Starting the sale was this rare stoneware jar with open handles and stamped "Coerlears Hook" and "N.York" along the rim. A very early piece, it turned up not long ago at an estate sale in South Carolina. Made in Manhattan by African-American potter Thomas Commeraw, this 11 5/8" tall two-gallon jar was made in the last quarter of the 18th century when the potter was still hand-incising his work. "We know of, I believe, three other pieces with that mark," stated Mark Zipp. This example exhibits excellent vivid cobalt within the incised foliate decoration and within the rare impressed mark. Containing a few base and rim chips and underside cracks, the ovoid jar sold for $24,150 (est. $10,000/ 20,000) to a private collector in the Midwest.
Covered in white paint, this molded redware lamb, attributed to J. Eberly & Co. of Strasburg, Virginia, had some in-the-firing separation lines on its underside and sold for $2875 (est. $1500/2000). The reclining lamb figure form is a classic example of Shenandoah Valley folk pottery from circa 1895, and few have survived.
Crocker Farm, Sparks, Maryland
by Karl H. Pass
Photos courtesy Crocker Farm
If every auction house had the perfect formula, no matter the market, they would assemble blow-out sales on a routine basis. The American stoneware and redware specialists at Crocker Farm in Sparks, Maryland, seem to be at the top of their field and proved it again with a diverse 411-lot sale held July 21. With 362 registered bidders, the sale grossed $367,333 (including buyers' premiums).
Some excellent Shenandoah Valley redware was sold, including an Anthony Weis Bacher sugar bowl. A New York state stoneware churn by John Burger was also a highlight, as was an Anna Pottery temperance jug from the Midwest. Some good central Pennsylvania stoneware was sold as well as a variety of stoneware from Virginia. The majority of the Virginia material sold above or within estimates.
"We seem to get variety from various regions. We are fortunate. We've received a lot of interest," stated Crocker Farm's Tony Zipp prior to the sale. Following the auction he said, "You get to know the players after a while, but at this sale there were quite a few people who had never been here and we didn't know. There were a good two dozen new faces. It was fun."
Crocker Farm has set several auction records, in particular for Shenandoah Valley redware and stoneware, including all Bell family pottery. For example, on May 21, 2005, it set an auction record for Bell family redware when it sold a glazed figure of a recumbent whippet for $41,800. On March 3, it set an auction record for Shenandoah Valley stoneware when it sold a rare face pitcher/vessel for $63,250 (see M.A.D., June 2012, p. 12-C).
In this sale a rare quart-size stoneware jug, stamped "John Bell/ Waynesboro" and signed and dated in script "C.F. Bell. 1857," sold for a strong $10,350 to a Pennsylvania collector of John Bell material, underbid by a private collector in Texas. The attributed maker was Bell's son Charles Frederick Bell. He would have been 17 years old in 1857. The stamp, maker's inscription, size, and freshness to the market contributed to the selling price. The decoration was a thickly brushed dark cobalt floral treatment along the body with dashes along the spout and handle. In excellent condition, the jug came from a consignor in Seattle, Washington.
A glazed and molded redware hunt scene pitcher, incised "Bell" and attributed to Solomon Bell of Strasburg, Virginia, circa 1865, sold for $690. Copied from a form designed by mold-maker Charles Coxon for the Bennett Pottery in Baltimore, Maryland, this pitcher has a clear lead glaze over an olive and orange ground. It was last sold publicly for $1092.50 on October 31, 2009, by Crocker Farm and once had been in the collection of William Kelly Young (1933-2009) of Fort Worth, Texas. Young was a pottery collector active in the late 1980's and early '90's. (Crocker Farm held a single-owner sale for Young on January 30, 2010, and sold a small number of items from the collection on October 31, 2009.)
A closely allied example, stamped "John Bell" and with a "glaze thickened with drab green slip" (as described in the catalog), sold for $400 on January 22, 1974, at the Jacqueline Hodgson auction held in New York City by Sotheby Parke Bernet. Molded pitchers of this type were made by John Bell of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, and by Samuel and Solomon Bell of Strasburg, Virginia. The pitcher at the Crocker Farm sale, signed in script "Bell," was attributed to Solomon by the Zipps because it appears to match his signature found on other examples of his work. Hound-handled pitchers were also done in Strasburg, and although it is not documented, it is believed John Bell worked for a period in Baltimore with the Bennett operation, among other potteries.
Establishing a new auction record for a Shenandoah Valley sugar bowl, an Anthony Bacher lidded sugar bowl sold for $47,150 to a dealer bidding by phone. It was underbid by a private collector of Shenandoah Valley pottery. This particular sugar bowl was not unfamiliar to those who follow this specialized market. It was last publicly sold in September 2007 at a Pook & Pook sale for $44,460. As is not unexpected with a rare yet utilitarian form, it had undergone restoration over the years. The bird's beak had been repaired, the bird itself was reattached to the lid, and a section of the lid was restored.
