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    

Big Lot Of Vintage Jesus Infant Of Prague Chalkware Statues & Other StatuesJacquin's Whiskey Beer Backbar Chalkware Advertising Sign Koloplak California2 Vintage Madonna Statues French Celluloid Made In France + Hp Chalkware 10-11"Vintage Antique Patent 1908 Indian Rifle Gunpowder Chalkware Advertising TinJacquin’s Vintage Chalkware Back Bar Liquor Brandy Cordials Advertising Figure1942 Benito Mussolini Ww-2 Era Chalkware Ashtray Bossons Heads By Bossons- England- Sir Lancelot-1991- Signed With BoxVintage J.h. Miller Chalkware Soldier Figures, 1950Vintage Bossons Head Collection - Lot Of 8 Huge Lot 10 Vintage Fish Hanging Wall Art Lefton Miller Gw Mermaid Bath DecorFly Fisherman Bossons Rare Pristine Mint In Box Signed Vintage Bossons Heads By Bossons Congleton England-chalkware-jolly Tar-1988-# 167Lot Bossons Congleton Chalkware Collectable Heads-zapata, Mozart, Sir LancelotVintage Set Of 3 Miller Studios Chalkware Fish Plaques Wall Hangings 1971Vtg Black & White Scotch Whiskey Liquor Scottish Terrier Dogs Chalkware Sign Vintage 199y Bossons England Chalkware Head The Parson Hanging Wall Art Bust SigVintage Humphrey Bogart Figurine 1975 Esco Products Chalkware Bogey CasablancaVintage Marwal Hawaiian Chalkware Head Bust Hibiscus Polynesian Hula Girl Vintage 1965 Miller Studio, Inc. Chalkware Wall Decor, Little Bo Peep & SheepVintage Bossons England Chalkware Spaniel Bossons - Sinbad The Sailor2 Vintage Hawaiian Chalk Statues - Mom In A MuumuuBossons - Rob RoyBossons - Portia Vintage 1967 Bossons Chalkware Rawhide Cowboy Head Wall Plaque Made In England"why Yes, I Fly" Tall Chalkware Of Pilot~~not The Lamp~~esco?? Juta SangthaweepVintage Infant Of Prague Jesus Chalkware Religious StatueVintage Miller Chalkware Hand Painted Pink Fish Gaping Goldfish 4 Pcs New Iob Bossons Heads By Bossons Congleton England-chalkware-sir Henry Morgan-1982- # 14Bossons Chalkware Wall Ornament - Old Woman W/ Antique HatMid Century Black Poodle On Pink Chalk Ware Wall PlaquesWalnut Ridge Chalkware Collectible Lilabelle Easter Bunny FigurineVintage 1917 Chalkware Bulldog Puppy "nobody Loves Me"...sooo Sweet!Vintage 1988 Walnut Ridge Primitives # 52 Chalkware Santa Claus FigurineVintage Pair Of Pekingese Dog Chalkware BookendsVintage Chalkware Pink Fish With Bubbles~wall DecorVintage Chalkware Kissing Fish Wall Decor - Miller Studios? Pastel, Iridescent Vintage 1960 Bossons Chalkware Pancho Mexican Head Wall Plaque Made In EnglandVintage Chalkware Carnival Prize 1930s Vintage Chalkware Dog Chalkware Terrier In Box Bossons Boatman 936 250 SignedVintage Chalkware Groom Cake Topper Dated 1957Antique Vtg Chalk Figurine Statue Of Blessed Mother Madonna Catholic ChalkwareVintage 50s Chalkware Black Wolf's HeadVintage 1959 Universal Statuary Corp. Chalkware Wall Art Roosters - Lot Of 2Vintage John F. Kennedy Chalkware Wall Hanging, SilverVintage Chalkware HalfmoonVintage Chalk Angels-matching Pair -wall Hanging-w/org. Box Bossons Head Sarah Gamp Chalkware Wall Hanging Vintage 1964 Made In EnglandVtg 1964 Chalkware Mr. Pickwick Bossons Head Wall Hanging, Congleton, EnglandPair Of Vintage Barye Walking Lion Chalkware Plaster SculpturesAntique Virgin Mary Miraculous Medal Chalkware Statue Shrine & Free MedalAntique Chalkware Morbid Heads Wall Sconces Candle Holders Gothic Unusual Monks2 Alexander Backer Oriental Chalk Ware FigurinesBossons England Chalkware Head 1984 Dr. WatsonChalkware And Legend Pirates Set Of 3 Beautiful DetailAntique Vintage Japanese Sitting Man Woman Chalkware Vintage Bosson Head -betsey Trotwood Vintage Bossons Chalkware Head Syrian Face 1960's Wall Plaque Made In EnglandSea Captain Bossons Chalk Head EnglandVintage 1964 Golden Galleons Sailing Ships Miller Studio Chalkware Wall Plaques