Q & A with Harry Rinker: Blue Ribbon Crocks, Signed Circus Route Book

QUESTION: I have more than 20 Blue Ribbon crocks, jugs and churns made by the Buckeye Pottery Company located in Macomb, Illinois. There are two ribbon patterns—one hangs straight down and the other is curved. I am having trouble finding information about Buckeye Pottery. Can you help?

– SS, Pleasantville, Iowa

ANSWER: Joseph Pech, along with his sons W. J. and Frank, established the Buckeye Pottery in Macomb in 1882. Pech, born in Bohemia on June 15, 1827, apprenticed for 12 years as a potter in Vienna, Austria. His family immigrated to Manitowoc, Wis.. Pech attempted to establish a stoneware pottery but was unsuccessful due to the poor quality of the clay. Pech next moved to Atwater County, Ohio, where he manufactured stoneware for approximately 15 years. He sold his interest in the pottery in 1877 to concentrate on farming. Pech moved his family to Macomb in 1882.

Buckeye Pottery was located on Carroll Street, near the railroad. At the peak of its production, the company employed 20 individuals. The clay came primarily from Macomb County. Wares were marketed to Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa and other western states. In 1939, Haeger Company purchased Buckeye Pottery and used the pottery to manufacture Haeger floral artware.

Morton Pottery Company of Morton, Illinois, made a yellow spongeware with an italicized “Buckeye” on the bottom. Do not confuse these with Buckeye Pottery products.

I was not able to locate information about the history of the marks. Contact Collectors of Illinois Pottery and Stoneware. The club is “dedicated to communicating and sharing information on Illinois stoneware, potteries and potters of the 19th and early 20th centuries.” Club activities include a quarterly newsletter, annual convention, Spring swap meet and advertising privileges in the newsletter and web site. Membership dues are $20. Send them to: Susie Nolan, COIPS, 402 N. Laurel Street, Elmwood, IL 61529.

In researching Buckeye Pottery, I found auction results and sales listings indicating that Buckeye Pottery stoneware is very affordable. Most pieces sold in the $50 to $100 range. A butter churn closed at $125.


QUESTION: I have a 1952 Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus route book that is signed by Ed Kelly. In June 1952, the Circus performed in Easton, Pa. I saw the circus train come into town and attended a show. What is its value?

–DG, Dunedin, Fla., via e-mail

ANSWER: Larry Kellogg’s article “Circus Route Books—A Record of the Past” is posted on WorthPoint . According to Kellogg, “The route book was published at the end of the season and gave a fairly accurate account of the show’s activities for the year. They were sold to those who had been employed on the show that season and often were advertised to circus fans. The route book had a list of all the personnel on the show, usually broken down by department (ticket wagons, front door, performers, side show, cook house, property dept., etc.). Often stories and photos were included . . .”

The Circus Historical Society is a group dedicated to “recording the history of the American circus from the first one in Philadelphia during 1793 to today.” Its web site is filled with information. The route books web page includes Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey route books from 1941-1951.

Emmett Leo Kelly (Dec. 9, 1898-March 28, 1979) gained fame for his creation of the circus clown “Weary Willie,” a parody of the hobos of the Great Depression. Kelly began his circus career as a trapeze artist. Kelly became a clown in 1931, but it took years to convince the circus management to allow him to work as a hobo clown. Kelly was a member of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus troupe from 1942 to 1956.

TRIVIA QUIZ: In 1956, Kelly served for a year as a mascot for what baseball team?

Emmett Kelly was generous with his signature. Examples abound. The value for your signed 1952 circus route book is between $85 and $100.


QUESTION: I have three molded, composition Second World War-era toys that I received sometime between 1942 and 1944. The first is a bomber measuring 9 ½ inches wing tip to wing tip and 7 inches from nose to tail. It slopes from 2 inches at the nose to 1 inch at the tail. The second is a tank with a removable two-gun turret, and the third is a jeep in which two G.I.s—one of whom has a rifle extended—are riding. The airplane is marked “M. A. HENRY, USA.” What can you tell me about them?

