THE ANTIQUE DETECTIVE

OLD SPATTERWARE WORTH RESEARCH TIME
By Anne Gilbert

As seen in The Antique Shoppe Newspaper, March, 2004,

It’s colorful, a bit primitive...and expensive. That is a brief description of the pottery known as spatterware. Originally known as “spattering” in 18th century England, by the mid 19th century it was also made in Scotland, Wales, and France and briefly in America. Most was made by the English Staffordshire potters. By the early 1960s it was rediscovered by American collectors, as part of the collecting craze for anything that resembled “Pennsylvania Dutch”. This once-humble pottery, with its hand painted and spattered folk motifs rose in price from a few dollars to $25 a plate.

These days, when spatterware comes to market prices can be from $600 for a single plate. At a recent Garth’s auction, in Delaware, Ohio, however, a blue spatterware plate with a peafowl, sold over a $300/600 estimate for $3,335 (with buyers premium). This was one of the most popular designs (along with the schoolhouse motif).

Spatterware, stick spatterware and sponge spatterware may be much alike in design, but there’s a world of difference in price. Both the varied types of spatterware and their origins can be confusing. Though spatterware was popular with housewives in Pennsylvania’s 19th century German settlements, it wasn’t made there.


Spatterware sugar bowl. Sold for $575. PHOTO CREDIT: Garth’s Auctions, Delaware, Ohio

From the early 19th century, through the Civil War, housewives filled their cupboards with it. And, why not, when a fine painted plate cost only nine cents?  Though some spatterware was made in America by the 1860s the designs lacked the zip of the imports.

The earliest spatterware was made by dipping a small sponge into a color and dabbing it on the edge or surface of the cup or dish. This often was used as background for a design outlined in black. The center of the plate was painted in a crude “folk art” style. The subjects varied from birds, schoolhouses, tulips or whatever struck the artist’s fancy.

Less expensive and still to be found, are pieces decorated with stick-spatter. Transfer prints were used either for borders or the center. Small pieces of sponge were then cut into floral, leaf and geometric shapes; they then were fastened to the end of a stick and dipped into paint. A good design platter could sell these days for several hundred dollars. This technique was made in America and on the Continent as well as in England. Some have identifying marks.

The cheapest and least durable of the spatterware family is “sponge blue”, made around the 1880s in Ohio and New Jersey. It tends to chip easily. The white earthenware was sponged, usually heavily, with a single color or a combination of such colors as blue and green or blue, tan and brown.

Unlike the other variations of spatter, spongeware looks as if the design was sponged on.

CLUES: Like all good things, the most popular designs in spatterware have been reproduced. In the 1940s, teapots, cups and saucers were sold in the Dime Stores. The famous “Adams rose”, made by the early Adams pottery has been reproduced, along with the schoolhouse and peafowl designs.

How can you tell old from new ? As with most antiques, the way a piece was made offers a clue. Early spatterware was stacked in piles for drying after being decorated and dried. Thin triangular platforms were placed at the bottom of every dish to separate the pieces. This created three, unglazed dots the size of a pinhead on all the flatware pieces.


The Antique Shoppe
"Florida's Best Newspaper for Antiques and Collectibles


[Top of Page | Editorial Articles | Home]