Identify Vintage and Collectible American Pottery Dogs[retrieved from http://www.cajunc.com/art-pottery-dogs]
Brief History of Pottery Figurines
American pottery figurines were plentiful and inexpensive when produced. With breakage and accumulated collections, the collector no longer uses "plentiful" and "inexpensive" in the same sentence with "American pottery figurines." Collectors favor figurines over pots and vases, so figurines are often at premium prices. The popularity of dogs never wanes, and collecting these expressive animals in clay from another era for profit or pleasure may be high on your to-do list. Identifying the companies or studio artists who made them may be second on your list -- and more challenging.
American pottery enjoyed a golden era in the 1940s through the 1960s. By 1970, most of the American pottery companies were out of business. Imports were cheap and plentiful. American companies couldn't compete with import prices because foreign labor was cheaper than American labor. Collectors choose to collect American pottery in the 21st century because of the quality and style, and because it is still available on the secondary market. Whether shopping online or in your favorite collectibles mall, you can seek out a company or type of figurine and develop a collection. Once you have a collection, (that's more than two), you'll want to identify the makers and maybe determine the values.
Identifying unmarked American pottery is a challenge. With a little luck, you may find a marked figurine and an identical unmarked one -- making that identification easy. Those who collect in one area of American pottery carry over knowledge acquired in that area to another. For example, if you can identify American Bisque figurines or cookie jars, you know the color of the clay and the wedge-type base this company used.
We've been collecting American pottery for 30 years and have learned a little along the way. We collect many different kinds of figurines in pottery and glass. If you have ideas or knowledge about a photo here, you're welcome to send us a note. We like communication.
How Do You Know It's American Pottery?
- American pottery is denser than most imports.
- Japanese copies of American pottery dogs are lighter weight and thinner clay.
- Imports may sound hollow when tapped and many are marked with the country of origin.
Give yourself a seminar by shopping in an antiques and collectibles mall. Pick up some figurines, read the tags and get a feel for American pottery. Talk with shop owners or mall workers. Look for ink stamps or paper tags. Look online for images and purchase a few books if you prefer paper pages.
California companies probably had the best designers of American pottery dogs. Robert Simmons, Kay Finch, Hagen-Renaker, Rio Hondo, and Jane Callender captured some impressive expressions and collectible figurines.
Other potters like Pacific Clay Products, Roselane, Brad Keeler, Walker Potteries and Metlox made dog figurines as well.
Robert Simmons dogs are some of the most creative pups, doing what pups do best -- being cute.
You can sometimes identify Robert Simmons dogs by a spot of paint on the bottom of the figurine. California Potteries: The Complete Book (A Schiffer Book for Collectors) by Mike Schneider has copies of pages from a catalog with many of the Robert Simmons figurines, p. 197-198.
The clay is an off-white and the coloring is sometimes unusual -- dogs often have yellow ochre or mustard coloring on the ears.
Kay Finch was a dog lover. She raised show dogs but also designed dog figurines, particularly large dogs.
She liked poodles, cocker spaniels and Afghan hounds but she created boxers, mutts and Airedales with equal ability. She made a Yorkshire terrier pup and a whippet, a foo dog and a Pekinese.
Her dogs are expressive, detailed, and are usually stand-alone figurines.
She made a cigarette jar with a Yorkie figurine on the side and a stein with a poodle handle, but hollow pieces like planters weren't her usual style. She made dog-head ashtrays and plaques with dogs. Some of her dogs are marked on the bottom, but many aren't marked. Others have Freeman-McFarlin stickers as she designed some dogs for the company.
Hagen-Renaker was famous for miniatures, making dogs in California from 1946 to 2012. Many pottery dogs about an inch tall are Hagen-Renaker products.
H-R has reissued many items and introduced new items in recent years, and horses are a popular figurine line.
Hagen-Renaker also made dogs in the 3 to 5 inch size, including a German shepherd, a basset hound, Boston terriers and an Irish setter.
Rio Hondo dogs usually have just one or two colors on an ecru background or base clay.
These California pups are easily mistaken for Chic Pottery of Ohio. Walker pottery made similar dog figurines and some Winton figurines were hand painted in the same style.
Just when you think you can identify some of these, you'll find another maker like deLee that made a cocker, Scotties, two dachshunds and a pair of Airedales along with an English sheepdog and a couple of poodles. Some of these have hand painted eyes or lashes.
