Chalkware: A Point of American Accessibility

01/22/2022     General

Long before cheap plastics invaded our homes, there was Chalkware. Chalkware was made and sold in America as early as 1770, created from a formula of gypsum and plaster of Paris that could be molded into a variety of shapes and sizes. For many average families, porcelain and ceramics were still expensive, and some early chalkware designs from the 19th century were made to resemble the more expensive varieties of things like English Staffordshire. By the 1930s, chalkware became a perfect material to make whimsical carnival prizes, like dogs with funny hats, and cats, airbrushed in bright color with glitter! (lots 22-25) By the 1950s and 1960s a diverse array of figural lamps, wall plaques, and other types of decorative items became synonymous with the mid-century look. Ceramics were still expensive and somewhat limited in the post-war years, but the market for stylish, modern design was booming, and chalkware fit the mold as an available and affordable alternative. Chalkware’s earliest production can be traced to cities in Pennsylvania, so it is no surprise that a company like the Pittsburgh Statuary Company continued the tradition; their designs are among the most collected from the period. (lots 47-50) One problem with chalkware was its lack of durability, and its popularity faded by the 1960s, and once again ceramics reclaimed its place in the home. Manufactures like Hull, an Ohio based company, and McCoy (lot 1, lot 139, 141) were able to meet the demand for on trend styles. Even after a fire devastated the Hull factory, the Hull wares were so in demand, they were able to quickly rebuild and offer customers new designs like the Pine pattern and Continental line (lot 133, 137).

Lot 22 in Hayloft DC January Auction: Four Carnival Chalkware Figures

Lot 48 in Hayloft DC January Auction: Pair PGH Statuary Co. Figural Chalkware Lamps

Lot 1 in Hayloft DC January Auction: Vintage McCoy Cat's in the Basket Cookie Jar

Lot 133 in Hayloft DC January Auction: Two Pieces of Hull Pottery


These are all the lots for the Hayloft DC January Auction! Happy bidding!