Stoneware face cooler sets records

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 Record-setting stoneware face cooler, $177,000. Courtesy of Crocker Farm.

Record-setting stoneware face cooler, $177,000. Courtesy of Crocker Farm.

SPARKS, MD - A striking American stoneware face cooler has set two world records after selling for $177,000 — more than $50,000 above its high estimate.

The 25-inch 20-gallon salt-glazed cooler broke auction records at Crocker Farm on July 20 for the highest price achieved for any American face vessel, and for any piece of Ohio stoneware. The rare and important piece had been estimated to sell between $75,000-$125,000. Pennsylvania dealers Frank Swala and Kelly Kinzle bought the cooler for inventory.

“Within the highly important genre of the American face vessel, a field that truly transcends stoneware collecting, this cooler is regarded as one of the greatest and largest works,” said Crocker Farm. “(It is ) among the most expressive and striking examples of American stoneware known.”

The sale was part of Crocker Farm’s 15th anniversary in the auction business. More than 500 lots of high-quality American stoneware and redware were featured. Crocker said this is an extremely strong market right now.

An appearance on “Antiques Roadshow” in 1998 made the cooler famous. Created by William Wilbur of Ironton, Ohio, circa 1870, the large cylindrical jug-form cooler has applied lizard handles and a turtle-form spout. The front is decorated with upswept snouts and incised eyes and mouths. The large face features applied coleslaw eyebrows, mustache and beard. It has balled clay eyes, C-scroll ears, carved nostrils, and an open mouth with carved teeth. The surface has a two-toned decoration, brushed in cobalt oxide and Albany slips.

 This exceptional 2-gallon stoneware jar with elaborate cobalt bird and floral decoration, stamped "MARTIN CRAFTS / BOSTON", MA origin, circa 1855, sold for $17,700. Courtesy of Crocker Farm.

This exceptional 2-gallon stoneware jar with elaborate cobalt bird and floral decoration, stamped "MARTIN CRAFTS / BOSTON", MA origin, circa 1855, sold for $17,700. Courtesy of Crocker Farm.

Crocker Farm said the face is significant in the quality of the modeling and its size. It spans approximately 15 inches horizontally and 10 inches vertically on the cooler’s front, making it one of the largest applied faces on any 19th century American ceramic face vessel.

According to Crocker Farm, William M. Wilbur (1841-1917) comes from a family of potters. He is the grandson of Zanesville, Ohio potter, Thomas Wilbur, and the son of Clark Wilbur, another stoneware potter. After being brought up in the craft at the family’s pottery near Zanesville, Wilbur served in the Civil War in the 16th Ohio Infantry, and by 1870, had begun potting in Ironton, Lawrence County, Ohio.

For all auction results and more information, visit crockerfarm.com.