Bauer began making pottery animals in an artware line it called Cal-Art pottery in the late 1930s after Ray Murray came from Frankoma to join Bauer as a designer. The Scottie dog and the hippo were shown in a 1941 Bauer catalog reprint, and experts attribute some ducks to this line.
Bauer also made three sizes of swans in Cal-Art.
Jack Chipman shows the Scottie on page 81 of the Collector's Encyclopedia of Bauer Pottery - Identification & Values from 1998. A standing Collie that looks like Bauer was for sale online, but since these figurines aren't marked, it's difficult to say for certain that it's a Cal-Art figurine.
While we don't currently have any pictures of the Bauer figurines, you can find a few photos of the Bauer Scottie here at WorthPoint.com.
Pacific Clay Products made numerous figurines, but not many dogs. It made a terrier with its chin up like it's in a dog show.
Jane Callender made beautiful dogs, some with fine spaghetti ears or accents. She also made pottery pins in dog silhouettes.
Roselane made two kinds of dogs -- sparklers with inset eyes and a rough finish, and pottery dogs marked on the bottom with the Roselane name.
Brad Keeler made a gingham pup that's often available online.
Arkansas and Oklahoma Dogs
Camark made the dogs in compromising positions -- they just need a fire hydrant or a front yard to go with the figurine. If you take your eyes off the action and look at the front end, these may be beagles.
Camark also made a standing wire-haired terrier and a bulldog playing or begging on its haunches, along with another standing bulldog. Another large dog with a collar and short ears is numbered "N130" in a catalog reprint.
A dachshund puppy between 4 and 5 inches long is a Camark dog as well.
Niloak dogs were usually planters -- a Scotty and a poodle both have a hole in the center of the back to hold a flower.
Florists used cute American figurines for potted plants for gifts. (They also used cute Japan figurines -- lighter weight, more porous clay and almost white like chalk.)
Niloak made three or four miniature dogs less than 3 inches tall and a sitting retriever shown in Ozark Dawn glaze in David Gifford's Collectors Encyclopedia of Niloak: A Reference and Value Guide, 2nd Edition.
Dryden made Scottie bookends and a sitting Scottie figurine while the pottery was still in Kansas. If you're lucky enough to find these, they should be a tan clay. Most Dryden dogs were Scottish terriers.
Frankoma made dog banks -- a collie and another dog that may be a terrier. Short-haired collie head bookends were available in the 50s and again in the 1970s. Frankoma also produced Irish setter bookends and made Gracetone dogs in shapes of an English setter, a terrier and a barking hound.
McCoy made a planter with a dog holding something in his mouth. There is also a stretch dog and a puppy planter with ears sticking out. There was a poodle planter, a dog pulling a wooden cart and a black poodle planter. McCoy made several large bird dog planters and a dog TV lamp. A long Scottie dog dish has five dog heads on the front.
Even as late as the early 70s, McCoy made a sitting dog planter in several colors.
Brush-McCoy made a miniature Scottie, a couple of 4-inch Scotties and two different bulldog figurines. See these in an ad on p. 34 of Sanfords Guide to Brush-McCoy Pottery Book 2.
American Bisque was a West Virginia pottery company across the river from Ohio whose claim to fame is cookie jars, although it made figural planters in large quantities as well. This company operated from 1919 to the 1980s.
You can sometimes identify American Bisque pottery by the wedge shapes on the bottoms. Much American Bisque is marked USA on the bottom. Additionally, American Bisque used airbrush techniques much like Royal Copley.
For more information on distinguishing pottery by the bottom (and some examples), see our article on Identifying American Pottery.
A cocker with a basket was an American Bisque design. A dog and a cat beside a stump was an American Bisque figurine along with a couple of black Dalmatians cuddled beside a pink planter. A puppy with a shoe and a black poodle planter complete the dog figurines from American Bisque, but it also made Pluto salt and pepper shakers and a Dumbo/Pluto turnabout cookie jar.
You may think Royal Copley made mostly birds. No doubt they made many birds, chickens, ducks and pigs -- but poodles and spaniels were the specialty dogs for Royal Copley.
There were many variations on poodle planters -- sitting, standing, resting, walking or begging poodles in white and black and one or two in brown.
