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Red Wing Stoneware Spittoons: Too Pretty to Spit In

by Rick Natynski (10/10/11).

A Red Wing salt glaze German spittoon next to its younger sibling – a transitional German spittoon.

How could it be that German spittoons are some of the most beautiful pieces of stoneware made by the Red Wing and Minnesota stoneware companies, yet they sat on saloon floors and were used for such an unappealing purpose?

A Red Wing salt glaze spittoon.

According to Wikipedia, spittoons were an ever-present feature throughout in the late 1800s and early 1900s—during the peak in popularity of chewing tobacco in the Western United States—throughout private and public places like parlors and passenger cars. The purpose of the spittoon was to provide a receptacle for excess juices and spittle accumulated from the oral use of tobacco. As chewing tobacco’s popularity declined throughout the years, the spittoon became merely a relic of the Old West. To this day, spittoons are still present on the floor of the U.S. Senate as a reminder of the past.

Since they were advertised in the company’s catalog as being “Especially designed for Bar Rooms, Lodge Halls and other public places,” it makes sense that such care taken was taken in applying the fancy, detailed coggle wheel decoration. After all, the Red Wing and Minnesota stoneware companies were known for their high-quality products, and product placement in high visibility areas has always been a great way to advertise, even back then. Amusingly, there’s a belief shared by some collectors that despite the presence of these spittoons, men would still spit their tobacco on the floor because they didn’t want to get the spittoons dirty.

In today’s current market, examples of Red Wing spittoons in mint condition can bring good prices. Unsigned samples could bring a couple hundred dollars or more, depending on rarity, while hard-to-find, signed examples can bring $1,000 or more. Below are many examples of what you may be able to find out there with a little luck.

A rare Minnesota Stoneware salt glaze German spittoons.

A view of the bottom signatures of those same German spittoons.

Albany slip molded seam cuspidors.

Zinc-glaze cuspidors with Albany slip interior.

Zinc-glaze blue-banded cuspidors.

Zinc-glaze blue-banded cuspidor and spittoon with Albany slip interior.

Sponge cuspidors.

Salesman samples with Red Wing thimble for size perspective.

Side-stamped salt glaze spittoon shard.

Side-stamped salt glaze spittoon.

One of very few Red Wing spittoons known to have store advertising stamped on the side.

Rick Natynski is the editor of the Red Wing Collectors Society Newsletter. The Red Wing Collectors Society was founded in 1977 in Red Wing, Minn. and is devoted to educating people about all American pottery. There are more than 5,000 members worldwide. The Red Wing Potteries had diverse pottery lines that included stoneware, dinnerware and art pottery. For more information or to become a member, call the RWCS business office at 800.977.7927, e-mail membership@redwingcollectors.org or log on to www.redwingcollectors.org.

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