Crocker Farm, Sparks, Maryland
Photos courtesy Crocker Farm
"It far exceeded our expectations,” stated Mark Zipp following his family’s absentee sale that ended May 1. The Zipps of Crocker Farm converted what would have been their regular live sale, scheduled for March 21, to an Internet, phone, and absentee auction, which ran from April 6 to May 1, with a special live callback session on May 2 for lots that achieved a bid of $1000 and up.
The callback session began at 10 a.m., and the phone bidding proceeded similarly to how it would in a live auction, with the top four bidders on each of the lots that reached over $1000 being called simultaneously, as in a live sale, to compete against each other in the manner of traditional phone bidding.
A callback format following an absentee auction is not a foreign concept. Bruce and Vicki Waasdorp employed a version of it when they ran specialized absentee American pottery sales.
The four-way live phone-bidding session worked for the Zipps. It was like an extra sale after the sale and allowed a conversational aspect and human interaction component. Many of the items took off during this extra layer of the process. If bidders really cared about a lot during the nearly month-long sale, they needed to make sure they were going to be among those in the callbacks.
Certainly, a regular live auction model caters to and creates energy, but take that away, add in a pandemic, significant stock market declines, and employment uncertainty, and what happens? It is a stress inducer for an auctioneer, to say the least.
“We were very encouraged,” continued Zipp. Everyone loves to link the vitality of the stock market to that of the antiquing community. Well, it’s not that simple. For many people, the world is crumbling all around them, yet there is and always will be a population that has sizable disposable resources regardless of the stock market, jobless rates, and deadly viruses. That population of collectors deeply cares about having objects in their lives, and the results of this sale are proof. “It was our highest-grossing sale ever and highest-grossing sale per lot average,” added Zipp. “We continue to see new participation on many levels, which is really nice.”
A smaller volume sale than average, the 382-lot sale had a total gross of $1,386,840 (including buyers’ premiums). The sell-through rate was 100%. The top three lots amounted to $774,000.
“Dedicated collectors think about the material above all else. They want to pursue and have objects. The feedback we got was so positive, and the results so positive. I think for some it was entertainment value. People kept checking how the sale was going since they were stuck at home,” said Zipp.
The headliner, far and away, was an exuberantly decorated cooler by W.H. Farrar & Co. dubbed the Broadway cooler. The seven-gallon stoneware water cooler was stamped twice “W.H. FARRAR & CO. / GEDDES, N.Y.” and dated 1846. The 26" tall ovoid water cooler with a squared bunghole, stepped pedestal base, tall, flaring collar, and rope-twist handles was decorated on the front with an incredible incised, impressed, and cobalt-highlighted design of a New York City street scene of Broadway.
Dubbed the Broadway cooler, this 26" high seven-gallon ovoid stoneware water cooler with phenomenally detailed incised and impressed decoration depicts two buildings on New York City’s Broadway, the national headquarters of the Order of the Sons of Temperance and a townhouse. The scene also shows a fire alarm bell tower and the cupola of the New York Hospital, a distinctive landmark of the time. It was created by W.H. Farrar and Co., Geddes, New York, and bears two stamps reading “W.H. FARRAR & CO. / GEDDES, N.Y.” Dated 1846, it has a stepped pedestal base, tall flaring collar, and rope-twist handles, and it is a new discovery to the world of pottery collectors. It sold for $480,000 (est. $100,000/200,000) to collector Adam Weitsman, underbid by another collector.
The cobalt-highlighted street scene celebrates the 1846 Great National Jubilee of the Order of the Sons of Temperance, a fraternal organization founded in New York City in 1842 on the principle of abstinence from alcohol. The group began with a meeting held at 71 Division Street in a building called Teetotalers Hall. Starting with 16 men, primarily involved in the printing and publication trade, the organization within five years boasted over 60,000 contributing members nationally, with a considerable number of local divisions. Also stamped under the collar of this cooler is “Salina Division. No. 86 / Sons of Temperance,” indicating the Salina, New York, division of the order. While the Salina Division’s membership and exact date of institution are unknown, the group likely came into existence around the fall of 1845, less than a year before the jubilee, based on its designated number, 86. William H. Farrar was likely involved with the Salina Division. According to Crocker Farm, Farrar was an influential 19th-century potter. He not only produced slip-trailed pottery at the Geddes shop but also was involved with the United States Pottery Company in Bennington, Vermont, and the Southern Porcelain Company of Kaolin, South Carolina. The cooler possesses several reglued repairs. It was discovered out west.
