Made out of plaster of Paris, chalkware was used to create inexpensive versions of decorative objects such as figurines—so many small figurines like Kewpie dolls were given away as prizes at carnivals, the pieces became known as “carnival chalk.” Chalkware was also a good material for lightly used household tools such as string holders, as well as disposable advertising pieces such as three-dimensional signs. And small wall plaques of chalkware chefs made them popular decorations in kitchens.

Some chalkware pieces were formed in molds taken from Staffordshire and other popular figurines. Others were carved. In either case, the chalkware was just about always painted, usually with a water-based pigment. Because chalkware chipped easily and its fragile colors sat exposed on the surface of the pieces rather than being fired like a glaze (their beeswax or varnish coatings gave them little protection), very few pieces from the early 19th to mid-20th centuries, the heyday of the material, have survived without dings and scratches. Even pieces that survived unscathed often look dingy and careworn—because it is so fragile, chalkware essentially cannot be cleaned.

Chalkware was used to produce all sorts of animals, from roosters and parrots to lions and lambs. The material was also perfect for a range of Christmas decorations, including ornaments and small churches that could be illuminated from within by a candle. While most chalkware figures were formed from a single piece, some called nodders had separate heads and bodies.

In the United States, two of the main centers for chalkware were Lancaster and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, although the pieces themselves were almost certainly the work of Italian artisans who sold their wares to penny-pinching Pennsylvania Dutch farmers. Antique chalkware can also be found through New England and in the upper Midwest.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

V&A Porcelain Figures

V&A Porcelain Figures

The Victoria and Albert Museum’s online collection of Meissen porcelain figures includes more than 150 pieces, in… [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]

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    

Vaillancourt Santa Claus Chalkware Kissing Ball GlitteredVintage 1980 Three Stooges Esco Norman Mauer Chalkware Statues Larry Moe CurlyVintage 16piece Chalkware Nativity SetVintage 1950's Chalkware Nativity AngelRare Vintage Chico Marx Esco Chalkware Statue Marx Brothers Rare6 Vtg Xmas Nativity Manger Creche Chalkware/plaster Plastic Lambs Sheep ItalyVintage Mid-century Bathroom Chalkware Wall Plaques - Sea Horses Tropical FishUncommon Old Charley Large Seated Charlie Mccarthy Chalkware Carnival Figure NmFabulous Vintage Santa Claus Chalkware 25 1/2" Tall! Statue Christmas!Chalkware Nude Art Deco Borzoi 18" LongLovable Antique Chalkware Pug PuppyVintage Mid-century Bathroom Wall Plaques Enesco Chalkware Tropical FishBlack Americana Naked Boy On Watermelon Chalkware String Holder 1948Original Vintage Marwal Hawaiian Chalkware Bust Polynesian Hula Girl Habiscus1990 Bossons Aviator Pilot Chalkware Head Wall Ornament Tag Art Pottery PlasterBlack Americana Chalkware Matchsafe - Approx 4 X 4 X 3"Bossons 1994 Shepherd Chalkware Head Wall Ornament Pottery Plaster Tag Ab Vintage 1970 Miller Chalkware Goldfish Fish Wall PlaqueNativity Figure Miniature Mini Chalkware Baby Jesus With CribVintage Columbia Statuary Saint Theresa Chalkware Religious Statue Saint ThereseRare Walnut Ridge Collectibles Chalkware SantaRare Vintage Antique Church Nativity Figure Baby Jesus Manger 9"l Chalkware4 Vintage Christmas Snowmen 3 Ceramic Tumbling 1 Older Chalk WareWalnut Ridge Christmas Angel Ornaments Lot Of 2 Vintage- Old Christmas Creche Nativity Manger Set - With Chalkware FiguresVintage Large Figures Nativity 11 Piece Set Chalkware Made In Japan Midcentury Hereford Bull Chalkware Figurine "nebraska The Beef State" Coin Bank Black 1930's Chalkware Plaster Chef String Holder Chefboyardee- Vintage Lefever Chalkware Santas First Edition Bossons England Chalk Ware For Wall-mounting Desert Hawk?Genuine Bossons Vintage Life Boatman Head Mask Congleton England Excellent ChalkVintage Mid-century Chalkware Animal Nativity Figures--cow + Three Sheep JapanVintage Large Chalkware Donkey Christmas Nativity Scene Animal Statue FigurineVtg Christmas Nativity 3.5" Creche Figure Chalkware Angel W 27-c Price ItalyAntique 19" Chalkware Carnival Doll Statue Mohair Wig Sombrero HatVintage 1940's Rare 26 Piece Christmas Nativity Set Chalkware PlasterAntique Vintage Carnival Chalk 1920"s Flapper Figure Betty Boop Style ChalkwareVintage 1966 Bossons England Chalkware - Welsh Lady #43Vintage Louise & Alexandie Dupe Houdon F. Kessler Ceramic Chalkware BustsVintage Primitive Folk Art Chalkware Santa Figure Artist SignedVintage Mid-century Nativity Figures 11 Chalkware Hand-painted UnmarkedBossons 1966 Welsh Lady Chalkware Head Wall Ornament Pottery Plaster F Tags JbNativity Baby Jesus Chalkware Plaster Figure Pre Ww2 Vtg Hand Painted DamagedAntique Chalkware Indian Native American Wall Hangings 1920's Chief & PrincessVintage Chalkware / Plaster Lamb Sheep Bank Farm Animal Nursery DisplayVintage Bosson England Character Wall Hanging Chalkware Head ChakaGenuine Bosson Vintage Life Boatman Head Mask Congleton England Excellent Bengal Gin Imported & Undomesticated Tiger Bar Bottle Display Vintage ChalkwareVintage Columbia Statuary Chalkware Jesus Statue Italian 1950's 1960's C.s. 110Vintage Carnival Chalkware Mae WestVintage 1960 Miller Studio Pink Pearl Cream Fish With Black Accents Group Of 4 Vintage Chalkware Santa From The "herr" Belsnickle Collection 2000Vintage Columbia Statuary Inc Madonna & Child Italian Chalkware 1966 Italy OldVtg Chalkware Fish Wall Hanging Plaque Set~great! - Vintage Lefever Chalkware Santas Signed And Dated 1992- Vintage Lefever Chalkware Santas Signed And Dated 1991Vntg Christmas Nativity Chalkware Animal Figures, Chickens U.s.a. Hand PaintedBossons 1988 Victorian Bobby Chalkware Head Wall Ornament Pottery Plaster Tag RBossons 1966 Beefeater Yeoman Chalkware Head Wall Ornament Pottery Plaster A TagBossons 1983 Miner Chalkware Head Wall Ornament Pottery Plaster D Tag Ab