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 19thc Pennsylvania 1-gallon Ovoid Stoneware Crock Deep Blue Slip FlowersAntique Stoneware: A+ Hamilton & Jones-star Pottery Jar W/ Cobalt, Greensboro PaRed Wing Stoneware Crock # 3 Water Cooler & Lid19thc Antique Fulton, New York S. Hart Old Cobalt Flower Stoneware Pottery JugAntique 19th C Stoneware Flower Decorated Pennsylvania 2 Gallon Crock With LidAntique Cobalt Blue-decorated Stencilled Stoneware Crock Preserving Jar--w. Va.*nr* Yellow Mocha Ware Master Salt W/ Blue Seaweed Design, England, 1800's, RareAntique 19th C Stoneware Flower Bouquet Decorated Albany Ny 6 Quart Crock 11"Antique 19th C Stoneware Decorated Small Canning Jar Crock 7 3/4"Stoneware Crock Spittoon Dated 1892 Cobalt Blue Decoration Salt Glaze CuspidorAntique 19th C Stoneware Decorated Handle 2 Gallon Squat Beehive Jug 11"Antique Folk Art Grey & Cobalt Blue Flower Salt Glaze Stoneware 1800's 3g CrockAntique Red Wing Union Stoneware Crock Ko-rec Chicken Feeder W/baseAntique Circa 1860 Stoneware Jar W/ Freehand 7 Stripes Pa Or Wv Striper CrockAntique Stoneware Crock Linden Apiary Honey Advertising Milwaukee Wis Red Wing ?19th C. 1/2 Gallon Cobalt Decorated Pennsylvania Stoneware Preserve Jar CrockAntique 3 Star Coffee Red Wing Stoneware Advertising Crock Sioux City IowaTall Pottery Rooster Made By Edwin Meaders In 1985.Antique Stoneware: C. Crolius Ovoid Jug, Manhattan Wells, Ny, Olive Green, C1815Old Green River Tobacco, Stoneware Jug, Cigar Jar, Full Labels, Owensboro, KyAntique Stoneware Butter Crock Yellow Ware & Blue Red Wing Draped WindowsAntique,stoneware,1/2 Gal A.p. Donaghho Parkersburg,west Virginia Crock Jar PotBlue Decorated Stoneware Batter Jug Big Cobalt FlowerVintage Stoneware Crock Farm Arnold Foster Mother Pig Feeder Rare Antique œAntique Stoneware: Nh Merchant Advertising Jug W/ Cobalt Floral, Norton, Ca.1875Old Red Wing Advertising Stoneware Beater Jar~dresser Junction & Ubet~2 SidedAntique Red Wing~ 1 Gallon~ Redwing Stone Mason Fruit Jar~union StonewareRare Antique Red Wing Union Stoneware Crock W/ Cobalt DecorationSet Of 4 Edith Heath Ceramics 10-3/4" Dinner Plates Opaque White Coupe StonewareAntique Stoneware Bail Handled 6 1/2" Preserves Crock Storage Jar W/lid Vgc NrWestern Pa Stoneware Hamilton Decorated Cake Crock Greensboro, PaAafa Salt Glazed Stoneware Preserve Jar A.p. Donaghho Parkersburg W.v. Antique Union Stoneware Co. Red Wing, Mn, Half Gallon Mason Fruit Jar, Pat. 1899 F.b. Norton Stoneware 4 Gal Crock With Huge Parrot W/very Best Cobalt * MintAntique Stoneware Original Pitcher With Lettering Cannonsburg Pa Rare Rare ** H & J Treanor ** St. Marys Canada West Merchant Stoneware JugVintage J. Mantell Penn Yan New York 2 Gallon Stoneware Jug Cobalt FlowerSmall Mean Looking Face Jug - Cleater Meaders - 1995Lg Antique 19thc Primitive Cobalt Blue Stoneware Pottery Old 6 Gallon CrockRare Unusual Stoneware Pottery 1 Gallon Water Cooler Jug Crock Blue & WhiteAntique 19th C Stoneware Blue Floral Decorated 2 Gallon Crock 9 1/4"Super Redware Cobalt Decorated D W Rhodes Stoneware Crock Cottageville, W Va A.l. Hyssong Bloomsburg Pa Stoneware Jug, Signed And Personalized, NrVintage Red Wing Stoneware Advertising Bean PotRare Vintage Attican Olive Oil Advertising Stoneware Mini Jug - Toledo OhioSipe, Nichols & Co. Williamsport, Pa 4 Gallon Stoneware CrockStoneware Crock Spittoon Cobalt Blue Decoration Salt Glaze CuspidorVintage White Hall Stoneware Illinois Pottery Cleopatra Large 5 3/4" Lg Blue MugA.l. Schwarz 1/2 Gallon Stoneware Jug Paterson Nj N.j. New Jersey Passaic CountyE. S. & B. 2 Gallon Stoneware Jug.Antique Stoneware Whiskey Jug J H Dipple Lewistown Pa Harrisburg PhiladelphiaVintage Red Wing Stoneware 2 Gallon Large Wing Oval Over CrockLovely Antique Salt-glaze Stoneware Crock Jug Cobalt Blue Decoration 1 GallonWestern Stoneware 10lb. Advertising Butter CrockVintage Scratched Peanut Butter Crock Jar - Weidmann's Restaurant Meridian MissGreen Mill Whisky S.m. Denison Chillicothe Ohio Stoneware Mini JugAntique Yellow Ware DogAntique Vintage Blue Flower Decorated Crock Stoneware Primitive CountryWonderful P Herrmann Baltimore Stoneware Crock 3 Gallon With Handles

