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
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
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
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
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.