Tag Archives: Ceramics

Now online: Hearthstone Historic House Museum

Fireplace at Hearthstone

Fireplace in Hearthstone parlor, with mantel carved by William Van Strattum and tiles painted by Frederika Crane.

Seven catalog entries for objects from Hearthstone Historic House Museum in Appleton are now online in the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database. Built on a bluff overlooking the Fox River in 1881, Hearthstone’s primary claim to fame is that it was the first home in the world lit by hydroelectric power.

This Queen Anne-style brick home was designed by William Waters, an architect based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Much of the interior woodwork, including the bird’s-eye maple mantelpiece shown above, was the handiwork of a young Appleton woodworker named William Van Strattum. Other works by Van Strattum at Hearthstone include two marquetry tables and an intricately carved wall pocket, which he is said to have made for his wife LuLu Lansing in 1884.

Crane's signature

Crane's signature on mantel tiles.

Noted Green Bay artist Frederika Crane painted the porcelain tiles that surround the parlor fireplace. The woman illustrated on the tiles is thought to represent Evangeline, the central figure in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1847 poem of the same name. Hearthstone also holds several more typical examples of Crane’s work in china painting, most notably a set of twelve dinner plates decorated with birds.

Detail, wall pocket, William Van Stratum

The prominent initials "LL" on this birch and oak wall pocket suggest that William Van Stratum carved the work as a gift for his future wife, LuLu Lansing.

The collections documented at Hearthstone complement two other collections in the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database: china painting by Frederika Crane from the Brown County Historical Society in Green Bay and other examples of Appleton’s late 19th century material culture from the History Museum at the Castle.

–Posted by Emily Pfotenhauer

New online exhibit spotlights Pauline Pottery’s women artists

The new digital exhibit "Behind the Brush: The Women of the Pauline Pottery" explores the stories of the women behind the success of the Pauline Pottery, an Edgerton, Wisconsin-based art pottery studio.

The digital exhibition “Behind the Brush: The Women of the Pauline Pottery” examines the work and lives of six women who worked for the Pauline Pottery in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: Laura Fry, Mae Johnson Wilt, Eugenie Hutchinson, Lulu Devereaux Dixon, Marie Brastad, and of course, the company’s founder, Pauline Jacobus. Most of the works featured come from collections documented in the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database, including the Kenosha Public Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Neville Public Museum of Brown County, the Rock County Historical Society,  the Wisconsin Historical Museum, and the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. Additional images were provided by Pauline Pottery authority Ori-Anne Pagel of the Wisconsin Pottery Association.

Credit for much of the writing and research for the exhibit goes to Laura Houston, an undergraduate in the History Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who worked with me this summer on an internship sponsored by the Chipstone Foundation and the UW’s Material Culture Program.

I created the exhibit in part as an experiment in the use of Pachyderm, an open-source, web-based multimedia authoring tool developed by the New Media Consortium. It was a little tricky to use–there’s no WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) interface, so it took a lot of back-and-forth between the web form and the preview pages to make sure things were turning out the way I wanted. But there’s no programming knowledge needed and I think the results look pretty slick. I’m hoping to use Pachyderm again in the future as a way to highlight other groups of objects in the database.

Posted by Emily Pfotenhauer.

Now Online: Sauk County Historical Society

Now that the Wisconsin decorative arts exhibition is installed, I’ve been spending a lot of time in front of the computer and in the library stacks, researching and writing about the objects I photographed at several sites over the past several months. My most recent additions to the database are 11 artifacts from the Sauk County Historical Society in Baraboo, including a pre-1840 Oneida stamped woodsplint basket and a straw case made to hold the first temperance pledge signed in Baraboo in 1844.

Early ceramic production in Baraboo is represented by four items attributed to the Pointon Pottery, including the covered jar shown here. Born in England in 1808, Philip Pointon operated a pottery in the community from 1851 until his death in 1857. According to the Society, Pointon’s pottery produced “enough jars, jugs and other wares to keep three wagons delivering to the surrounding towns in central Sauk County. [He] used local clay obtained at ‘Gillson’s slough’ west of the city.” An 1851 advertisement for the “Baraboo Pottery” in the Sauk County Standard states that “Philip Pointon has now on hand a large assortment of Jars, Crocks, Jugs, Dishes, Stove coolers, garden Pots &c., and other kinds of pottery ware, which he now offers for sale 75 per cent below the prices usually charged for such articles.”