Recent News: Stoneware

Source: Google News

Marvelous Pirate Relic on the Auction Block
Fine Books & Collections Magazine, January 26th

A unique relic of the Age of Piracy will be on display at the venue of the California International Antiquarian Book Fair in Oakland, California, on February 6th and 7th, 2015, at the Oakland City Center Marriott Hotel. The 17th century stoneware...Read more

Sneak peek inside 'Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan' at Meijer Gardens
MLive.com, January 26th

1 of 12 Link to this photo | Comments about this photo essay Stoneware roof tile with gargoyle, Onigawara, Edo period (1615-1868). 14.96 x 24.41 x 11.81 inches. Collection of Omihachiman City. Courtesy of Omihachiman City Municipal Kawara Museum...Read more

Pattern Name Is Perplexing
NewsOK.com, January 25th

They have made porcelain, earthenware and stoneware in Burslem, Staffordshire and Lambeth, London, England. It can be challenging to identify a pattern name. You can try contacting Royal Doulton and Company. Since it has been several years since you ...Read more

Check It Out: 'Fictitious Dishes' a tasty, literary read
The Columbian, January 25th

In the center of the table he placed a gigantic stoneware pitcher full of milk." If that doesn't call up memories of summertime repasts, I don't know what will. A book full of tasty passages would be interesting by itself, but the interest-factor...Read more

First Baptist Church of Canton holds single mom retreat in February
Tyler Morning Telegraph, January 23rd

A master potter and owner of Joy Pottery, Ms. Norris has been creating original stoneware and tile for more than 20 years. She is a regular speaker at women's events and uses demonstrations on the potter's wheel to share the love of God and His...Read more

The unfulfilled promise of the Crock-Pot, an unlikely symbol of women's equality
Washington Post (blog), January 23rd

Oversized handles make carrying comfortable and the removable 6-quart stoneware doubles as a serving dish," the company said in a cheesy news release. "And when the party is over, clean up is a snap thanks to the dishwasher safe stoneware and glass ...Read more

Stoneware enthusiasts share collections
Fort Dodge Messenger, January 18th

Stoneware enthusiasts share collections. Pottery pieces on display from across Iowa. January 19, 2015. By JESSE MAJOR (jmajor@messengernews.net) , Messenger News. Save |. Members of the Iowa Stoneware Collectors Society filled the Opera House at ...Read more

Pairpoint Puffy lamp, antique stoneware, duck decoys and more at Fontaine's ...
ArtfixDaily, January 14th

A two-session antique estate auction totaling more than 500 lots and featuring rare and collectible firearms, duck decoys, stoneware, pottery, lighting and more will be held on Saturday, Jan. 31st, by Fontaine's Auction Gallery, in the firm's...Read more