The image celebrates the Great National Jubilee in 1846 of the Order of the Sons of Temperance, a fraternal organization founded in New York City in 1842 on the principle of abstinence from alcohol. The design illustrates the national headquarters of the organization, located at 315 Broadway, and it was impressed “GRAND LODGE / CITY NY” beside a townhouse and a fire alarm bell tower with a female figure ringing the bell. (Period accounts note that the morning of the jubilee was marked by the ringing of bells.) The distinctive cupola of New York Hospital at 319 Broadway, adjacent to the Sons of Temperance headquarters and a key New York landmark of the time, is visible behind the Grand Lodge. The order’s three degrees of membership (also its motto), “Love Purity & Fidelity,” are inscribed beneath the figure of the woman, and below them is a portico with the inscription “Look not upon the Wine,” taken from Proverbs 23:31, referencing the evils of alcohol. An intricately patterned design of Broadway’s cobblestone street forms the base for the architectural designs above.
The left side of the cooler depicts a large flag marked “STAR OF TEMPERANCE” emanating from a cartouche with a list of abbreviations of the society’s officers. The handles, twisted to resemble rope, feature striped and spotted cobalt decoration. At least 16 different decorative stamps were used. Some restoration had taken place, including a reglued base chip and reglued breaks to the right handle. Crocker Farm has always been meticulous with cataloging condition with every lot description, which has especially aided the auction house in the virtual age.
Unknown to the collecting community, the piece had descended in the family of the consignor, who currently resides out west. “It was completely unknown until now, and we were certainly elated to get it. Luke [Mark’s brother] flew out to get it and rented a car to drive it back east,” stated Zipp. It was too valuable to secure in checked luggage and too large for a carry-on.
Closing at $320,000 at the end of regular bidding, the cooler sold for $400,000 during the callbacks, putting it at $480,000 with the 20% buyer’s premium. The buyer was New York state collector Adam Weitsman; the underbidder was another private collector.
“I sort of retired from collecting, but this piece brought me out of retirement. It has everything I’ve looked for in early American ceramics. I love the decoration and the history. Being from New York state, I have a special interest in local pieces, and this cooler was made about fifteen miles from where I live. It’s my favorite piece of stoneware in existence,” said Weitsman.
He purchased it for his own personal collection but plans to lend it to the New York State Museum in Albany to be displayed, and in the future he will make it available for loan to other museums.
The world-record auction price for American stoneware is $483,000, paid for an important stoneware cooler (also seven-gallon) with incised decoration of a Federal eagle, attributed to Henry Remmey Sr. or Jr., Baltimore, Maryland, 1812-29, which Crocker Farm sold on October 17, 2015, to New York City collector Jerry Lauren. The hammer price was $420,000. Five years ago, the buyer’s premium was 15%.
Some stellar southern pottery lots were also stars in the auction. According to the Zipps, a new auction record was achieved for alkaline-glazed pottery when a large eight-gallon green-tone alkaline-glazed stoneware ovoid jar, incised “Lm / Decr 17. 1857 / Dave,” made by the enslaved black potter Dave at Lewis Miles’s Stoney Bluff Manufactory, Horse Creek Valley, Edgefield District, South Carolina, 1857, sold to a private collector for $216,000. The virtual hammer fell at $50,000 at the end of bidding on May 1, but the price was pushed to $216,000 the next day during the callback session. The jar was underbid by an institution.
