A couple of weeks ago, we received a call not unlike many calls we receive at the auction center. A son was calling for his Mom. She had recently had some health problems and was looking to down size a little and make some money to help with expenses once she returned home. He went on to explain that they had started cleaning out his childhood home and had found some crocks in the basement. We set up a time for him to deliver the crocks and we told him that we would get them on an auction as soon as we could as his Mom would soon be returning home.
A few days later, my husband and Harry Lahr Auctions Auctioneer, Matt came home from work. As we chatted about our day, mine at home with the kids and his at the auction center setting up the next auction he mentioned that phone call. He said, “I think this one crock is something special,” and he showed me a picture of a 4 gal. Western Stoneware beehive jug with a unique marking of a leaf with Plant 7 on it. He proceeded to share with me that in 1906 Western Stoneware Company purchased seven potteries- five in Illinois, one in Missouri and one in Iowa. Fort Dodge Stoneware of Fort Dodge, Iowa was founded in 1859 became Western Stoneware plant number seven (7) with that purchase. For a short time, they made crocks with a special mark and this jug was one of them. He asked me to put it on our website, Facebook page and to share it on a couple stoneware collector sites that we belong too.
Later that night, I uploaded the photos and put them on the internet. Sometimes I am still amazed at the power of the internet because literally within minutes, we started receiving phone calls and messages with possible bidders expressing interest in the jug. Over the next couple of days, we had made arrangements for absentee bids, phone bids and have recommended hotels for people making the drive to Earlville in hopes of purchasing the jug.
The day of the auction came and due to the interest in the Plant #7 jug we decided to set a time to sell it. When it was time for the jug to be sold we had three bidders on the phone, a stack of absentee bids and a crowd with their bidding numbers ready. The bidding started and quickly the price jumped higher than we expected. From my place at the cashier’s counter, I could tell that one phone bidder was out and just wanted to hear the final price. But in the front row sat a bidder holding up her number and she didn’t put it down. When the hammer came down she was the high bidder at $760.00.
A little while later, she walked over, told me her bidder number and gently sat the Plant #7 jug down on the counter. I pulled her ticket and realized that that was the only item she had purchased at the auction. We started chatting and I told her the story behind the jug and that the family was going to be very surprised and happy at the final price. She told me that she couldn’t wait to get home to get it cleaned up and was very happy that she was able to help the family bring their Mom home.
People have auctions for lots of reasons, but you just never know when that one special item you purchase over the phone or in person is helping someone stay in their home longer, send their kids to college, or move to another chapter of their life. Plant #7 was destroyed by fire in 1906, not long after it was purchased by Western Stoneware Company, but I wonder what the potter that turned and stamped that jug 111 years ago would have thought….How the jug that they made so long ago would be found in the basement by a family helping their Mom would make its way to our auction house in Earlville, IA and then on to a new home with one very happy bidder. To some the number 7 is lucky and to this family that Plant #7 jug certainly was.
Sources: Western Stoneware Company
University of Illinois Extension