This very large, blue and white spongeware item was used primarily as a foot warmer, although it could be used as a bed warmer also. Horse-drawn carriages were cold to travel in and automobiles in the 1910-1920's era did not have heaters. To make travel more comfortable, water was heated on the stove and poured into this vessel; the heavy stoneware retained the warmth for toasty feet or hands. It could also be place in a cold winter bed for some time before retiring so the sheets would be nice and warm--for awhile.
This stoneware piece is decorated with blue sponging, made by applying cobalt oxide with a sponge or rag. It was produced by the Pacific Stoneware Company, which originated in 1873 as Pacific Pottery Company in Portland, Oregon. It was one of the early potteries on the West Coast and the first in the Portland area. In 1910 the name of the company was changed to the Pacific Stoneware Company. They produced crocks, bowls, bread pans, flower pots and many other utilitarian items. In 1960, it was purchased by Bennett Welsh, who began producing art pottery instead. The bottom of the foot warmer is stamped with the circular blue mark of the pottery and it dates from 1910.
This spongeware piece weighs 5 1/2 pounds and is in amazing condition--no chips, no cracks, no discoloration--and came to us with its possibly original cork. It measures about 6 inches tall to the top of the lip and about 10 inches in diameter. This is an unusual, uncommon antique spongeware piece for any collector.
© Linda Henrich
Photos by: Wayne Henrich