On the Water

Stoneware Water Cooler

This salt-glazed, ovoid stoneware cooler was made by A. Drown in Troy, New York. It has two large handles and features a classical figure with a lyre in relief surrounded by a series of impressed medallions highlighted in cobalt blue. Nothing appears to be known about A. Drown who was one among many of the potters in Troy, referred to a “jug town.”

The presence of nearby stoneware clays gave rise to the New York state salt-glazed stoneware tradition that, by the early 1800s, developed in villages and towns along the Hudson River. Shipped upriver, the clay returned downstream after being transformed into useful ceramic vessels. With the Erie Canal completion in 1825, stoneware production extended its range to meet the increased flow of perishable goods from the Great Lakes region.

Stoneware clay, when fired to a temperature of about 2100 degrees F, vitrifies into highly durable ceramic material that holds liquids and keeps perishable contents cool. Stoneware potters in America, many of them immigrants from Germany and the Netherlands, maintained their European tradition of throwing coarse salt into the kiln. The salt melts in the heat and forms a pitted glassy surface on the vessels, which would otherwise be a dull grey.

The production of these sturdy salt-glazed containers declined following improvements in tinning and canning perishable foodstuffs. In the late 1850s, the glass Mason canning jar entered the market, after which the potteries lost much of the demand for food storage containers that sustained so much of their production.

ID Number:
Place Made:
Troy, New York
ceramic, stoneware, coarse
before 1830
17 1/2 in; 44.45 cm

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