The power of the callback raised the roof to new heights, achieving a new auction record for Edgefield pottery and work by enslaved black potter Dave, according to the Zipps. This 16" tall eight-gallon green-tone alkaline-glazed stoneware ovoid jar, made by Dave at Lewis Miles’s Stoney Bluff Manufactory, Horse Creek Valley, Edgefield District, South Carolina, 1857, hammered for $50,000 at the end of bidding on May 1. It was pushed to $216,000 (est. $40,000/80,000) the next day during the live callbacks, selling to a private collector, underbid by an institution. The jar’s shoulder is deeply incised on the front with the initials of Dave’s owner, Lewis Miles, and the vessel’s date of manufacture: “Lm / Decr 17. 1857.” The signature “Dave” appears below in large script. An incised symbol resembling a half-moon, letter “D,” or reductive fish appears to the left of the potter’s signature. The reverse shoulder is incised with two vertical rows of four punctates (impressions), indicating eight gallons, flanking two incised slash marks. A series of deeply incised slashes at the base of the jar’s front appears purposeful, although their meaning is unknown. The catalog notes, “Varying concentrations in the application of the glaze on this jar has created a dramatic surface rife with vitality, color, and texture, and numerous bold glaze runs are visible around the entire body of the vessel.” Surviving in outstanding condition, sporting a large, readable Dave signature, and displaying the artist’s flair for throwing and glazing, this jar is among the finest works of one of America’s best-known black artisans. It has small chips, measuring ¾" and ⅝", a tiny nick, and two hairlines, and the right handle has three very minor chips.
A three-gallon alkaline-glazed stoneware jug by Dave, incised “Lm / June 10-1853,” made at Lewis Miles’s Stoney Bluff Manufactory, 1853, in a streaky olive-colored alkaline glaze overlaid with heavy bluish-white rutile runs with initials of Lewis Miles, Dave’s owner at the time, blew out of the orbit, selling for $78,000 to a private collector.
This jug did really well. The three-gallon alkaline-glazed ovoid stoneware jug made by Dave at Lewis Miles’s Stoney Bluff Manufactory, Horse Creek Valley, Edgefield District, South Carolina, 1853, incised “Lm / June 10-1853,” with a stepped spout and applied handle with a depressed lower terminal, the surface covered in a streaky olive-colored alkaline glaze, overlaid with heavy bluish-white rutile runs, sold to a private collector for $78,000 (est. $15,000/25,000). Its shoulder is incised with the initials of Lewis Miles, Dave’s owner at the time, an incised horseshoe symbol, and three punctates (impressions), indicating three gallons. Ranking among Dave’s most brilliantly glazed vessels known, this jug was decorated with rutile (titanium dioxide) to produce the striking runs on the shoulder, handle area, and inscribed side of the piece. While rutile glazing was relatively common elsewhere in the American South, it is considered rare in Dave’s work, with only a few examples documented. The catalog notes, “As Dave’s oeuvre consists almost entirely of pieces with sporadically poured or neatly dipped alkaline glazes, this jug can easily be regarded as one of the potter’s masterworks in terms of the quality of its glaze. In addition, its form is considered significantly rarer than the jars produced by this potter.” It has professional restoration to a thin circumferential crack around the spout, just above the raised molding at the spout’s midsection, and there are base chips. Many of Dave’s surviving jugs have had significant damage to or entire loss of the spout during use. Handle loss is also common. A related 1853 jug (with a restored handle) is in the collection of the American Folk Art Museum.
A big eight-gallon stoneware jar with bold “paint rock” alkaline glaze went for $14,400. “It is the most beautiful jar I’ve ever seen,” stated the buyer, scholar and editor Robert Hunter. It was attributed to James Long or John Becham, Crawford County, Georgia, circa 1840, but it possibly was made in Columbia, South Carolina.
This big 17¾" tall eight-gallon stoneware jar with bold “paint rock” alkaline glaze, attributed to James Long or John Becham, Crawford County, Georgia, circa 1840, realized $14,400 (est. $5000/8000). It might be from Crawford County, Georgia, but could have been made in Columbia, South Carolina, according to buyer Robert Hunter. The thin-walled ovoid jar with a flared rim and arched lug handles is decorated with a streaky “paint rock” glaze featuring glossy blackish-brown and grayish gunmetal runs over a light olive to brown ground. The variety of colors represented is noteworthy. A masterwork of both potting and glazing, this jar ranks among the largest examples of antebellum stoneware known, according to the Zipps. It has two very tight hairlines and two flakes along with a small chip to one handle.