—KH, Elverson, Pa., via e-mail

ANSWER: Little to nothing! This question stumped me and every toy expert to whom I talked. No one has ever heard of “M. A. Henry.” The company must have come and gone in a matter of months during World War II.

Do any readers have information about the “M. A. Henry” toy company? If yes, please e-mail it to harrylrinker@aol.com so I can share it and pass it along to KH.

The pictures that accompanied your e-mail suggest the three toys are in very good to fine condition, surprising for their age and composition. The general consensus among the toy collectors I consulted is that the plane is worth between $65 and $85, the jeep between $35 and $45, and the tank between $30 and $35. I concur—not because of their WWII military toy value but simply because they are neat.


READER’S RESPONSE: In a previous “Q & A with Harry Rinker” column, I provided an answer to a question from WK of South Milwaukee, Wis., that read: “I am trying to locate a Christmas tree lamp that I remember from the late 1930s or early 1940s. What follows is from my ‘selective memory.’ The metal cone shape lamp was approximately 8in to 10in tall. The main body of the lamp was a light metal. The body had cut-outs in various shapes such as stars. One cut out looked like the planet Mars. Different color cellophane sheets were attached to the inside of the lamp. The tree fit into a base with a light bulb mount. The bottom of the lamp base read ‘CHERRY LITE.’ Do you have any idea who manufactured it? How do I find a dealer who might have one for sale?”

Unable to find specific information about the tree, I provided WK with advice on how to do further research. The final paragraph of my paragraph asked for help from my readers. “Ask, and it shall be given unto you.” (Matthew 7:7).

An e-mail from Suzy McLennan Anderson, owner of Anderson Antiques & Appraisals in Walterboro, SC, provided the correct name of the Christmas tree: CHEER-O-LITE. Suzy was one of the experts who appeared on Fox’s Personal FX television show and is the author of “The Collector’s Guide to Quilts,” a book I recruited for the Wallace-Homestead Collector’s Guide series, which I edited.

The CHEER-O-LITE was a NOMA product. NOMA (National Outfit Manufacturer’s Association), founded in 1925, was a trade group of more than a dozen smaller manufacturers of lighting who combined in hopes of increasing their marketing and purchasing power. The group incorporated as the NOMA Electric Corporation in 1926 and began selling lighting sets. In the 1940s, it was the largest manufacturer of holiday lighting in the world. NOMA Lites, the Christmas manufacturing division, was spun off as a separate corporation in 1953. The company’s innovations included parallel-wired light sets for indoor use (1934) and Bubble Lites (1946). Cheap imported light sets in the early 1960s impacted heavily on NOMA’s business. The company filed for bankruptcy in 1965. NOMA does exist as a trademark, currently held by Inliten, LLC, of Glenview, Illinois, since 1967.

Having the correct name for the lamp will simplify WK’s search. I did a quick Internet search and found several previous eBay listings in the WorthPoint Worthopedia data base. The lamp was packaged in a colorful box that pictured the lamp. Thus, the complete unit is the lamp plus the box. I would hold out for the complete unit if I was adding one to my collection. WK will shorten his search if he is restricts his hunt to just the lamp. Since he wants it for nostalgia purposes, the lamp may be enough.

TRIVIA QUIZ ANSWER: The Brooklyn Dodgers.


Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out his Web site.

You can listen and participate in Harry’s antiques-and-collectibles radio call-in show “Whatcha Got?” on Sunday mornings between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Eastern Time. It streams live on the Genesis Communications Network.

“Sell, Keep Or Toss? How To Downsize A Home, Settle An Estate, And Appraise Personal Property” (House of Collectibles, an imprint of the Random House Information Group), Harry’s latest book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via Harry’s Web site: http://www.harryrinker.com.

Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the 20th century. Selected queries will be answered on this site. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Photos and other material submitted cannot be returned. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5955 Mill Pond Court SE, Kentwood, MI 49512. You can e-mail your questions to harrylrinker@aol.com. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered. Please indicate that these are questions for WorthPoint.

Copyright © Rinker Enterprises, Inc. 2011

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