Stoneware by Red Wing

Stoneware. What a curious word to describe something as fragile as pottery. This term fills collectors with many questions the first time they hear this term: Does it refer to those items such as crocks, jugs and churns, or does it refer to the grade of material from which articles are made? Actually, it is used to describe both the material and the type of product. 
Upon reflection, the comparison to stone is understandable. Stoneware has a hard, dense body that in color and feel is reminiscent of stone. Chemically, it is made of the same elements, in the same proportions as the crust of the earth. The articles traditionally made from this material were similarly common. 

While finer grades of clay, porcelains and china have been transformed into delicate works of art, the “wares” made in stoneware clay are traditionally utilitarian. A large part of the thrill of stoneware collecting is the discovery of exceptional examples of beauty and graceful form among these common containers.

Red Wing’s factories brought stoneware manufacturing to its high water mark. They were unsurpassed in quality and output, consequently their products enjoy enduring fame and wide distribution.


Red Wing Jugs Collecting Red Wing jugs is fun! The one stoneware item that fits all collectors’ tastes are jugs. If you like different shapes, then jugs are for you. They come in many different shapes such as the dome top, funnel top, beehive, bailed and more. If you like color, then jugs are for you. They come in light tan (salt glaze), white, brown, and brown/white. If you like different sized items, then jugs are for you. They come in small sizes such as the one-eighth pints to big five-gallon sizes while others are huge – measuring up to fifteen gallons in size. The fifteen-gallon sizes have been affectionately called the “Big Boys”. If you like advertising, then jugs are for you. They have advertising from New York to California and from Canada to Texas. If you like special events, then jugs are for you. Many jugs were made to celebrate and commemorate special events, such as the Minnesota-Michigan football games, convention of physicians, a potters’ excursion and much more. If you like fishing, then jugs are for you. The Red Wing Stoneware Company produced a jug especially for the local fisherman who plied the waters of Lake Pepin. These jugs were designed to help weigh down the nets of the fishermen.Are you convinced that jugs offer a variety of opportunities for all collectors? If so, let’s read on by discussing jug basics. There are two basic shapes, one, a “crock-jug” and two, the “beehive” jug. The beehive jug is technically referred to as a “common” jug. The crock-jug has a crock bottom and an applied top. Typically, they came in six sizes: one quart, one-half gallon, one gallon, two gallons, three gallons, four gallons, and five gallons. The applied tops vary and are referred to as standard, cone, ball, dome, pear, and funnel. To see an example of the various tops refer to the book, Red Wing Stoneware, page 20, top picture. The second basic shape, the beehive, gets its name because of its shape. The early three, four and five gallon jugs were hand-turned and it is not uncommon to see a variance in shape from one jug to another. The smaller sizes (half-gallon, one-gallon, and two-gallon) were molded, thus they remain pretty much the same from one jug to another. Both the crock-jug and the beehives have handles that were applied. A variation of the beehive jug are those that have bailed handles. They were used for liquor, vinegar, and other general uses. Some had wide-mouths and were used for storing fruit and tomatoes. These jugs came in three sizes, quart, half-gallon and gallon. They have a wide variety of shapes and can be found in white, brown, and brown and white. The most difficult color, and by far the most attractive, are those glazed with a blue sponge.

Many collectors like jugs and simply choose to collect whatever they can get their hands on while others decide to collect in a specialized area. Now that the basics have been covered, let us examine different areas in which collectors have chosen to specialize.

A number of collectors like to collect advertising jugs. In many instances people like advertising ware that may have a special meaning for them. Typically, people like to collect jugs that have advertising from the town they live in, the areas or region they are from or their home state. One of the popular states to collect advertising from is Nebraska. Jugs with advertising from Nebraska are many and varied and these items are highly prized. Still others collect advertising from Washington State, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, to mention a few.


Their pleasing shape has lead many collectors to compile sets of beehive jugs. A set represents three jugs, a three, four, and five gallon, and each would have the same design on the front. The design could be a “Wing” or “Birch Leaves”. Because of rarity, and cost, many advanced collectors hunt for those beehives stamped with “Elephant Ear” leaves. Again, refer to Red Wing Stoneware for pictures of the “Birch Leaves” and “Elephant Ears”.


This is the name given to jugs that have been dipped in a white glaze on the bottom and a brown glaze on the top. These attractive jugs were first produced in the late 1890’s. Those that have advertising (placed on the white bottom portion) add beauty to any collection. These jugs came in eight sizes, one-eighth pint, one-quarter pint, one pint, quart, half-gallon, one-gallon, and two-gallon. To collect all of these would be an impressive achievement.


The Red Wing Stoneware Company made a vast array of mini jugs. These were used to commemorate conventions, advertise businesses and sold as souvenirs by various cities. Also made were a wide variety of mini-jugs that advertised the Red Wing Stoneware Company. While all mini-jugs are difficult to find and very desirable, those that advertise the Red Wing Stoneware Company are a unique collectible.


A large number of collectors want to put together sets of those items that they like. Sets can go in any direction. For example, a collection of three, four, and five-gallon crock-jugs with a four-inch Red Wing seems simple enough. But, let us examine the variations that can occur. A collector may only want to collect those with two-inch wings and still others may or may not want an oval under the wing. A collector may only want a certain type of oval. Some may only want a jug with an oval that is over the wing. A collector may choose to collect a wing jug that is only signed Red Wing on the bottom. So, one can see that a collection can go in many different directions. Those directions depend on the taste, desires and uniqueness of the collector.
The important rule in collecting is to collect those items that you like. Use them in decorating your home so you can enjoy them every day and at the same time know that you are also saving a piece of history.