Ant Defenders: The Timeless Pest

Set of four ant defenders or traps

19th century

Attributed to Rye family of potters

Marion County, Alabama

Stoneware with salt glaze

Collection of Jerry Otts


Although not exclusively produced in Alabama, ant defenders (also called ant traps) were an especially popular, and useful, form. Ant defenders are ceramic disks with either one or two basins. The outer ring was filled with water, turpentine, or kerosene while the dry inner portion held the leg of a table, sideboard, or hunt board (as shown in the image below). Ants could not cross the liquid barrier, protecting the foodstuffs on the furniture above.

Hunt board

Circa 1820-1830

Attributed to Jehiel Watson (1794-1850)

Greene County, Alabama

Yellow pine

Collection of Beth and Fred Mercier, on loan in memory of Robert Hicks


The name “Watson” is inscribed on the interior of this tall side or hunt board, possibly the signature of cabinetmaker Jehiel Watson. Born in Georgia to a cabinetmaker father, Watson migrated westward to Alabama, eventually settling in Greene County.