Nov 4, 2011

Fiesta Friday: Having a ball, tilting at pitchers

My collection of obsession (?) with vintage and new Fiesta and bowls is well-known and chronicled.

But a few recent jaunts to local antique stores started me in another direction:  ball jugs, also known as tilt pitchers.  These are easily recognized by their bulbous (err ball) shapes and tilting spouts.

From what I can tell, Homer Laughlin did not produce ball jugs under the Fiesta name.  They did produce two sizes of ball-shaped pitchers under the Harlequin line in the 1940s through late '50s; a small creamer and a larger water jug.  Neither was marked on the bottom and there are several other ball pitchers from the same era that are extremely similar to the larger pitcher in terms of shape and colors.Here's the real deal - the full-size jug and creamer:

The creamer is easily recognizable by the concentric rings around the widest part of the jug:
These were made in the typical Harlequin colors:  green, yellow, turquoise, and mauve and stand about 3 1/2 inches tall and 5 inches wide.  This yellow jug was sold to me as a Hall creamer.  I was too polite to argue with dealer, but I was pretty sure those concentric rings meant Homer Laughlin China and I got a steal for $5.  I've never personally seen a Hall ball-shaped creamer in that size, although a few pieces on eBay are sold as such (they usually have a white interior and may be Cronin, not Hall.)

The larger ball jugs (aka service water pitcher) are 7 1/4 inches tall by 8 1/2 inches wide. They too  have the trademark rings around the bottom.  That makes it easy to spot them in antique and thrift stores, but they may be obscured in blurry eBay photos, and if the seller isn't aware (or doesn't care), you may get rooked into bidding on something else (many pottery manufacturers were located in or near East Liverpool, Ohio and produced similar pieces during this period.)

The large Harlequin jugs came in shades of maroon, rose and spruce as well as "atomic (uranium) red" and mauve (which is more blue than pink), yellow, turquoise and gray.  Full retail rate for one in good to excellent condition is $80-$150, so if you find one without cracks or chips for less than that, you may have a good deal on your hands.

The only ball jug I've seen with a similar ringed pattern is this one from Bauer:  Notice the deep grooves and position of the rings on the ball;

In comparison, the full-size Harlequin jugs' rings are much more subtle and on the large jug, are positioned lower, near the base of the pitcher:
If you're curious, here's a small sampling of the ball jugs you may find in your forays, starting with spruce green.

The pitcher on the left is the Harlequin full-size jug. On the right is the Hall jug, also in spruce.  Very similar in looks and price, but the concentric rings around the bottom third of the Harlequin jug (or lack of them) will help you differentiate between them.

This piece is marked "Fiesta USA" but the stamp is not the genuine Homer Laughlin stamp and the handle is very different from the Harlequin ball jug's handle.

Here are some examples of the red jugs commonly found online and in antique stores.

 On the left is a Harlequin in "Atomic Red", and on the right is Cronin's (sometimes sold as "Sevilla") small creamer; Cronin also made a full-size version, with the same interior.  (However, I've also seen at least a cobalt blue Cronin pitcher that was blue on the inside as well.  Know your markings!

On the left is a Redwing Rumrill jug with a red-glazed spout and white interior; On the right is the Hall pitcher in "Chinese Red" which often commands a high price - note the white spout AND interior.

For fun, here are a couple of red ball pitchers that would never be mistaken for Fiesta or Harlequin, but are cute and retro in their own right; they would fit in with the bright pottery of mid 20th century.

On the left is a ribbed jug which is not pottery, but fired-on glass.  It was a popular promotional pitcher offered through Kix cereal, produced by Hazel-Atlas in various colors (there are matching tumblers, too.) Occasionally a light green version will be labeled as Jadite, but if you're a Jadite collector, you should already know your prices, manufacturers and styles before you get too excited; as far as I know, Hazel-Atlas never made Jadite.

On the right is a "Tomato Ware" piece (part of the "Pantry Parade" line produced in the '40s by Stanford Pottery; they also produced dishes in "corn" and "strawberry" patterns.)

There are other colors in Harlequin, but for brevity, we'll end with pretty in pink. Harlequin called this color rose, but the full-size pitcher on the left appears almost salmon, at least in the photo.  A smaller creamer-size pictures shows the concentric rings, which immediately differentiate it from other manufacturers' pieces.

Taylor and McCoy made pretty--and pretty similar--jugs, also in rose:   

If you're trying to distinguish between these two, the Taylor jug will be marked with USA in capital letters, while a McCoy jug will have a distinctive M or Mc mark.

So there's a quick overview of just some of the American ball jugs and tilt pitchers out there.  There were and are other manufacturers but these represent the most similar and pieces widely available in thrift and antique stores and online.

All of these jugs are bold, highly stylized and iconic pieces. They speak of an era where beverages required a container (there were no plastic milk jugs or cartons) and sensibilities demanded the pitchers should coordinate with the table service.

The jugs are great for using or displaying; the smaller jugs benefit from an eye-level display so they can be seen up close.  They are all great collector's pieces, but as with any vintage or antique items if you're limiting your collection to one brand, it's wise to familiarize yourself with exactly what you're looking for (size, colors, etc.) and the typical prices for those pieces so you will know what's a good deal and what isn't.

Happy collecting,
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