The Collector’s Minute: That Old Piece of Pottery is Not as Old as it Looks
A blue and white pitcher such as this one was sold as utility ware for domestic use and, therefore, seldom marked.
The swastika as used on this pitcher is meant as a good luck symbol and has nothing to do with Nazi Germany.
One of the interesting things about the antique business is the stories that develop around some items, either from their owners or dealers. Cases in point are the two pitchers pictured above. Many times I’ve seen pitchers such as these labeled as being 19th century items because they carry no company markings. But in fact, very few of these kinds of pottery pieces predate 1900.
Embossed blue & white pottery such as the one on the left was produced by a number of well-known mid-western companies such as Roseville and Brush McCoy, but was sold as utility ware for domestic use and, therefore, seldom marked. Originally, wares of this type were sold through mail order catalogues and general stores, and some were actually premiums, given away with a purchase of flour soap or some other retail item.
The embossed decoration on some of these pieces have also started myths regarding their origins. For example, the pitcher on the right is decorated with a swastika, which has led some to conclude that these were a German propaganda product. The truth is the swastika in this case has nothing to do with Nazi Germany. The swastika is a very ancient symbol used by many cultures world wide. The word “swastika” is derived from the Sanskrit word “svastikah,” which means “being fortunate.” The swastika as used on this pitcher is meant as a good luck symbol and nothing more.
In the current market this blue & white pitcher and the Bennington-style glazed swastika example sells in the $140-$350 range, depending on decoration and condition. Because these were made as utility items, they seldom are found in perfect condition and often have manufacturing defects such as bubbles in the glaze which should not detract from their simple charm.
Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.
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