Stoneware is the roughhewn cousin of porcelain. Like porcelain, it is fired at very high temperatures (1,200 to 1,400 degrees), literally melting the minerals (usually feldspar) within the clay to create a non-porous ceramic. This makes stoneware an excellent container for food storage, which is why so many 19th- and 20th-century stoneware pieces were made in the shapes of crocks, jugs, jars, and other household items. Stoneware also has terrific insulating properties, which means it keeps items cool, but can also handle the heat.

In the late 1700s, Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potteries popularized the ware. Because it is non-porous, stoneware could be used unglazed, but most English potteries glazed their pieces by adding salt to the kiln in which the stoneware was being fired. Upon being heated, the salt would vaporize, leaving a glossy layer of sodium silicate on the object.

Just after the Revolutionary War, American potters practiced roughly the same techniques. A rich vein of feldspathic clay ran through Staten Island and New Jersey, so New York and its neighbor became centers for stoneware. Famous 19th-century potter families included Morgan of New Jersey and Crolius and Remmey of New York. Farther afield there were the Nortons of Vermont and Hamiltons of Pennsylvania. All produced egg-shaped jugs, barrel-shaped water coolers, and cylindrical butter churns.

Since salt glazing was not a perfect science, potters in northern New York devised a brown liquid known as Albany slip to seal the interiors of their pieces. Sometimes the slip was also poured over the outside of items to give them a darker hue and enable potters to scratch designs and legends onto their surfaces. Toward the end of the 19th century, spongeware glazing treatments were also found on stoneware.

Though initially dominated by potters, a few factories used stoneware to produce commodities like sewer tiles. For collectors, one of the most interesting footnotes to this aspect of U.S. stoneware history is what happened at the end of a factory’s shift. That’s when workers would fashion everything from animals to busts to baseballs from the leftover clay. Naturally these pieces are highly prized by contemporary stoneware collectors.

Another stoneware player of interest to collectors was Anna Pottery of Illinois. From 1859 until 1896, the Kirkpatrick brothers who ran the pottery made stoneware tobacco pipes, butter churns, storage jugs and jars, and hanging baskets. Today, though, they are best known for their so-called railroad pigs and snake jars.

Usually fashioned as a horizontal flask, with a stopper plugging its end, the kneeling white or brownish pigs featured railroad routes and local, geographic maps on their ample sides, incised and then highlighted with a soft cobalt glaze. Sometimes the names of routes and elaborate, folk-art-like inscriptions would be written on the pig’s back, other times rivers would be depicted coursing through the porcine countryside...

The Kirkpatrick’s other signature item was the snake jar or jug, which betrayed Wallace Kirkpatrick’s love of the reptiles. Snake jugs ranged from simple pieces labeled with the words “Little Brown Jug” on the side and a snake coiled around the jug’s neck, to elaborate objects that riffed on the political cartoons of Thomas Nast and portrayed New York City’s William Tweed and his cronies as a tangle of slithering serpents.

By 1877, Red Wing Stoneware had been founded in Minnesota. Red Wing produced hand-turned jugs, water coolers, and butter churns, some with capacities of up to 40 gallons. Many of these earliest farmhouse pieces had the classic, glassy, mottled, salt-glazed surfaces that we associate with stoneware of this era.

At first, the decorations of these pieces were limited to a single hand-painted blue flower, a tornado shape, or perhaps a small bird. But in the early 20th century, Red Wing replaced its salt glaze with a zinc glaze known as Bristol. The resulting bone-white surface gave Red Wing food-storage products a clean, sanitary appearance.

Just as importantly, Bristol gave Red Wing’s designers a neutral background for decoration, from the “red wing” that would become the company’s logo to custom designs for advertisers. Red Wing had a great run, but by 1947 demand for stoneware had dropped to the point that Red Wing discontinued the line.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Bowes Museum: Ceramics

The Bowes Museum: Ceramics

This gallery showcases highlights from the 5,000 items in the museum's ceramics collection dating from 1500-1900. I… [read review or visit site]

Gouda Design

Gouda Design

Stuart Lonsdale and Kim Lindley's excellent tribute to and reference on Gouda Dutch Art Pottery and Delftware. The … [read review or visit site]

Ceramics at The V&A

Ceramics at The V&A

A great reference on ceramics from the Victoria and Albert Museum. Learn about different ceramics techniques and st… [read review or visit site]

