Clearly, the end-of-day sewer pipe sculptures made by factory workers from the 19th and 20th centuries in the Midwest are one of the last (and least) recognized and appreciated folk art forms in the US. While only one major book was produced on the topic (Jack Adamson's Illustrated Handbook of Ohio Sewer Pipe Folk Art in 1973) there are a few sources which brought the objects into light. A perceptive chapter appears in Wendy Lavitt's Animals in American Folk Art from 1990:
"Workers created these end of the day pieces for themselves, to give as presents or sell for extra income. They modeled the leftover moist clay that if not used would have hardened into unusable lumps...As people discovered sewer-tile sculpture, the stoneware potteries themselves began using molds to re-create the most popular items such as the lion on a base. However, most forms remained to sewer tile plants, with workers teaching their fellow workers, handing down "recipes" from the time that the first lion was made (probably about 1900) until well into the 1940s." Both books are out of print, but often available from used book sources.
Reclining Dog Chewing on a Shoe. While handmade and signed on base "B.J." this was likely a "well-used" mold. Lack of detail evident. Collection Jim Linderman
Joe Louis, the Brown Bomber was active in the late 1930's to the late 1940's. Born in Alabama and moved to Detroit at age ten... after being visited by a gang of the Klan. Let's not let that happen again. Best known for his professional record, but also for standing up for civil rights all his life. In 1934, Louis won his first professional title (for which he earned $59.00) and went on to win all 12 of his fights in 1934, ten by knockouts.
Fine brown clay with skilled hands, Titled by hand but note on base is illegible.
THANKS TO NATALIE CURLEY ANTIQUES
Joe Lewis clay sculpture Circa 1940 Collection Jim Linderman
Sewer Tile End of Day Pottery Squirrel incised by hand Folk Art. Generally, squirrels are not often seen in folk art works. They were pests and ate grain! Still, as this was likely made for a child, it is cute! Signed on base "JM" likely mid-20th Century. Collection Jim Linderman Dull Tool Dim Bulb
Sewer Pipe Sewer Tile Folk Art Monkey with Original Paint and Stamped Superior Clay Ullrichsville Ohio
There were apparently several dozen Sewer Pipe factories in the area around Ullrichsville Ohio. J.W. Moore comes to mind. This piece is incised with the company stamp "Superior Clay Corp. from Ullrichsville. Interestingly, the company stamp often indicated the maker! This piece appears to have been "Handcrafted by Phillip (Patterson)?.
PAINTED Sewer Pipe Pottery is uncommon, but this piece looks to have been, if you will, an "inventory" item, so there may be more with paint. The paint isn't just "slopped" on, it's well done. The date is unknown but is old. Mid to early 20th Century.
Sewer Tile Monkey painted by hand. Collection Jim Linderman
Sewer Pipe Folk Art Pottery Plaque of a Woman. Red clay, salt glazed and embellished by hand. The border was formed by pressing a thumb into the clay. all the way around. This piece was made "commercially" in that a mold was used, but there is no way to determine how many were made. This piece was enhanced by the application of a pebble on the neck to represent necklace bauble. A similar example, sans pebble, is illustrated in Sewer Pipe Folk Art by Jack Adamson. There is a small, impressed logo of a seated potter under the woman's chin, but it is very hard to see. 9" x 13"
Collection Jim Linderman / Dull Tool Dim Bulb
Sewer Pipe Pottery Vessel Planter with Heart and Inscription. A fairly large piece, and one of three known. Two other examples by the same hand appear in Adamson's Ohio Sewer Pipe Folk art. All three are dated 1945. This one to Dorothy, the others hand signed to "Anna" and "Harvey" with same form and size. A worker making a group for his family? Or someone commissioned? Primitive named objects to be sold as Valentines? Interestingly, this form resembles a torso with a heart in the center. Likely Ohio origin. Collection Jim Linderman
Sewer Pipe Pottery Folk Art Antique Match Holder with Incised by hand striker. Stamped of Impressed "MATCHES" on front. Collection Jim Linderman Dull Tool Dim Bulb
Sewer Tile Pottery Paperweight with Native American. 2" thick, likely Ohio origin
Collection Jim Linderman
A rudimentary handmade sewer tile match holder. Primitive. It is surprising to see the company stamp "Armstrong Sewer Pipe Cincinnati" on the base. Normally, identified pieces have a bit more style. Unusual amateur adaption of a common sewer tile motif.
