- Published on Tuesday, 21 February 2012 22:38
- Hits: 228
A Northern Neck couple inherited this butter crock from her family many years ago. It has the original lid, and most unusually, the original wire handle. The condition is quite good, considering that it was used on a farm for several generations. A couple of chips appear to have come from the time of the firing in the kiln, but otherwise the condition is excellent. It bears no maker's identification.
This crock dates from the late nineteenth century, and is similar to one that my family used in the wellhouse at my grandparents' home in Colonial Beach. In the days before refrigeration, indeed before electricity, when butter was made, particularly in the country, the finished product was put in a lidded crock such as this one, and stored on a shelf below the grade, or ground level, in the wellhouse. The goal was to keep the butter in the coldest place available, and to
prevent flies from having contact with it.
This blue design is later than the older stoneware ones, but the size and shape are the same. The two most important considerations in evaluating any stoneware pieces are condition and origin. In this instance, as noted, the condition is fine, but unfortunately no indication exists as to the maker or place of origin. I suspect it is from Baltimore, as many such pieces one finds here in the Northern Neck are, having come down by steamboat on order from the factory, but
without positive evidence, attribution is not possible.
The crock is decorated beautifully, and the wire handle shows no signs of rust. The piece is worth $125, but an earlier, attributable, one in stoneware, would be three times as much. I suggest not using the crock for its originally designated purpose. The glaze possibly could contain lead, as many such glazes of that period did.