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.
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.