Foreword: This post marks the point where this blog has reached just over 500,000 “hits” over its lifetime. By comparison with many other websites that is a paltry number but “BottlesBooze…” from the beginning has been idiosyncratic, “about more things than you can shake a stick at,” and has not been geared to attract legions of followers. From time to time I have used it to introduce “new finds” in collectible bottles, and just in time for this half million milestone two such have recently come to light.
The first is an under-glaze transfer jug that figured in a trans-Atlantic debate I carried on thirty years ago with the leading British expert on ceramic bottles, Alan Blakeman. At that time I was convinced that most, if not all, of the fancy whiskey jugs were made in Scotland or England and shipped to our shores. Alan disagreed. He argued that the U.S. must have had pottery firms with the capability of designing and executing even intricate transfer designs. Alan was right.
I saw the proof for myself in 1998. It was a small stoneware butter crock, likely a salesman's sample issued by the Sherwood Bros. Pottery of New Brighton, Pennsylvania. The crock is drawn with an elegance and precision equal to anything the “Old World” could produce. Ad copy on the item offers to provide underglaze transfer printed items of equal perfection to Sherwood Brothers clients.
The crock was part of a private collection of Sherwood Bros. ceramics that I had driven 280 miles to see in New Brighton. The collector who regularly dug at the site of the former ceramics works, shown above, had found a shard that indicated a similar pattern might be found on a whiskey jug. In the 32 ensuing years I have looked for such an item without result —until last month. Seen below is the jug as it appeared on eBay in March, advertised as “very rare” — almost an understatement. Attracting five bidders, opened at $125 and ultimately sold for $305.
In tandem with the Sherwood Bros. jug, the same seller listed a second container, this one from the Fulper Pottery Company of Flemington, New Jersey. Year ago I identified this ceramic works as the source of a distinguishable variety of whiskey jug. Since then I have compiled a list of some 135 different examples of Fulper products, a list I make available upon request. I had never, however, seen this particular example before. It advertised “Imperial Club Pure Rye” and was issued originally by the William Page & Company of New York City.
Because these jugs essentially are decorated over the glaze and are more than 100 years old, they frequently show wear on the gold lettering and design, particularly on the lower half that typically has a dark glaze. As shown here, this jug shows some minor wear but in general has its decoration intact. I am particularly impressed with the elaborate gold crown at the center of the label that seems utterly intact. Despite its appearance, this item, offered at $95, failed to attract single bidder. Unfortunately these ceramics often do not fetch more than $50. In good condition, as this whiskey jug is, I think they are undervalued.