The four pieces attributed to Pointon in the Society’s collection are all unmarked, and are dramatically different from one another. This makes it challenging to confirm these attributions. The history associated with this covered jar provides the strongest evidence for the Pointon attribution. A handwritten note pasted to the underside reads: “This jar was made by Philip Pointon in the spring of 1853 in Baraboo Wis in a Pottery that was on the corner of Second Av and West St. It was given by Mr. and Mrs. Y. B. Gibbes who have lived in Baraboo 56 years. 1896.”

The Sauk County Historical Society is in the midst of a major expansion project–the transformation of the former Island Woolen Company Office Building into a new history center is currently underway. When the history center is completed, the Society’s current home, the Van Orden Mansion, will become a historic house museum.

Posted by Emily Pfotenhauer.

Pauline Pottery jar is Museum Object of the Week

This covered jar made by the Pauline Pottery is the Wisconsin Historical Museum’s current Object of the Week. In the feature article, I attempted to connect this jar with the broader stories of the ceramic industry in Edgerton, the American Art Pottery movement, and women’s role in ceramic art at the turn of the twentieth century. I may have gotten a little carried away–the feature is rather long–but there are so many interesting aspects to this story that it was tough for me to leave anything out.

This jar was one of the dozens of ceramics that I photographed last winter in the collections of the Wisconsin Historical Museum. These artifacts are part of an online tour of Wisconsin ceramic art.

Posted by Emily Pfotenhauer.

Now Online: Oconto County Historical Society

The Beyer Home, shown here in an 1952 image, is now a historic house operated by the Oconto County Historical Society. WHi-43378.

The Beyer Home, shown here in an 1952 image, is now a historic house operated by the Oconto County Historical Society. Wisconsin Historical Society (WHi-43378).

Twenty artifacts from the collections of the Oconto County Historical Society are now online in the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database. Most of the objects I documented are on view at the Beyer Home Museum, an 1868 brick building restored to the period of the 1890s, when local figure George Beyer lived there. Some highlights include a hanging corner cupboard with impressive inlay work made by Dutch immigrant Martin Van Rens; porcelain dishware hand-painted by Oconto artist Carrie Links Oliver; and an unusual butternut desk with Gothic-style arched doors by an unidentified cabinemaker.

Posted by Emily Pfotenhauer.

Now Online: Rock County Historical Society


Detail, Log cabin quilt, Ann Hart Fathers, Janesville, 1858-1900. Born in London, Fathers settled in Janesville in 1858 and was the mother of the city’s first mayor.

46 catalog entries for objects from the Rock County Historical Society in Janesville are now available online. There’s quite a variety of items original to Rock County and the surrounding areas, including 22 examples of Edgerton art pottery, 8 pieces of locally-manufactured furniture, and 10 quilts.

This summer I am lucky to have an intern from the Material Culture Program at UW-Madison (supported by funding from the Caxambas Foundation of Janesville). Maggie Ordon, a graduate student in the Design Studies program at Madison, has provided excellent assistance with research and data entry. She used Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns to identify the patterns for the Rock County quilts as well as all the other quilts in the database.

The quilt pattern I’ve seen most often–and one of my favorites–is the Log Cabin pattern and all of its variations. Although they were most popular during the mid-nineteenth century, the optical effects of log cabin quilts look very modern. A fascinating article from the International Quilt Study Center, “Design Dynamics of Log Cabin Quilts,” examines how quilters played with different visual effects through varied arrangements of light and dark fabrics. It’s available online here in pdf form.

Posted by Emily Pfotenhauer.

Now Online: Dodge County Historical Society

Back in March I visited the Dodge County Historical Society in Beaver Dam. 15 catalog entries for artifacts from their collections can now be viewed online in the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database. My favorite artifact from Beaver Dam would have to be the board chair (above) said to have been made by early local settler Joseph Weishaupt around 1843. This chair is made in a traditional German style with the simplest of tools–a saw and a draw knife–and is joined entirely with wooden wedges and pegs–no nails, screws, or glue to be found.

Posted by Emily Pfotenhauer.