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”)

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]

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]

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]

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]

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    

Rare Red Wing Union Stoneware Co. Fruit Jar W/ Lid Shield & Canning InstructionsSuperb! Antique C 1850 Baltimore/philly 3g Cobalt Salt Glazed Stoneware Jar YqzAntique C 1870 Baltimore/philly 3g Cobalt Salt Glazed Stoneware Jar Crock Nr YqzAntique C 1865 Baltimore 1g Floral Cobalt Salt Glazed Stoneware Jar Crock Nr YqzNice! Antique C 1850 New England 2g Cobalt Salt Glazed Stoneware Buggy Jug YqzAntique C 1875 Gardiner Maine Cobalt Eagle Salt Glazed Stoneware Crock Jar YqzAntique C 1870 New England Cobalt Tornado Salt Glazed Stoneware Jar Crock Nr YqzAntique 2 Gal Worcester , Ma Stoneware Jug W/big Cobalt Floral * Nr Red Wing Stoneware Cherry Band Pitcher With South Dakota AdvertisingAntique 1880 Fort Edward Ny Cobalt Advertising 1g Salt Glazed Stoneware Jug YqzAntique Red Wing Stoneware Yankton South Dakota Sd Butter Crock Broadway MaidAntique Stoneware: 1g Jug W/ Cobalt Floral, J&e Norton, Bennington Vt, Ca.1850'sAntique C 1875 Baltimore Stamped 1g Salt Glazed Stoneware Jug Corn Cob Cork YqzBlue Decorated Stoneware 1 Gallon CrockAntique Hamilton Stoneware 1 Quart Cobalt Blue Crock Greensboro, Pa ~1800's~Antique C Hart & Son New York Cobalt Flower 4g Salt Glazed Stoneware Crock YqzLot (4) Antique Primitive Stoneware Oyster Crock Old Storage Jar Salt G. PotteryAntique 19thc Primitive Baltimore Maryland Double Cobalt Flower Pottery Crock1850's Antique Stoneware Pottery Canning Jar Primitive Blue Decorated Crock PaA. Conrad West Virginia W. Va. Stoneware Blue Decorated Crock Jar 10" Antique Blue Decorated Stoneware Crock & Lid / 1 1/2 GallonRare C.y.(colin Yoder) Signed Catawba Valley,nc Qt Alkaline Glaze Stoneware Jug Antique 19th C Stoneware Drooping Flower Decorated Small Pennsylvania Crock 9"Aafa Blue & White Slip Decorated Stoneware Butter Crock Antique Stoneware Crock Texa Stoneware Advertising Jug*nr* Antique Stoneware: Glazed Redware Flowerpot & Saucer W/ Manganese, Pa 19thcAntique Blue Decorated Stoneware Jug / Bird Jug / 3 GallonAntique Stoneware: Xl Slip Decorated 11" Redware Dish Or Bowl, Norwalk Ct, C1840 Red Wing Stoneware Beater Jar W/minnesota AdvertisingAntique 19th C Stoneware Decorated Small 1/2 Gallon Haddonfield New Jersey CrockAntique 19th C Stoneware Decorated Small Ovoid Maryland Virginia Crock 8"Rare Dated Stoneware Mini Jug The Club Merry Xmas 1893Antique Blue Decorated Stoneware Cake Crock / Small One GallonMid Century Russel Wright Bauer Signed Modern Pottery Oval Bowl Stoneware Retro19th Century Mocha Yellow Ware Bowl Seaweed Pattern,11" Dia.beautiful Condition!Antique Denver Colorado Stoneware Jug Lewin Mercantile "your Moneys Worth" CrockOne Gallon Blue Decorated Stoneware Jug, Gw Fulper & Bros, Flemington, Nj, 11.5"Fabulous Early/old Stoneware Redware Crock Jar Butter Churn19th C Fort Edwards Ny 1 Gallon Salt Glaze Stoneware Crock W Cobalt Dec. *Vintage Salt Glazed Stoneware Crock With Blue CirclesStoneware Advertising Pottery Beer Mug High Test Malt Extract Antique 1880 American Salt Glazed Stoneware Primitive Storage/canning Jar Nr YqzA. P. Donaghho Parkersburg West Virginia 1g Stoneware Ovoid Cream Pot Antique Stoneware 2 Quart Cobalt Blue Crock Pennsylvania Or New York ~1800's~Antique Early Stoneware Spittoon Salt Glaze Deorated Blue Band Crock ~ Chip ~ NrHtf Red Wing Stoneware Refrigerator Jar Bail Handle With Lid # 3Antique Old Sleepy Eye Blue On Gray (flemish) Stoneware Stein By Weir 1903Vintage Crock, 1 Gallon Western Stoneware CrockAntique 19th C Stoneware John Bell Pennsylvania Small Yellow Canning Jar Crock Pennsylvania Stoneware Cobalt Striped Jar, Made In Southwestern PaAuthentic Stoneware Old Sleepy Eye 8 1/2 In Large PitcherAntique A.l. Schwarz Co. Paterson New Jersey Stoneware Advertising Liquor JugAntique Walley Pre- Tea Leaf Copper Lustre Ironstone Niagara Salad Plates (6)3 Vintage Miniature Cobalt Decorated Salt Glazed Stoneware Crocks Jars Lids YqzUhl Pottery Cat Jug-flask-small SizeAntique Or Early Vintage Stoneware Small Hooded Chicken Waterer Western PennaEvan R. Jones Antique Stoneware Crock 1 Gal.Red Wing Stoneware One Pound Butter Crock O'donnell's Baked BeansAntique C 1899 Cobalt Stencil 1½g Brown White Glazed Stoneware Stacker Jug YqzRare Marcrest Large Square Mixing Bowl Mar-crest Vintage Daisy And Dot Stoneware

