Blooming Beauties: A Garden of Antiques

Delaware Antiques Show Loan Exhibit
Blooming Beauties: A Garden of Antiques by Lisa Minardi
by Lisa Minardi

Although most fraktur were made in southeastern Pennsylvania, where a large number of German-speaking immigrants had settled, the tradition was carried into central and western Pennsylvania as well as the Shenandoah Valley, the Midwest, and even Ontario by later generations of German-speaking people. Although rare, fraktur can even be associated with Delaware, such as this colorful certificate made for Samuel Mecknolte (McNolde), who was born in New Castle County, Delaware, in 1770 (Fig. 2). It is one of the only known fraktur made for a person born in Delaware, though it was probably created in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, where Samuel was a tavern keeper.

Fig. 1: Birth and baptismal certificate of Anna Maria Weinhold, born May 31, 1774, in Brecknock Township, Berks County, Pa. Attributed to Johann Zug (act. ca. 1780–1800), ca. 1785. Watercolor and ink on laid paper. Private collection.
Fig. 1: Birth and baptismal certificate of Anna Maria Weinhold, born May 31, 1774, in Brecknock Township, Berks County, Pa. Attributed to Johann Zug (act. ca. 1780–1800), ca. 1785. Watercolor and ink on laid paper. Private collection.

Fig. 2: Birth and baptismal certificate of Samuel Mecknolte, born July 29, 1770, in New Castle County, Del. Attributed to Henrich Weiss (act. 1776–1808), probably Montgomery County, Pa, ca. 1785. Watercolor and ink on laid paper. Rocky Hill Collection.
Fig. 2: Birth and baptismal certificate of Samuel Mecknolte, born July 29, 1770, in New Castle County, Del. Attributed to Henrich Weiss (act. 1776–1808), probably Montgomery County, Pa, ca. 1785. Watercolor and ink on laid paper. Rocky Hill Collection.

Floral imagery was also used by Pennsylvania German potters to embellish their work. Plates by George Hubener of Limerick Township, Montgomery County, are known for their colorful designs as well as earthy sayings. A particularly splendid example (Fig. 3) with sgraffito decoration is dated September 10, 1785, and inscribed around the rim: “Were there no men and roosters, cradles and hen houses would be empty” (translation). Elaborate plates such as these may have been given as presentation gifts and would have been prominently displayed within the home. In addition to being embellished with floral motifs, redware was also fashioned into a variety of containers for holding flowers—including wall pockets and even quintal vases. Flowerpots in both plain and ornate versions were also produced, such as the one given by Absalom Bixler of Lancaster County to his wife Sarah that is inscribed “READY FOR A CATCH” and depicts a striped cat ready to pounce on a bird (Fig. 4).

Fig. 3: Plate attributed to George Hubener, Limerick Township, Montgomery County, Pa., 1785. Lead-glazed earthenware. Collection of Robert and Katherine Booth.
Fig. 3: Plate attributed to George Hubener, Limerick Township, Montgomery County, Pa., 1785. Lead-glazed earthenware. Collection of Robert and Katherine Booth.

Fig. 4: Flowerpot, attributed to Absalom Bixler (1802–1884) or his brother Jacob Bixler (born ca. 1808), Lancaster County, Pa., ca. 1850–1880. Lead-glazed earthenware. Collection of Robert and Katherine Booth.
Fig. 4: Flowerpot, attributed to Absalom Bixler (1802–1884) or his brother Jacob Bixler (born ca. 1808), Lancaster County, Pa., ca. 1850–1880. Lead-glazed earthenware. Collection of Robert and Katherine Booth.


These colorful objects and many more will be on view in Blooming Beauties: A Garden of Antiques, at the Delaware Antiques Show from November 4–6, 2011 at the Chase Center on the Riverfront, Wilmington, Delaware.


Lisa Minardi is assistant curator of Paint, Pattern & People: Furniture of Southeastern Pennsylvania, 1725–1850 at Winterthur Museum (on view through January 8) and coauthor of the accompanying book.

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