Craven Stoneware Jar, ca. 1840

Value (2004) | $20,000 Auction$40,000 Insurance

This honey pot belongs to my husband. He inherited it from his grandmother. She died in, I believe, 1952, and it came from her grandmother. And it's been in our house for, I guess, about 50 years-- mostly in our house. He had a men's shop, and he used it for umbrellas for a while, but I persuaded him to bring it back home. And as far as I know, it has never been appraised. But I do recall, I believe it was in the late 1950s, he received a letter from a lady who had seen the honey jar in his grandmother's home. And I believe she wrote an article for some antiques publication. And she told him that it really belonged in a museum. He thinks she said in the Smithsonian. I don't really know. But he thinks it's very old, and we think it's lovely.

Well, you're right, it is lovely, and I don't think she was overreaching when she said it should be in a museum and perhaps the Smithsonian. Do you have any idea where this pot was made or by whom it was made?

No, we don't, and I asked my husband about that-- if he knew where his great-great-grandmother came from, and he didn't really know. He thought the family lived in middle Tennessee for a while.

You have a very, very important honey pot. It was a very large hive of bees that would have had to fill this one, I can tell you. I can barely see you over it. But this very large stoneware pot was made in Tennessee...

In Tennessee?

Middle Tennessee. It was made by the Craven family of potters. That was typical in Tennessee-- the early potteries were run by families. The Cravens came here from North Carolina, and by 1820 they were operating a pottery in middle Tennessee. This is unusual for its size. It's in superb condition, and it's very distinctively Craven. I was fortunate to have along with me a copy of the exhibition catalog in Nashville at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in 2003-2004, where a very similar pot marked by Craven was in the exhibition. This particular pot has all the Craven characteristics-- the ovoid shape, the great crimped banding around the middle, which serves another purpose. This jar was so large they had to do it in two sections.

We wondered about that.

They joined the two sections together in the middle, covered that connection with a crimped band. The wonderful offset handles at the top are also distinctive and very decorative. And being offset, you could grab the pot from either side. It has wonderful incised-line decoration and banding here and here. As a rare Tennessee example and one of the best that is probably out there, this is a fairly valuable item. It's very hard, when there are not many others like it as comparables, to put an exact value.

Well, when do you think it was made?

It was made sometime between 1820 and 1860. So it's pre-Civil War. And given its rarity, we can only take an educated guess. And I would say that at auction I would put a conservative estimate of, say, $20,000 to $30,000.

Oh. Oh, that's wonderful.

However, if you were to insure this, I would put at least $40,000 on it.

Oh, wow.

So you have a honey of a pot, and thank you for bringing it in.

Oh, yes, thank you very much.

I don't know how you reached the honey in the bottom of the jar. You'd need a long-handled spoon.

You would indeed.

Appraisal Details

New York, New York
Appraised value (2004)
$20,000 Auction$40,000 Insurance
Memphis, TN (July 31, 2004)
19th Century

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