By the end of the 19th Century Red Wing was moving away from salt glaze pottery into a pottery that was whitish-gray in color with a blue stamped logo. During this transitional period, the logo generally consisted of a number on the crock or jug (again signifying how many gallons the piece could hold) and a set of two birch leaves in blue, and later leaves in black commonly referred to as “elephant ears”.
In this photograph at left, taken at the Trans-Mississippi & International Expo held in Omaha, NE in 1898, which today would be known as a World’s Fair, one gets an idea of how important Red Wing Pottery had become. Over 2 ˝ million people attended the Expo, coming from all across the country. For this event, special crocks, churns, bowls, jugs, and even bulldogs were displayed by the company. This photo is from the Reinhart collection. One ironic note would be that the electrical displays at the exposition were very popular, an invention that would eventually end the stoneware era.
As they had done with salt glaze pottery, Red Wing Stoneware manufactured hundreds of items for the early 20thCentury home and farm. Besides jugs and crocks there were beater jars, mixing bowls, bean pots, pitchers, canning jars, and butter crocks to name just a few household items. Many of these items were printed with advertising from merchants who purchased Red Wing containers. For example, beater jars might advertise,“We beat on all prices” and then list the name of merchant. Today, pieces in good condition with advertising are some of the most popular Red Wing stoneware for collectors. In the photo at right, the top shelf displays mason jars with advertising, pantry jars, and butter crocks. Sometimes butter crocks were marked with the store’s name so they could be returned for filled crocks, an early form of recycling. On the pantry jars is the famous Red Wing logo that came into existence around 1909 and that the company would use for the rest of its existence.
Also quite beautiful are the water coolers, with the dark double-blue bands at the top and bottom that give these pieces a striking appearance. Several examples can be seen in the banner for this site. Many such coolers were hand-turned and the picture at left shows various sizes of coolers with the words Water Cooler stenciled across the front. The large Red Wing logo and blue oval (which says: Red Wing Union Stoneware Co. Red Wing, MN) indicates that these coolers are from the earliest period. As time progressed and ink became more expensive, Red Wing made both the wing and oval smaller to cut costs.
For would-be collectors, a good-rule-of-thumb in gauging the approximate age of crocks, jugs, churns, and coolers is by noting the size of the wing and oval stamped on the piece, with the largest wings being six inches in length. Both the logo and oval gave the consumer an instant visual connection between Red Wing products and company name. What made Red Wing unique was that almost all other pottery manufacturers used one color, such as blue on their wares. By using the colors of red and blue the company helped to distinguish itself from the competition.
Red Wing made several lines of pottery specifically for the kitchen and home that include the yellow saffron ware, grayline, and sponge ware. This beautiful umbrella stand pictured at right is another example of spongeware, mostly likely used on commercial properties such as hotels and office buildings.
The 70 gallon jug at left was specially made for display at the 1923 Minnesota State Fair. It is one of only three made and is the only one known to have survived. The jugs survival is an amazing story in itself. In 1994, the 70 gallon behemoth was found partially buried in a barn on the Turec estate in Milligan, NE. Mr. Turec collected steam engines and the story goes, he took a trip to Minnesota to buy a steam engine and saw this jug.
One version of the story has him buying the jug for 50 cents. The second version has Mr. Turec being asked to take the jug if he wanted the steam engine. Either way that’s how it ended up in Milligan. When the jug was sold at auction the bidding was quite fierce, but Jerry prevailed and was fortunate enough to keep the jug in Nebraska. After some major cleanup it looks as good as new and has become a focal point of the museum.
Red Wing Potteries made hundreds of different stoneware pieces, and the museum displays an extensive selection of these stoneware artifacts. But by the end of World War II refrigeration was gaining momentum and stoneware was becoming a relic of the past. In 1947 Red Wing ceased production of stoneware altogether, focusing its business instead on art pottery and dinnerware.
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