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Virginia Pottery Record Set at Americana Sale

Walter C. Newman | June 22nd, 2013

The high lot of the Evans sale was this grapefruit-size (5" high with 4¼" diameter rim) salt-glazed stoneware honey or sugar pot. The compressed ovoid form displays a stencil signature, “Emanuel Suter,” within a freehand cobalt feather design in the center of the body. The reverse features a large brushed triple-bloom flower. The pot has a plain rim with a single ring below and finely ribbed handles and brushed cobalt feather or leaf embellishments on the signature side. Catalog notes suggest that this pot was made by Suter while he was serving his apprenticeship at John D. Heatwole’s Dry River Pottery in Rockingham County, Virginia. The pot sold in the room for $86,250 (est. $5000/8000). According to Jeff Evans’s research, this is a record price paid for any piece of Virginia pottery. The winning bidder is a collector from Maryland’s Eastern Shore who is adding this piece to an existing collection of southern pots that, until this purchase, was lacking an example from the Shenandoah Valley. There is nothing like adding a record-setting piece to flesh out your collection.

This punched and stamped oval tin tray is not attributed to a particular maker but is thought to be from the Berks County, Pennsylvania, area. The 19th-century metalwork features a central six-point star surrounded by flowers and leaf sprigs. The tray displays an applied low gallery rim and decorated strap handles. The 10" x 15" tray is in very good overall condition with some scattered stains and light surface rust. The tray sold to an Internet buyer for $1380 (est. $100/200).

Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates, Mt. Crawford, Virginia

Photos courtesy Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates

Jeffrey Evans is not one to leave his audience hanging. He usually leads each of his auctions’ general categories with the best examples of the group. There is no waiting around for a grand finale. Evans saves the best for first. That policy was particularly evident during his 24th semiannual Americana, antiques, and fine and decorative arts auction, held at the firm’s salesrooms on June 22. The sale was advertised as “Spotlighting Virginia and the South,” and it did not disappoint.

First to cross the block were items from the pottery category. The first lot offered was a small decorated stoneware pot. The little container was the work of Rockingham County, Virginia, potter Emanuel Suter. Listed as a honey or sugar pot, the piece opened at $6000, the midpoint of its presale estimate, and never looked back. There were several bidders, including absentees, on the telephone, and through the Internet. It was a determined collector in the room who won the day. Lot one emerged as the high lot of the sale, settling at $86,250. (All prices include the buyer’s premium.)

The buyer asked to remain anonymous, but he did identify himself as a collector from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. His wife stated that the couple are collectors of southern pottery but did not have an example from the upper Shenandoah Valley. They took care of that discrepancy in grand fashion.

In an e-mail following the sale, Evans confirmed what some auction attendees were wondering aloud. Suter’s little honey pot was sweet indeed. In fact, it set a record for any piece of Virginia pottery. For nearly two decades that distinction had been held by a glazed redware goat by Anthony Bacher of Winchester, Virginia. The goat was sold by Sotheby’s in Charlottesville, Virginia, at the 1995 sale of the Dr. Henry Deyerle collection. Deyerle’s goat brought $82,250.

There is not an official pantheon of Shenandoah Valley potters, but if there were, the names Bell, Suter, Bacher, Eberly, and Heatwole would certainly be on the short list to be included. It is not surprising that items from each of these makers were among the solid performers at the Evans sale. In addition to the items shown in the accompanying photographs, an Eberly-attributed earthenware/redware wash bowl and matching pitcher sold in the middle of its estimate for $9200. A similarly designed wash bowl, but without a pitcher, and attributed to Anthony Bacher, made $4887.50, also mid-estimate.

One item of note had its own category. A hollow-body carved wooden carousel donkey made a fine showing. The donkey was in a running position, with open mouth, glass eyes, and applied bells and tassels. The circa 1890 donkey was fitted with a tandem seat and had been mounted on a display stand. It sold for $7475 (est. $3000/5000).

As a category, furniture appeared to do well. A set of six bow-back Windsor chairs from Joel Brown’s Windsor Chair Manufactory, Petersburg, Virginia, brought $5462.50, just over the high estimate. A Wythe County, Virginia, painted poplar food safe, attributed to the famous Rich family shop, brought $2645 (est. $1000/1500). And an early 19th-century inlaid cherry Federal tall-case clock attributed to George Kring of New Market, Virginia, made $6325, selling at the low end of its estimate.