Other planters were the cocker spaniel head and the cocker with a basket as well as a sitting cocker with a planter cut out in the back. One spaniel pulls a wagon planter and one is in a planter basket.
The pup with the suitcase is a planter, but the same pup is a figurine model, too. Other dogs from Royal Copley are figurines, not planters, including a sitting Airedale and a sitting cocker.
Robinson-Ransbottom made a spaniel figurine on an ashtray. In figurines, RRPCO produced a pug, a Pekinese and a big-eyed pooch that some might identify as an Airedale. The pooch looks like a well-fed Chic pottery dog. Robinson-Ransbottom used the spaniel figurine on two different sizes of planters.
Zanesville Pottery made a fat-cheeked personality pup with hand painted round circle eyes and a red tongue. This was F-26 shape and was a planter. For further information on Zanesville figurines and pots with some photos, see: More than McCoy: Zanesville Stoneware Co.
Purinton made a sitting terrier.
Weller made two different dachshunds and both are marked. It also made a dog ashtray. He has a bone, so you'll recognize him before you turn him over to see a handwritten mark. The most famous Weller dog is the pop-eyed mutt.
Chic Pottery made terriers and mutts in Zanesville from about 1940 to 1954 and had a factory in Wellsville before that date.
Most of the Chic dogs aren't marked. Many look underfed and a few have a separate fire hydrant. These dogs have spots in brown or black on an ecru clay base. Some of the Chic pottery dogs have square spots and eyebrows that meet.
LePere Pottery made a sitting Scotty figurine in a pose similar to one made by Bauer of California. LePere also made a hound dog bank on the order of one of the Dakota pottery figurines.
A few LePere figurines are marked and sometimes you can identify LePere by the gold trim or gold decoration.
Grindley Pottery, known as Grindleyware and Grindley Art Ware, made figurines so similar to the LePere output that it's a challenge to attempt to tell them apart. Art Grindley, Jr. tells us that the Herolds, owners of LePere, and his Dad were friends.
Grindley made an Art Deco-style sitting dog along with a couple of hound dogs sniffing the ground, and hundreds of playful dog figurines shown in the old catalogs.
Grindley also made a St. Bernard figurine, terriers in different poses, a bulldog, a setter and a borzoi along with some mutts. One of the trademarks of Grindley Pottery is a gold lock design found on some of the solid-color glazes. You can see some of the dogs from the catalog provided by Art Grindley, Jr. to the Sebring Ohio Historical Society.
Art Grindley closed his pottery in 1952 and later worked as President of Shawnee Pottery in the 1950s and president of Vogue Artware in Dennison, Ohio after. He was Vice President of American Pottery in Marietta, Ohio from about 1962 through 1965.
The Muggsy dog cookie jar was one of Shawnee Pottery's popular cookie jar lines. Shawnee also made a hound dog planter in its pottery production between 1937 and 1961. The dog with shoe planter "#907" is a common piece of Shawnee.
Shawnee made a spaniel, a terrier and a small Pekingese figurine. The Peke has an attitude, with nose in the air. A seated Irish setter and seated Pekingese were planters.
Shawnee also made a puppy lamp and a pooch figurine with a fly on its behind.
For some more information, photos, and the trademark from Shawnee Pottery, see Kovels: Shawnee Pottery.
Royal Haeger dogs are naturalistic, usually brown, black or cream like the breed. They made a dachshund, a collie, a cocker spaniel, a black Scottie, a boxer and maybe a yellow Labrador or German shepherd. These dogs are marked on the bottom with the Royal Haeger name.
Cliftwood Pottery was the precursor of Morton Potteries, and some of the wares are very similar.
Midwest Potteries was a related company.
For identification, it saves confusion to call them all Morton. Doris and Burdell Hall wrote the books on Morton Potteries that have helped with dog identification: Morton Potteries: 99 Years - A Product Guide with prices - Vol. 2.
A spaniel, pointer, and a police dog or German shepherd were dogs not on bases. The bulldog, afghan hound, German shepherd and Irish setter were all on bases.
Morton also made TV lamps, featuring the afghan hounds and the poodle and pug combination. A Scottie creamer, sugar and a planter look similar.
Two dogs shown in Morton Potteries: 99 Years, Vol. 2 that don't seem to match other Morton production were the "hillbilly hounds." One of these is scratching and the other has his paw over an eye.
Morton Potteries is not the same as Mortens Studio figurines from Chicago. