be but is very unusual. any ideas?

  23. Ann Marie Shuler Says:

    I am looking for a source to research blue crown crocks. My husband and I collect them but we know nothing about them.

    Can you provide any information or point us to a source?
    Thanks,

    Ann Marie

  24. dianna fightmaster Says:

    I too am looking for infromation on a large crock with a circle and 5 point star.It was given to me by my grandmother, I am sure she made some good pickled corn in the crock. thanks dianna

  25. sherry hill Says:

    I wiuld like info on a butter churn that has a blue crown stamped on the front. It also has red wooden handles attached with wire. thanks …

  26. Dina Says:

    I am trying to find more information about a crock I have but all I have is a stamped ink marking. Is there a list of manufactures with a picture of their symbols/markings you could direct me to? I do not believe it is hand painted but stamped. I’m guesing like redwing was stamped.

  27. Mary Grovers Says:

    I have a two gallon crock with a fancy # 2 and two leaves below the number but no manufacturing stamps. It looks like a Red Wing one I once saw but their name is not on it. It looks pretty old. How can I find out who made it?

  28. Shari Says:

    I have an old crock and would like to know it’s value and age. It is tan on the outside and very shiny dark chocolate on the inside. The outside has the number size stamped on it with blue ink. There are no other markings on it. It has (from what I have investigated on my own) crown ear handles. There is no lid with it (which I know there was at one point but it got sold separately at an estate sale…don’t really know why but it did). Please give me any info you may have on it. Thank you in advance.
    Shari

  29. Shari Says:

    Oops. The number “6” on it…not the number “size” on it. Sorry about that.

  30. Jessica Knutson Says:

    I have a butter churner that was my husbands great grandmas. The churn has a blue indian head on it that has 8 stars around it. Also it has the number 3 under it. I am wondering if this is a collectors item and if so what is it worth.

    Thank You.

  31. agi Says:

    i found a 6 gallon crock in my garage no markings except a blue heart w/6 on center . The crock is 1/2 dark blue on top a brown ring then natural biege on other 1/2. can you tell me about it? can i use it to store food is it unusual cuz i see alot of red wing but no heart ones. is it worth anything? what year would it be from

  32. Julie Says:

    I have an old crock that is 16″ high, has large open handle on left side near rim, a closed handle near the bottom, an indianhead inside a circle surrounded by a larger circle with 8 stars, and a large # 4 underneath this emblem of blue. Could you tell me something about this piece and possible worth?

  33. Team Roster Says:

    Best you could make changes to the post subject title Early American Crocks and Jars | Collectors Weekly to something more better for your blog post you make. I enjoyed the the writing withal.

  34. Kelli Stauffer Says:

    I have a round crock that is 5.5 inches tall. It has white at the bottom going up for 3 inches and then it is brown for 2.5 inches up to the top. It looks like it may have had a lid at one time because the rim is white and then there is an indentation inside like it is a lip. It has a closed handle on one side with a blue crown on the white part toward the bottom a circle in the crown and a number 2 in the circle. I can’t find any signature on it. Can you tell me who made it and around what timeframe so I can try to do a little more research on it? Thank you so much! Kelli

  35. Nancie Mehaffey Says:

    I have a whiskey/rum jug that is cream colored with dark brown quarter sized spots that are spread in a spatter or drip pattern. What is the origin of this gal. jug and it’s value.

  36. Danielle F Says:

    I have an 8 gallon Buckeye Pottery Co Blue Ribbon Brand crock with handles, perfect condition (no cracks and the lettering isn’t faded). It was made in Macomb, Illinois. Wondering the value of this crock?

  37. Matt Says:

    I have what appears to be the same crock as #19 Donna, Blue Crown w/a #15 in the center, brown inside, grey outside. Its in good shape with a wooden top. I would like to have any info you may have about it. Thanks, Matt.

  38. gary williamson Says:

    Have a crock made by r or b iedinger caire #3 at 10″ high and total is 13.5 inches high. Poughkeepsie NY. Bottom is 10.1/4 top 7″. Light tan and blue markings and one looks like a seahorse? Would like to know more about this and is it worth anything. Thank Gary.

  39. debbie terry Says:

    I have an old 3 gallon crock. It is stone colored on the bottom with a dark brown trim around it. In the middle of the stone there is a light blue heart with a number 5. Is this worth anything or not. I inherited it from my grandmother.

  40. Marianne Peterson Says:

    Hello,
    As with a previous post, I also have a light tan crock with the number 6 stamped in blue and with a blue anchor centered beneath it. It is from my grandmother’s homestead in northern West Virginia.
    Would you be able to give me its age and value?
    Thank you

  41. Dennis Kania Says:

    I am trying to find information about a two gallon jug. It has only one identifying mark. A blue heart with a number 2 inside the heart. I also own two more crocks with this same mark. I would like to know the maker of this stoneware jug.
    Thank you,

    Dennis

  42. Peggy Says:

    I have a crock, that has a stamp of a small cobalt blue eagle(just the head and wings)it is about 4 inches wide, and in the middle of the wing span is the number 12. I have not been able to find the maker anywhere. If you would happen to know the maker and value, that would be great.
    thanks,
    Peggy

  43. Lisa Fielder Says:

    I have a butter churner with lid, that has a blue indian head with a circle of eight stars around the indian and a # 3 below it. It has a handle and a hand gripper type handle about mid way down on the opposite side of the handle. I’m thinking to secure your grip even more when you pick it up. Can you please tell me something about the age of it, and if it has any value to it. There is no markings on the bottom that I can see. It is kind of a cream color.