Recent News: Stoneware

Source: Google News

NCCS offers three classes in May
Chambersburg Public Opinion, May 1st

Each fountain will be made from white stoneware clay and decorated with colorful glazes. Instructor Carolyn Baker will provide step-by-step guidance to create the unique project with a variety of hand building techniques. The workshop is limited to 10 ...Read more

It's Show Choir vs. Glee Club in new musical comedy
Anniston Star, May 1st

Crowe's current focus is on functional stoneware pieces. “Clay is a lifelong learning experience,” she said. “Although clay objects have a long history, there is always something new to learn about the creation, design, glazing and firing processes.”...Read more

Hundreds crowd Haeger store Saturday for 'piece of history'
Chicago Tribune, April 30th

Locals from all over the area flocked to the store at 7 Maiden Lane and bought up their inventory of vases, art pieces, lamps and stoneware. The store was forced to close for two weeks so that more items to restock the shelves could come from storage...Read more

My Grandfather Was a Famous Artist. He Also Made Greeting Cards.
New York Times, April 28th

Although Associated would branch into artist-designed home and fashion goods during its 66-year history — there are arresting stoneware platters and cotton fabrics in “Art for Every Home” — it started with prints, and they remained the foundation of...Read more

Porcelain stoneware surfaces in bars and restaurants, April 25th

Porcelain stoneware tiles may be used in all contemporary spaces with the same high technical and aesthetic performance in both public places and private homes. A material such as porcelain stoneware underlines the expressiveness of the space and the ...Read more

Less is more: minimalist spaces with porcelain stoneware surfaces, April 11th

Natural and artificial light play a key role in the design of minimalist environments decorated with porcelain stoneware, the material best qualified to underline and enhance the subtleties of hue of all surfaces in any style. Porcelain stoneware in...Read more

Communicating interiors with decorated ceramic stoneware tiles, April 4th

With its decorative elements for porcelain stoneware floors and walls, Iris Ceramica recreates lifestyles in line with the tradition of the art of ceramics, using surfaces in rooms as a colour palette. This is apparent in the Kreo collection, a series...Read more

Bluegrass & Backroads: Stone Fence Pottery produces highest quality hand ..., April 3rd

Bluegrass & Backroads: Stone Fence Pottery produces highest quality hand thrown stoneware. Apr 4th, 2016 · 0 Comment. Meet a duo that produced the finest quality hand thrown pottery you can find at Stone Fence Pottery in Nicholasville. Kentucky is a...Read more