A stoneware jar with a finely incised ship decoration, stamped “J. SWANN / ALEXA,” from Alexandria, Virginia, is one of the finest examples of southern salt-glazed stoneware to come to auction in a long time, in part due to the decoration. It is the only signed example of southern-made stoneware known featuring a decoration of a sailing ship and is one of only two known pieces of Alexandria stoneware with incised decoration. Today, the sailing vessel is the symbol for the city of Alexandria. The jar was a new discovery, having been consigned by someone on the West Coast, and it sold for $39,000 to Rob Hunter on behalf of clients. The Zipps flew to California to secure the consignment.
Selling for $39,000 (est. $8000/12,000), a new auction record for Alexandria, Virginia, stoneware, was this important circa 1820 one-gallon stoneware jar with elaborate incised ship decoration, stamped “J. SWANN / ALEXA.” The buyer was Robert Hunter on behalf of clients. The design of a two-masted sailing ship with finely detailed rigging and brushed cobalt slip delineating the border of the ship, forming its portholes, and creating a stretch of stylized water below is rare. Two stylized clovers are likely inspired by early Baltimore stoneware designs of the period. Several attributes qualify this jar as one of the finest examples of northern Virginia stoneware known, as well as one of the finest examples of southern salt-glazed stoneware. It is the only signed example of southern-made stoneware known featuring a decoration of a sailing ship, and one of only two pieces of Alexandria stoneware known with incised decoration. (The second example is a water cooler made for merchant J.W. Smith at the pottery of Hugh Charles Smith that bears various incised motifs and is now in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.) The jar additionally bears one of the earliest impressed stamps found on southern salt-glazed stoneware, that of Alexandria, Virginia, potter John Swann. The catalog notes, “As Swann’s oeuvre is typified by dipped iron-oxide or generally sparse brushed cobalt decorations, the design on this jar clearly defines this object as the potter’s masterpiece. The jar’s intricately incised design may have been copied by the decorator from an image and was no doubt inspired by the harbor city’s rich maritime history.”
The Zipps’ next sale will be held in the same format because of COVID-19 and will take place in early August. “We are going to try our best to have three sales in 2020,” concluded Mark Zipp.
For additional information, call (410) 472-2016 or visit the website (www.crockerfarm.com).
The sale began with this rare glazed redware pitcher with profuse three-color slip decoration, from the Loy or Albright families, Alamance County, North Carolina, late 18th century. It sold for $33,600 (est. $10,000/15,000) to a southern collector in North Carolina. The lavishly decorated early piece has a striking cream-colored ground. Pitchers are among the rarer forms from this potting tradition, according to the Zipps, and the use of a cream-colored ground is an unusual treatment more commonly seen in jars and bowls. It has some minor glaze flakes to the body, small rim chips, and a few base chips. The consignor struck the proverbial lottery, having recently bought the pitcher in a consignment shop in Virginia for nearly nothing.
This rare alkaline-glazed 5" high face stoneware jug with kaolin eyes and teeth, attributed to Miles Mill, Edgefield District, South Carolina, 1865-75, with a hand-modeled clay face, including pierced kaolin eyes and oval lids, thin eyebrows, a stylized nose, large ears, and an open mouth with incised kaolin teeth, sold for $31,200 (est. $20,000/30,000). The surface is covered in a high-gloss olive-colored alkaline glaze. According to the catalog, “Miles Mill face vessels are some of the few Edgefield examples of the form to be positively attributed to a specific pottery based on archaeological evidence and the distinctive style of spout employed. Face vessels from this manufactory were often prone to in-the-firing losses to the applied facial features. This jug’s fine condition and lustrous green glaze rank it as the best Miles Mill example of the form to come to auction in years.” It is in excellent condition, with a shallow chip to the lower lip and minor wear to the edges of the ears.
This vertical-handled stoneware sugar bowl with cobalt watch-spring and floral motif, from Manhattan, New York, second or third quarter of the 18th century, is 3⅜" high and nearly 5" diameter, and it sold for $4800 (est. $1500/2500).
