Wooden buckets, barrels and bowls were a necessity in rural America. Barrels were used to store a variety of materials ranging from fruits to flour to whiskey. Every medium-size village along a major transportation route had a cooper in residence.
Burl bowls were prized possessions. Owners were captivated by the individuality of the grain. They wore like iron. Their major problem was that they were subject to cracking.
Like many other wooden objects, a number of specialized bucket forms developed. The pail is one example. However, the ones most sought by country collectors and decorators are sugar buckets and firkins. Many sugar buckets eventually wound up inside the rural home as sewing baskets or storage containers for objects such as cookie cutters. Buckets with a manufacturer’s mark or period paint bring a premium.
If not properly cared for, buckets, barrels, and bowls will crack and fall apart. Keep them away from areas of high heat and low humidity. Barrels that were meant to hold liquid should be filled for a few days several times each year to keep the joints swollen tight. Do not oil bowls. Simply wipe them clean with a damp cloth.
– Harry L. Rinker
“Official Price Guide to Collectibles”