Folk art in the dairy

Wooden upright plunge or dash churn with dasher staff and lid Canadian upright churn with simple blue floral decorationUnless you need your butter churn to be, surprisingly, dishwasher-safe, you can usually find nice antique churns on ebay. Barrel churns or small glass kitchen-size ones, or a traditional up-and-down churn (right). But they're not in the same league as one sold at a Sotheby's auction in January. Coming from a "distinguished" private collection of "American furniture and folk art", the salt-glazed stoneware churn decorated with blue pheasants sold for $18,000, six times more than the expected top price. A cracked late 19th century churn with a cobalt-blue lion but no lid did even better in 2001: $26,500.

Animal designs, especially birds, were popular for everyday stoneware in 19th century North America, as were flowers. The best of it is now in museum collections, like this churn, with fine stag, made in Hudson, NY, around 1870.

May 2007              >> More on butter churns  

Collecting Blue and White Stoneware by Kathryn McNerney

North American salt-glazed stoneware

The Weitsman Stoneware Collection housed by the New York State Museum (referred to above) is a fine collection of pottery with good online pictures and information.
More American "salt glaze" stoneware decorated with cobalt blue can be seen at the
Historic Arkansas Museum,
Alexandria Archaeology Museum,
Red Wing Pottery Museum
and this exhibition of Minnesota Red Wing stoneware.
Canadian salt-glazed stoneware was made in the New England style in the later part of the 19th century.

Some stoneware pieces can be far more valuable than a humble butter churn: for instance, this large jug with its handsome peacock. A Kovels newsletter reports prices over $70,000 for large stoneware crocks with particularly fine painted designs.

See also:

Narrow-necked stoneware jug with blue flower

>>>> Redware, earthenware and other pottery resources

You may like our new sister site Home Things Past where you'll find articles about antiques, vintage kitchen stuff, crafts, and other things to do with home life in the past. There's space for comments and discussion too. Please do take a look and add your thoughts.  (Comments don't appear instantly.)

For sources please refer to the books page, and/or the excerpts quoted on the pages of this website, and note that many links lead to museum sites. Feel free to ask if you're looking for a specific reference - feedback is always welcome anyway. Unfortunately, it's not possible to help you with queries about prices or valuation.