This rare 7¼" long tanware pig flask with folky Albany and kaolin slip decoration, probably from the Hissong Pottery, Cassville, Pennsylvania, circa 1885, molded in the form of a reclining pig with a spout at the rear, in excellent condition, recently found in the western part of the country, sold for $1440 (est. $600/1000).
This two-gallon stoneware jug with cobalt-brushed decoration of a man’s face with a mustache in profile, surrounded by a heavily brushed wreath and stamped “M. & T. MILLER / NEWPORT, PA,” went for $6600 (est. $2500/4000). This motif is believed to be a portrait of one of the potters, brothers Michael or Theophilus Miller. A fresh-to-the-market example, it recently surfaced in New England and is in excellent condition. Good examples of work from this pottery are nearly impossible to estimate. As is the case for many groups of small regionally focused collectors, there are only a handful of active buyers, and prices fluctuate greatly depending on who among the small pool of collectors is actively buying at any one time.
This Anna Pottery presentation stoneware “shoo fly” flask in its original polychrome-painted surface, from Wallace and Cornwall Kirkpatrick, Anna, Illinois, dated 1884, wheel-thrown with a flattened form, a semi-squared spout, and Albany-slip-glazed surface, featuring an applied figure of a black woman with one arm wrapped around the neck of the flask and the other swatting at a molded and applied figure of a fly, sold for $16,800 (est. $10,000/20,000). The shoulder is incised with the inscription “Shoo fly,” and “Don’t Bodder me” is beneath the woman’s skirt with another fly. The presentation inscription reads “S.J. Heath / I.C.R.R. / Chicago-Centralia / 1884,” referring to a railroad employee of the Illinois Central Railroad.
An unusual item was this salt-glazed stoneware hanging flowerpot, attributed to David Greenland Thompson, Morgantown, West Virginia, circa 1885, a wheel-thrown bowl-shaped form with its original drain hole in the underside and applied clay loops for hanging on the interior of rim. The surface is painstakingly decorated with dozens of molded clay pine cones of various styles. This applied decoration covers even the interior of the flowerpot’s rim, including its hanging loops. The vessel is covered in a salt glaze, producing a steel-gray coloration to the surface. According to the catalog, “One of a small number of surviving Thompson pieces with sprigged naturalistic decoration, this highly decorative work relates to America’s burgeoning art pottery movement.” With some expected chips to the pine cones, it sold for $8400 (est. $1200/2000).
This redware presentation pipe bowl with applied eagle’s talons, incised “E.W.N. / June 21 / 1872 / C S,” probably Pennsylvania origin, possibly Somerset County, the wheel-thrown pipe bowl with attached stem holder, the underside fashioned with applied clay eagle’s talons grasping the bowl, a design modeled after white clay pipes of the period, sold for $1440 (est. $600/1000). A small number of salt-glazed stoneware miniatures are incised “C S” on the underside for Charles Swank of the Johnstown, Pennsylvania, potting family. This piece may have been made by or for him. The surface is covered in an incomplete applied lead glaze featuring bright orange and olive hues.
Selling for $18,000 (est. $6000/10,000), this six-gallon stoneware pedestal-base rotund water cooler, stamped “J. HAMILTON / BEAVER,” Pennsylvania origin, circa 1850, with incised banding to the midsection, applied lug handles, and a squared bunghole with canted corners, seated atop a footed pedestal base, made an auction record for the Beaver, Pennsylvania, pottery. With the front decorated with a boldly brushed fuchsia vine bearing three blossoms and graduated leaves closely related to Hamilton’s Greensboro designs, this cooler is among the finest examples of Beaver, Pennsylvania, stoneware known. It was recently discovered, having descended in a Nashville, Tennessee, family. The existence of several Beaver-made stoneware pieces with Nashville advertising indicates a connection between the Beaver stoneware industry and the Tennessee market.
The four-gallon stoneware jar with bold cobalt vertically brushed wavy stripe decoration, Greensboro, Pennsylvania, origin, attributed to William Leet Hamilton, circa 1860, realized $6600 (est. $2500/4500).
Originally published in the July 2020 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2020 Maine Antique Digest