Cowan Pottery Museum Associates

Cowan Pottery Museum Associates

Dedicated to raising awareness of the ceramic art work of R. Guy Cowan and his Cowan Pottery Studio in northeastern… [read review or visit site]

The Pottery Studio

The Pottery Studio

This 7,000-plus page site lives up to its self-billing as a 'knowledge base' with examples of work from all major a… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique Stoneware Jug With Bird On A Branch Stamped Olean, Ny19thc Antique Primitive Petite Cobalt Blue Eagle Stoneware Pottery Whiskey JugVintage Small Redwing Stoneware Crock Decorative CollectibleAntique 3 Gal. Cobalt Decorated Stoneware Crock - Jar, Nice Shape, Incised LinesVintage Red Wing Stoneware Two (2) Gallon Crock Union Stoneware Large 4.25" Wing Antique Whites Of Utica Stoneware 2 Gallon Jug With Bold Blue BirdAntique Stone Mason Fruit Canning Jar, ~1899~ Union Stoneware Co, Red Wing MnAntique 19th Century Stoneware Bird Decorated 1 Gallon JugLot (3) Antique 19thc Petite Primitive 1/2 Gal Stoneware Pottery Jug Storage JarAntique Victorian Era Whites Utica Cobalt Blue Stoneware Poet Portrait PitcherCatawba Valley Miniature Swirl Pitchers (6) Total Blue Rutile See Photos Vintage-antique Hamilton & Jones Stoneware Crock/jar/jug Greensboro PaLarge 19th C. 5 Gallon Stoneware Crock W/ Large & Unusual Cobalt Decoration, NrAntique Stoneware: 2g Ny Jug W/ Cobalt Double Floral, Whites Utica, C.1860, NrHard To Find Red Wing Stoneware / Pottery Alpha Floral VaseAntique 19th C Salt-glazed Stoneware Crock Decorated 1 Gallon Cobalt Blue YqzSylvania Hartsoe Signed 1 Gallon Blue Rutile Jar Wow Awesome ItemJames Hamilton & Co Greensboro Pa Blue And Gray Stoneware CrockRare & Vintage, Red Wing Stoneware Pottery, 2 Gallon, Butter Churn Crock, Exc.Early Ovoid Two Gallon Stoneware Jug El&g.w Farhar Burlington Vt Reeded Handle i.w. Harper Kentucky Whiskey, 1884 New Orleans Expo Jug, About Perfect MintAntique Blue Decorated Salt Glazed Stoneware Crock #75-gallon Antique Blue Decorated Salt Glazed Stoneware Crock With Leaf Decor #53 Red Wing Union Stoneware Churn Original Dasher & Lid Beautiful PotteryRare Old Set Of 5 Blue Salt Glaze Stoneware Flying Bird Mugs Ae Hull Pottery CoAntique Stoneware: 19thc. Slip Decorated Mocha Ware Redware Creamer Pitcher, Nr!Fine 2 Gal Cobalt Blue "bird" Decorated 19th C Stoneware Jug In Great Condition*donaghho* Parkersburg Wv Antique StonewareAntique J. Norton & Co., Bennington Vt Stoneware Crock With Blue Floral DesignNice Cortland New York Blue Tulip Decorated Stoneware Jug, 19th Century2-gallon Antique Blue Decorated Salt Glazed Stoneware Crock #2Red Wing Union Stoneware 3 Gallon Fruit Packing Jar With Lid Rare D N Kemp Flour & Feed Orange Band Stoneware Rolling Pin Fort Dodge, IaRedwing Stoneware Advertising Beater Jar Thompson's Store Deer Park Wisconsin?Penna/md Cobalt Blue Decorated Butter Crock Lid 8 1/2odx6 1/4id Remmey Style3 Gal Salt Glazed Red Wing Stoneware Crock Blue Cobalt Bee String / TargetAntique Gallon Stoneware W Cobalt Floral L. & B. G. Chace, Somerset3-gallon Antique Blue Decorated Salt Glazed Stoneware Crock #3Sylvania Hartsoe Signed 1 Gallon Blue Rutile Jar Wow Awesome ItemAntique 19th C Redware Stoneware Slip Decorated Pennsylvania Plate DishSalt Glazed Stoneware JugAntique Stoneware: 19thc Ma Merchant Jug W/ Cobalt Script, Peter O'toole, 2g, NrVintage 1870ss Cowden & Wilcox 8" Stoneware Crock Harrisburg Pa Huge Antique Kauffman Lattimer Druggists Columbus Ohio Stoneware Whiskey JugAntique English White Ironstone Pedestal Cake Stand Plate 19thc Scalloped Lm&b?Antique 1 Gallon Stoneware Crock Decorated Butterfly / Flower Cobalt BlueAntique Pat.1870 Glazed Stoneware Canning Quart Jar Galloways Everlasting Nr YqzCardinal Brand Flower Pots Advertising Ashtray Western Stoneware Macomb IlCatawba Valley Miniature Pitcher Some Rutile See Photos3-gallon Antique Blue Decorated Salt Glazed Stoneware Crock #4Ap Donaghho Parkersburg West Virginia Stoneware 10" Wax Sealer Canning CrockWhitehall Illinois Pottery Stoneware 1/2 Gal Crock White Hall IlAntique Mini Miniature Stoneware Advertising Crock Jug / Standard Of The WorldCirca 1860 2g Stoneware Crock Jar; Att. Boughner, Greensboro, PennsylvaniaRedwing Salt Glaze Drop 8 Crock No.4 Very ScarceAntique Edward Heffernan Rum Stoneware Jug 70-78 Monroe St. Lynn Massachusetts Antique Stoneware Wm B Nace Wholesale Liquor Dealer Siegfried Pa Whiskey JugAntique New York Stoneware Co. Fort Edward 1 Gallon Blue Decorated CrockSmall Antique 5" Yelloware Pottery Pudding Mold Ear Of Corn Pattern C1800sAntique Gallon Stoneware W Cobalt Floral J. S. Taft & Company, Keene, N.h

