Vintage pottery jugs provide us with an opportunity to revisit the work of the talented craftsmen who developed techniques in pottery that are still in use today. The jugs and crocks that were turned out in large numbers are still being used although the numbers have greatly diminished. Not only are these jugs useful as containers today, they are also very valuable as decorative pieces that can help to set the tone of a room.
Antique stoneware jugs are an essential part of American history with the pottery developed using local clays that have been fired at very high temperatures. The jugs that were produced were widely used across the country as valuable liquid storage for anything from water, milk, cider and liquor. But there are many other types of vintage jugs that are stunning pieces and well worth tracking down.
When buying vintage pottery jugs, there are a number of ways of determining the value and the age of each piece. The date of manufacture was rarely inscribed on the early pieces with jugs produced by a wide range of potters to meet growing demands.
Clues to the age of certain jugs can be determined in a variety of ways such as looking at the shape of the jug, the detail that went into the handles or the glaze that was used to finish them.
The preference in jug shapes changed as time passed with the earlier jugs tending to be made in an ovoid shape before gradually becoming more bulbous. The more rounded jugs then developed into jugs that were made with flatter sides. Developments in technology also helped to change the shape of jugs as more exact tools were used to craft each jug into a more precise looking shape.
The detail that was put into jugs can also help to identify its age. Very generally speaking, jugs that are more detailed with special designs and obvious attention to detail, the earlier the piece. This is due to the fact that the earlier jugs were made before the days of mass production that was required due to the growing demands of competition. As more jugs were required to be made faster, less skilled craftsmen were used to create standard looking jugs to get them out for sale as quickly as possible.
When looking for very early jugs, they will become obvious due to the extra detail that is put into parts such as the handles, the rim and the overall shape. Small marks in the lip or the base of the jug can indicate an era that the distinguishing feature is more likely to be added. Company imprints were used as identifiers but this was not commonly used until relatively late in the 19th century.
The progression of glazes used to finish pottery jugs can be a good indicator of when they were made. Whether the jug was completed with an alkaline glaze, a salt glaze or a slip glaze can point to where it was made as well as when. As an example, alkaline glazes were used extensively in the early 1800s through until around the turn of the century. The process was a time consuming one and when the competition increased potters looked for alternative ways to seal their jugs.
There are other ways that will give general clues about the age and the origins of certain antique pottery jugs. Marking, variations in design and manufacture and general wear of the jug can also help as a guide. If you are going to buy vintage pottery jugs you will soon develop an understanding of what to look for and what to ignore.
Collectible Whiskey Jugs
Pottery jugs were popularly used by distilleries to hold whiskey in larger quantities and these jugs were imprinted with markings to identify the maker. These jugs have now become valuable collector items for both those who admire fine pottery as well as those with a historical interest in the whiskey industry.
These collectible whiskey jugs trace the progression of the use of pottery though the years as well as the progress of each company who used them. From small half pint jugs to large 5 gallon jugs any that bear the logo of a favored company is given due consideration. Look for company branded jugs such as the McCormick Platte Valley whiskey jugs or the Henry McKenna whiskey jugs.
For a vintage pottery jug with a real difference and a look that will add a dash of humor to the home you should consider adding a folk art pottery face jug to the room. These southern American iconic jugs are ugly and beautifully constructed at the same time. Another range of very collectible jugs and crocks are available from The Western Stoneware Company.
Buying vintage pottery jugs can be a very rewarding pastime, both as a way of adding attractive pieces to your collection that can be admired and enjoyed for their appearance, but also as a potential investment.