Friday, August 21, 2009

What the Heck Are Nordhausen Kornschnapps?

My first artcle about Nordhausen Kornschnapps was published in 1992, featuring stoneware liquor jugs with highly interesting underglaze transfers. Since that time I have collected some and identified others until it seems appropriate in this post to revisit the subject of Kornschnapps jugs (and their “cousins” the Kornbrantweins) -- and to provide a list of known versions.

The jugs shown here are pre-Prohibition. The one sure confirmation of their age is the Nordhausen Kornschnapps jug featuring a chalet. An illustration of it appears in a 1902 liquor ad from Chicago dealer Simon Hasterlik. Prohibition brought the sale of alcoholic beverages to a screeching halt in the United States in 1920 for about 15 years. After the end of the Dry Era, all liquor containers required a federal warning for the ensuing 30 years. No kornscnapps jugs have it. Conclusion: The marketing of kornschnapps in quart ceramic jugs ended in the United States with the Volstead Act.

Kornschnapps, although identifiably German, was aimed at an overseas audience and these containers are found as far away as Australia and New Zealand. German émigrés and their descendants almost certainly were the principal market. The end of the 19th Century in the U.S. liquor merchants merchandised their wares by appeals to the “old country.” Irish whiskey was decorated with shamrocks and harps; Scotch with thistles and bagpipes. Kornschnapps containers involved script, names, words and images easily associated with the Fatherland. Moreover, since the Middle Ages the town of Nordhausen has been a well-known German distilling center.

While some kornschnapp jugs were made in Scotland by potters such as Port Dundas, others were produced in the United States. Catalogues from the early 1900s indicate that some, like the “Onkel Karl” jug shown here, were designed and manufactured by Sherwood Brothers Pottery of New Brighton, Pennsylvania.

What kind of liquor was inside these bottles is anybody’s guess. Schnapps is a name given to a wide range of alcoholic drinks. In Europe the term generally is applied to a vodka-like liquor made from grain or potatoes. Many Germans use the word to denote any strong spirits, according to Rosalind Cooper in her book Liquors and Spirits. She says kornschnapps can taste like London gin, Dutch genever or even American rye whiskey -- a very wide range,

I have compiled a list of the known kornschnapps jugs, along with some indication of rarity. The ratings are notional and based almost entirely on personal observation. Although this list has remained unchanged for at least a decade, other ceramic examples may exist. Anyone wishing to make a contribution to the list or challenge the ratings should be in touch with me via email.


1. Man in Cockaded Hat-Signed, “Berthold Schreiber”-Common
(in black or blue)

2. Man in Cockaded Hat - “Corn Whiskey”-Uncommon

3a Chalet with Pine-Signed, “Langerli Arierbach” - Common

3b Chalet with Pine- Signed “Fritz Oflinbarger” - Uncommon

4. Man with bowtie-No signature-Uncommon
& glass

5. Man with nightcap - Signed, “Berthold Rebenhorst” - Uncommon
& glass

6. Taller bottle, man in - “Korn und Malz...Gotterhalt’s” - Rare

7. Rooster - “Nordhauser Kornbrantwein” - Uncommon

8. Rooster - “...Type...Corn Whiskey”- Uncommon

9. Art deco with - "Kornschnapps Style Liquor” - Rare
flaming torches “Product of Ohio”

10. Block of buildings - “Eicher Alter...Kornbranntwein... - Very rare
with side medallions Mihalovich, Fletcher...Cincinnati”

11. No picture, fancy letters - “Nordhausen Kornschnapps” - Rare

12. No picture, plain letters - “Nordhauser Corn Schnapps” - Common
inside circle

13. Man with pipe - “Onkel Karl’s” - Rare
& glass

14. Half-pint, letters in two lines, - “Nordhausen Kornschnapps” - Uncommon


  1. My father had the "Man with Nightcap", #5 on your list for many years in his family. It was passed down to me 20 years ago and I was just interested to know if you knew the value of this piece. I hope to keep it in the family but would like know what we have.
    Dorothy A.

  2. Dear Dorothy: The Nordhausen Cornschnapps jugs traditionally have not sold for very high prices, b but recently dealers have been inflating the price.
    I would say your jug is worth $50-60 assuming it is in good shape. Jack

  3. Hi Jack, I picked up A Nordhausen Cornschnapps Jug at an estate sale today and was trying to figure out what the value would be? it is the 3a design with a chrome top cork in it. And do you know how old this piece is? it looks to be in excellant condition.

    Thanks Tom

  4. I just picked up #5. Man with nightcap - Signed, “Berthold Rebenhorst”. I paid about $12 at a resale shop. It's in good condition, no cracks or major chips. One surface flaw in the N in Nordhaufen. What do you think it is worth. Recently I started exanding my stoneware liquor jug collection. It started with a Henry McKenna just from my dad (he passed in 1999). Now I have a Daniel Boone, this one, and an Old Mill Brewery Ginger Beer from Newport Isle of Wight. Anyway, Thank you for your research on this!

  5. Dear Annemarie: Sorry to be so long in replying but my computer crashed last July and I am just reconstructing things. Your "Berthold Reberhorst," depending on condition should be worth from $40 to $60. Hope this is helpful. Jack

  6. I have the man in cockaded hat signed berthold schreiber. Can someone tell me what it's worth?