Collection Jim Linderman
A very old folk art devil missing his horns. This piece has rolled around and been kicked for a century! Not only are the horns broken off, but every "high point" has been worn off and the glaze missing. The author knows of no more than four examples of sewer tile pottery of the devil and all have lost their horns. It is interesting to consider the devil is a common motif of face jug makers past and present...but few sewer tile pieces exist.
19th Century Folk Art Sewer Tile Devil c. 1890 - 1920. Collection Jim Linderman
A large water dish of sewer tile clay for a dog. Signed "HFD 1943" and weighing several pounds. Unusual bold date indicates the practice of making individual objects at the end of the day extended well into the 20th Century.
Collection Jim Linderman
A piece illustrated (along with others by Wilbur A. Baker) illustrated in the landmark book on Ohio Sewer Pipe Folk Art by Jack E. Adamson 1973 page. Adamson includes a photograph of the artist, and calls him a man who was "...most of all interested in pleasing other people with clay surprises." Adamson also claims "of all sewer pipe artists, he was the best."
Additional documentation appears as signed by the artist on the base. "Made by Wilbur Baker April 12 1941 Gnaudenhutten, Ohio.
Baker used light, fine clay for this piece which resulted in a smooth sculpture much refined over most rough and primitive "end of day" pieces. Gnadenhutten is Ohio's oldest settlement. Native Americans made pottery there first!
Sewer Tile Pottery Holder by Wilbur A. Baker 1941 Collection Jim Linderman
Massive Sewer Tile (actually BUILT on sewer tile) match safe. Considerable age, with some embedded pebbles. Used. Unsigned, said to be from Pennsylvania. Nearly 7 inches long and heavy. A most primitive, fashioned by hand sculpture.
COLLECTION JIM LINDERMAN
Pottery Folk Art Salesman Sample Presentation Piece Eagle National Sewer Pipe Company of Barberton, Ohio 1895
Salesman Sample Presentation Piece Eagle National Sewer Pipe Company of Barberton, Ohio.
The town of Barberton Ohio was founded by O. C. Barber, the man who owned the Diamond Match company. The town was created in 1891. The National Sewer Pipe Company was founded in 1888. Fifteen years later, the National Sewer Pipe company was up and running in the town with 325 employees. Woked by, yes, immigants.
Barberton is shown here around the same time. It doesn't look like a happening place, but it was. Numerous chemical and clay operations were soon booming and the town attracted loads of hard-working folks from Europe to do the work.
The remarkable salesman sample (or more likely, a presentation piece?) can be dated circa 1895, as an advertisement they ran that year show the eagle on sewer pipe was a logo as well as a physical object. I do not know how many of these pieces were produced, but certainly few exist today. There is a nub on the left which would indicate the eagle's wings on both sides reached to the pipe. Note minute detail on the claws.
At the same time, they won an award showing the strength of their product and indication pipes went to Michigan. The ad also suggests writing for a paperweight. This piece seems a bit more substantial than a paperweight, but quite possible.
N. S. P. also produced small sewer tile toothpick holders. Hand signed piece also seen include a miniature ladies shoe whimsy.
Thanks to Curley's Antiques
Books and ebooks by the author of Sewer Pipe Folk Art Pottery are available HERE
Frankly, a quite remarkable small hand-sculpted Abe Lincoln made of unfired clay. It's OLD...certainly not as old as the president's life or death, but it could have been made during a celebration or anniversary. Small but powerful. Little over three inches tall with nice aged color.
Collection Jim Linderman