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Blue and White Spongeware Brush Vase,
Shaving Mug, and Covered Soap Dish
by Steve and Karen Stone
A variety of stoneware pieces decorated in various kinds of blue and white spongeware can easily be found in many shops, malls, on-line sales, and auctions. Frequently found are the spongeware pitchers and bowls of various sizes that occupy a lot of shelf space.
Spongeware items were produced by most every pottery operating in North America from about the mid 1800's to the early middle 20th century; some potteries still produce it to this day. Such newer pieces are easily distinguished from collectible 100 +/- year old pieces.
Pieces were designed and produced to fill almost every conceivable human and agrarian need. For the most part spongeware was the potteries bread and butter, it was in demand, cheap to produce, and churned out as fast as possible. Unfortunately, most pieces were unmarked as to which pottery produced it. Ascribing which potteries produced which pieces is virtually impossible due to the lack of any identifying marks. And reviewing pottery company product catalogs is not much help either because almost every pottery used the same shape, form, and sponging decoration. Although there were different sponging patterns, singular sponging patterns are almost always not carried forward and described in product catalogs.
There are exceptions, of course, many potteries decorated their wares with a combination of sponging and solid banding encircling the piece. The uniquely shaped Uhl sponge pitchers are diagnostic to that pottery. Inspection of the clay color and the glaze is most helpful identifying pieces manufactured by a pottery operating somewhere in the Great Ohio Valley clay beds. Some potteries offered 5, 12, or 13 piece spongeware toilet sets and many of those pieces are to be found today with a bit of dedicated searching if accumulating a complete set is the desired goal.
A collection of the banded wash set of shaving mug (3-1/2" tall), brush vase (5" tall), and 3-piece covered soap dish (2" tall, 5-1/4" diameter) is a fairly easy way to collect a representative portion of a much larger wash room set and the three pieces do not consume a lot of shelf space.
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Blue and White Spongeware Presentation Pitcher
By Steve and Karen Stone
with thanks to Duane “Doc’s Crocks” Watson
Perhaps somewhere in the early 1900's this blue and white spongeware hall boy was most likely presented to a newly married couple named "Clarence” and “Mabel."
This hall boy is 6-3/4" tall and features a carefully tooled rim, rectangular handle, top and bottom cobalt stripes, with the names "Clarence” and “Mabel" on opposing sides in freehand. The sponging is neatly controlled in cobalt blue with touches of light brown. The handle sports a small flower, the bottom is unmarked.
No doubt one of a kind, this piece is most likely a product of one of the many potteries conducting business in the Great Ohio Valley with its abundant and easily mined beds of clay. Whether a potter was commissioned to produce such a magnificent piece or it is simply a lunch hour or Friday afternoon piece fashioned by a dear friend for the newly wed couple will never be known. What is known, however, that it has survived to this day and we are all very much blessed and enriched by its existence.
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Beautiful Spongeware of the early 20th Century.