There was active and spirited bidding within all categories throughout the sale. It was reminiscent of the good old days. But the June 22 sale was nothing if not ambitious. The sale had more than 1000 lots offered in a single session, and the opening shot signaled by lot one was only the starter’s pistol for a 12-hour-plus marathon. Jeff Evans admitted that in his attempt to clear out some of his consignment backlog, and to accommodate consignors, things had gotten a bit out of hand. As I reviewed the catalog before the sale began I asked Evans how long he thought the sale would take. He did not answer, but he did offer me a beer if I remained for lot 1006. He still has his beer.

For additional information, contact Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates at (540) 434-3939 or visit the Web site (

This salt-glazed five-gallon stoneware churn is from the New Erection Pottery of Emanuel Suter and dates from the third quarter of the 19th century. The churn exhibits a tall, ovoid form, with applied handles and a deep galleried rim. The piece is decorated with a brushed cobalt chicken. It measures 18¼" high with an 8" diameter at the rim and a 9" diameter base. The churn is in excellent overall condition and sold for $17,250 (est. $5000/8000).

These circa 1775 Chippendale-style walnut side chairs, from either Greensville or Southampton County, along Virginia’s southeastern border with North Carolina, have a distinctive squared back with a pierced back splat featuring a heart shape at the base. The chairs are raised on square legs joined with box-form stretchers. The seat rails feature a molded edge, as do the outward edges of the front legs. The original yellow pine slip seat frames are present. The chairs are 37¼" in overall height, 19¼" high to seat rail, with a 19½" x 16½" trapezoidal seat. The chairs are in overall very good original condition with no structural repairs. There is expected wear with a shallow loss to the proper left corner of each crest rail. The chairs were hotly contested, selling to the phone for $26,450 (est. $8000/12,000).

This silver fruit bowl with cover is well documented and desirable from a number of standpoints. The bowl is footed with very elaborate Rococo Revival repoussé decoration. The cover displays a finely cast finial consisting of six strawberries attached to a single stem. The finial is secured to the lid with a nut in the shape of an American shield. The interior bowl exhibits a light gold wash. The piece displays two silversmith stamps: “MITCHELL & TYLER” and “STANDARD/ *P.L.K.*” Samuel P. Mitchell and John H. Tyler Sr. were silversmiths and retailers in Richmond, Virginia, during the mid-19th century. Peter L. Krider worked during the same time period in Philadelphia and is known to have supplied Mitchell and Tyler with much of their hollowware. This bowl has descended directly through the Dooley family of Richmond. James Dooley was a prominent lawyer, businessman, and Virginia legislator. This remarkable 11" x 11" diameter bowl was hotly contested. It sold to an institutional buyer for $31,050 (est. $5000/8000).

The owner of this little oval tobacco box, 1" x 2 7/8" x 4 7/8", was Thomas Lewis. Lewis was a historically significant settler in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. He worked as a surveyor with Peter Jefferson and was a delegate to Virginia’s provisional government in 1775. He served as a member of Virginia’s House of Delegates after the war and is credited with assisting in negotiating a treaty assuring the neutrality of the Delaware Indians during the American Revolution. The box exhibits an asphaltum ground decorated with what appears to be a fisherman beside a stream. The inside of the lid is inscribed “Thos Lewis/ 1773.” The tobacco box sold for $10,350 (est. $2000/4000).

This fraktur is attributed to the individual known as the “Shenandoah Valley Illuminated Artist.” This is one of five recorded examples by the artist, who worked in the Winchester area of Frederick County, Virginia. The fraktur is executed in watercolor, ink, and gold leaf on paper. At the top of the sheet is an eagle, with its wings spread over two brightly colored heart-shape leaves growing from a flowering vine in the upper background. Below in block letters is the name “MARY E./ JONES,” followed by “Died July 29th 1849 Aged 49.y 4m. 20d.” in less formal script. Below the name and date line are more of the flowering vines and brightly colored heart-shape leaves, along with a pair of birds. The border is a line-drawn gauze-like drape. The fraktur measures 9¾" x 7¾", sight size, and has been conservation framed. It has some professional conservation to the lower half of the extreme right edge. Bidding for the fraktur was intense, settling between an individual in the room and a telephone bidder. The phone bidder won out, paying $29,900 (est. $10,000/15,000)

This mochaware pitcher dates from the second quarter of the 19th century. It displays a molded spout and a C-form strap handle, and stands 7½" in overall height. The creamware body is decorated with three bands of familiar designs associated with this decorative technique. Below the rim is a band of blue and brown cat’s eyes with a green enamel band of tooled ridges below. The wide band on the lower body features stylized fern fronds with a four-bar harp-like design between. The pitcher is in good overall condition with a few small chips and a small tight crack. The pitcher brought $3450 (est. $400/600).

Originally published in the October 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest

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