  44. Doris Says:

    what do the numbers on the old crocks mean

  45. barbara crawford Says:

    does any one know the maker on the blue heart circling the numbers?

    thanks……..

  46. Glenn Kloskin Says:

    We have a large crock with a 12 imprinted in blue. I am assuming this means 12 gallon? Also ther is a ribbon (same blue imprint) below the 12 thet reads Blue Ribbon Brand (in the circle of the ribbon) then Buckeye Pottery Co. (imprinted down the right streamer of the ribbon) and I can not make out the imrint on the left side streamer “D Aogsa A 12″ Can you help with any information, age and value? Please and Thank You.

  47. Natalie Says:

    I have a large cream pickle crock that has a blue crown on it with the number six in the middle, a large cream pickle crock with a blue six on it and also a medium size cream couloured plain one with two handles on it.

  48. Florence S Says:

    I have a 4 gallon tan crock with a crown and a number 5 in center does anyone know anything about this crock and value thankyou.

  49. Tosha Says:

    I have a old butter churn that has an indian head symbol with stars round it and a number 3 under it.

  50. Angi Says:

    I have a piece that is very similar to number 34s item on comment page the only difference is inside the crown is a 3 and it says USA on the bottom .Can you help me find what this item is and how much it may worth?

  51. Michelle Lammers Says:

    I have a brown jug with the name “Calvin Moore” stamped on the top. It is very unusual and has a “picture” on it of a corn field and a tree stump with an ax in the stump. I can not find any info or jugs like it. Any help would be great. My Grandmother was from New Hampshire, and moved to Ohio in the 50’s.( this any help). Thank you

  52. Janice Kendrick Says:

    I have a stone canning jar with a wire handle (about a quart size) it has a Patent that says July 13, 1909 by Jos.H Sohramm. Just curious about it, it’s been in the family for a long time.

  53. Annette Babstock Says:

    I have 6 in. tall beanpot (brown top, tan bottom) with one handle in excellent condition. On the bottom, there is a blue 5 pointed star inside a circle; inside the star is the number 2. There also looks like the letter E or B punched (etched?) on the bottom as well. Can you help with age, value? Any info would be very appreciated. Many thanks.

  54. Jo Davis Says:

    I have a large brown crock (approx. 12 inches high) with the following stamped on the bottom: R. R.P. Co.
    Roseville, O USA. Also a black crown with the number 3 inside a circle on the crown. Is this crock connected with the Roseville Pottery Co.? Would appreciate any information and a value

  55. Susan Says:

    Trying to find information on The Buckeye Pottery Company in Macomb Ill.
    regarding a 30 gallon crock with the Stag Head Mark is it rare? I have not found that mark when looking on the internet very often. How much would it be worth approx. very good condition?

  56. Sue Keener Says:

    I have a 5 gallon stone crock with metal lid. It has a circle with a star in it and another circle with a #8. It has the blue cobalt on it. I was trying to find out exactly what it is and if it is worth anything. I know it is at least 100 years old.

  57. Barb Wilbur Says:

    Blue Indian head is the logo of Louisville Pottery in Kentucky. Their line called Cherokee was made in early 1900’s. Company is still in business. Identify marks thru ‘Lehner’s Enclyclopedia of US Marks on Pottery, Porceline and Clay” available on Amazon.

  58. steve strmac sr. Says:

    i have a large crock with the number 8 inside what appears to be a crown. can you tell me anything about my find?

  59. Douglas BALL Says:

    I have a butter churn with lid only. It is in good condition. It has blue crown with a 4 in it and usa on bottom. How old is it and whats it worth?

  60. TOby Barnett Says:

    We found an 8 gallon crock with a completely round bottom. There is a round hole in the bottom. The side is glazed until about 4 inches from the bottom. There is an 8 in blue in the non glazed area. What type of crock was this and what was it used for?? Thanks

  61. Connie Sholar Says:

    I inherited an old #10 stone crock when my mom passed away in ’97. It’s a creamy white inside and out and the logo on it is a circle with blue stars around the border and a blue Indian head in the center. What can you tell me about this crock? I’m currently trying to make pickles in the crock and it has some chips in the glaze so I’m getting a salty crust on the outside of the crock (which I totally expected it to do but you use was you’ve got!). Thank you for your time!

  62. Sara Says:

    I did alot of research and found out that the blue crown with a number in it may be a Robinson Ransbottom crock. I have one with a number 10 meaning its a 10 gallon crock. They sell on ebay for anywhere between 100-300 for this size. Hope it helps.

  63. James Deubner Says:

    I have a three gallon crock with a blue Eagle stamp on it. Approx. 2 inches square. The Eagle with wings spread has a U on the tip of the left wing and an S at the tip of the right wing. Underneath the Eagle is a banner strip with some letters that are difficult to make out. Possibly an M A then some type of insignia possibly of two crossed rifles then the letters A R. Is it possible that it could be some type of military mark? I can’t seem to locate it anywhere. Maybe you have seen it before.

  64. Renee Says:

    I just bought an old looking crown crock and just noticed the ink is black instead of blue. What does that mean?
    Thanks for any help.

  65. Dan Paulson Says:

    I have a crock that has a small Dog towards the top with the name of BOSCO underneath it in a rectangle box and the number 12 under that all in the color blue it is in excellent condition can not find any info on it any ideas. Thank you

  66. clinton vasquez Says:

    I have a 5 gallon glass water bottle w/ 1776 on the bottom and a large eagle on the front of it. Does anyone know anything about it?


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