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Flower Pot

Bell, John
Place Made:
Winchester Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
earthenware –lead-glazed
HOA: 8 1/2″; WOA: 14 1/4″; DOA: 12″
Accession Number:
Though this large green earthenware flower pot was intended to be round in shape, it became oblong as it warped during the kiln firing. The rim is coggled, meaning that a notched roller was run along the damp edge making a textured surface. It has a trimmed foot and trimmed base along with two pulled strap handles that were attached at the rim to make an inverted cup shape. Two finger mark the terminals of the handles. The underside of each handle has a coggled edge. The initials, “MCB” are inscribed on one side. Just above the monogram, a sine wave runs around the pot between two bands of incised lines. An band of incised lines incised also decorates the base of the flower pot. Also near the base of the planter is stamped “I*BELL” for John Bell. This stamp is documented as being used during Bell’s work in Winchester, Virginia between 1824 and 1825. A white slip was applied to the exterior of the piece before the green lead glaze.

The misshapen appearance of the piece does not take away from the fact that this was likely made as a special piece for a particular person. The initials, “MCB” are possibly for the potter’s mother, Mary Zigler (or Cigler) Bell. The piece was purchased from a Winchester, Virginia, family who had it in their possession for several generations.

MAKER: John Bell (1800-1880) was the oldest of Peter Bell’s ten children. Peter Bell was a prominent potter in Hagerstown, Maryland and Winchester, Virginia. There is little evidence for John Bell’s work in Winchester other than several records and a tin-glazed ink stand in the collections of the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley that has “J.Bell” stamped on it and “Winchester / March 12th 1825” incised on the back. Between 1826 and 1829 John Bell moved to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and then to Waynesboro, Pennsylvania where he continued making pottery through the third quarter of the nineteenth-century.

HISTORY: The incised initials may be those of John Bell’s mother, Mary Zigler or Cigler Bell. The flower pot was purchased from a Winchester, Virginia family who had possession of it for several generations. (When found by the dealer, it was still in use. The family agreed to sell the pot, but not the cactus it contained!)

ATTRIBUTION: Attribution is made based on the “I*Bell” stamp, known to have been used by John Bell in Winchester, Virginia, 1824-1825.

STYLE: The form dates back to the late eighteenth century. The rare, pocket-type handles are known on objects made by Peter Bell, as well as on other Hagerstown vessels of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Sherds of similar vessels have been found at the Peter Bell Hagerstown site, but this is the only known intact example.

Credit Line:
MESDA Purchase Fund