Four lots failed to sell. Unlike in previous Crocker Farm sales, a notice of an "R" was not printed in the catalog on lots holding reserves. The reserve was not above the low estimate.
Keep watch on the Web site (www.crockerfarm.com) for details about upcoming auctions offering Americana of all types. Contact the Zipps at (410) 472-2016.
A 7½" tall handled redware pitcher in a yellow and brown tortoiseshell-type glaze with a heavy lead content and only light wear sold for $8625 (est. $4000/ 6000). Stamped underneath and made by noted potter Anthony Weis Baecher (Bacher), the circa 1880 pitcher is the prototype for the popular multi-glazed creamers and pitchers produced later in Strasburg by the Eberlys and Bells. On July 17, 2004, Crocker Farm sold a slightly taller Baecher pitcher in a marbled cream and brown glaze for $9625.
One of the rarest objects in the sale was this redware lidded sugar bowl, stamped three times "Baecher/ Winchestr VA." The correct spelling of the Frederick County, Virginia, town is, of course, Winchester, yet this stamp is minus the last "E." The stamp was likely constructed of lead print type, and the "E" had fallen out and was lost, according to author and scholar Dr. Gene Comstock via e-mail. The sugar bowl is believed to have been made around 1880. Applied flowering vines circle the bulbous bowl, and a hand-modeled bird perched and feeding at what is thought to be a flower blossom is featured on the original round lid. The form itself, the potter's mark, and the sea-green glaze with brown marbling all contribute to its rarity. The bird's beak had been repaired, and the bird itself reattached to the lid. A section of the lid had also been restored. Once in the collection of Titus Geesey, the sugar bowl had sold for $44,460 in September 2007 at Pook & Pook. This time on the auction market it sold for $47,150 (est. $30,000/40,000) to a dealer bidding by phone, underbid by a private collector of Shenandoah Valley pottery.
"His [Baecher's] sugar bowls are a rare form. Since around 1973, I've seen about fifteen or sixteen," said Comstock. Following the sale, Tony Zipp said, "The price was an auction record for a Baecher sugar bowl, actually for any Valley sugar bowl." (The auction record for any work by Anthony Weis Baecher [or Bacher] [1824-1889] is for the figural seated goat that sold for $82,250 at the Henry P. Deyerle sale held by Sotheby's in May 1995. It is illustrated in American Radiance and a promised gift to the American Folk Art Museum.)
A four-gallon squat ovoid stoneware crock, inscribed "Sample" and stamped "B.C. Milburn/ Alexa," sold for $1725 (est. $800/ 1200). The brownish color of the floral decoration and slip-trailed inscription along with the inscription itself suggests the decorator was testing a batch of slip, which was either manganese-based or insufficient in cobalt. The crock had a large rim chip and a large Y-shaped crack and had been found at a yard sale in the Washington, D.C., area.
This stoneware ovoid cream jar, signed and dated in cobalt script "Henry Glazier/ 1852," from Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, sold for $3737.50 (est. $1500/2500). It had repair and condition problems, yet represented the only example of pottery known by Glazier written in cobalt slip.
One of the stars of the sale and an exciting discovery was this small quart-size stoneware jug, stamped "John Bell/ Waynesboro" and bearing a slip-trail inscription along the base, "C.F. Bell. 1857." With thick cobalt floral decoration and in excellent condition, the jug is attributed to John Bell's son Charles Frederick Bell, who would have been 17 in 1857. The unusual 6½" high jug was consigned by a man in Seattle, Washington. It sold to a collector of John Bell pottery in Pennsylvania for $10,350 (est. $3000/4000), underbid by a collector in Texas.
A bulbous Anna Pottery circa 1875 temperance jug elaborately decorated with applied figural decoration and signed "Kirkpatrick/ Anna, Ills" sold for $35,650 (est. $15,000/25,000). It has a heavily scaled snake-form handle, four alternating male and female human forms applied around the midsection, a spider, and a turtleall highlighted with worn paint. There is some small loss to the applied decoration, a portion of which likely occurred during firing.
The consignor from Georgia told the Zipps the jug came from his grandparents' house in Tennessee, where it had been used in the early 1960's to prop open the smokehouse door. Family history indicates it had been given by a member of the Kirkpatrick family who had moved to Tennessee and was a neighbor of the consignor's grandparents. There is a Kirkpatrick Road in the area where they lived, evidently named after the Kirkpatrick family. The jug was bought by a New York state collector on a left bid.
This 6¼" diameter redware plate with coggled edge and a nicely executed single brown slip trail flanked by a three-quill cream slip trail on each side sold for $805 (est. $200/400). Probably from Berks County, Pennsylvania, the plate had two small hairlines on the rim and a few small rim chips.
Selling for $6037.50 (est. $2000/3000), this two-gallon Cowden & Wilcox jar has the popular yet rare man-in-the-moon cobalt decoration. Recently discovered in Iowa, the jar was in very good condition.