Recent News: Stoneware

Source: Google News

Pottery artist shows variety of creations
London Free Press, July 9th

By Joe Belanger, The London Free Press. Wednesday, July 9, 2014 9:20:06 EDT PM. Occasional Pot #1 is part of a new exhibition of stoneware by Steve Irvine, on at Jonathon Bancroft-Snell Gallery, 258 Dundas St. until July 26. Tweet · Bookmark and Share...Read more

On Display
NewHampshire.com, July 8th

Stoneware by Bob Roy (including the one above, titled 'Man at Work') and oil paintings by Rick Dickinson (including the piece at left, 'For Sail') are on view at the East Colony Fine Art gallery, 55 S. Commercial St., Manchester through Saturday, July 26...Read more

High flyer explores his passion for pottery
The Age, July 7th

Very early pieces from the 19th century, such as the majolica glazed or stoneware water filters, are now worth up to $10,000 to the network of Campbell collectors. These are considered museum quality. Other Holy Grail items are the character or ''Toby...Read more

Stoneware mugs available for purchase to fund Moore Township's 250th ...
Allentown Morning Call, July 3rd

Moore Township residents and natives can purchase stoneware-style mugs with the township's name and date of founding as a special fundraiser for the township's 250th anniversary celebration in 2015. Westerwald Pottery is producing the mugs. They are ...Read more

Louisville Stoneware hosts summer pottery studio
WDRB, June 28th

Louisville Stoneware is hosting a Paint Your Own Pottery Studio this summer. It's a chance to customize a pottery piece. Using the same tools and glazes as Stoneware's artisans, and after a quick tutorial, you'll decorate your masterpiece. Once...Read more

New Geneva Stoneware closing
Uniontown Herald Standard, June 25th

GERMAN TWP. — Thirty-six years ago, Linn Newman wanted to open a store that would rekindle a tradition — one that had brought attention to a couple towns along the Monongahela River. kAmx? `hfg[ }6H>2? 2?5 E9C66 3FD:?6DD A2CE?6CD @A6?65 ...Read more

Martin Brothers birds fly high
Telegraph.co.uk, June 23rd

A tall Martin Brothers stoneware bird jar and cover by Robert Wallace Martin, modelled standing A tall Martin Brothers stoneware bird jar and cover by Robert Wallace Martin, in matt green and brown glazes with blue highlights, and raised on an ebonised ...Read more

Kentucky Stoneware hosting wine and chocolate tasting
The Courier-Journal, June 13th

The Third Thursday Lifestyle Series featuring the companies is from 5 to 7 p.m. Louisville Stoneware holds these monthly events to showcase local companies and products that complement Louisville Stoneware products and promote buying Kentucky Proud ...Read more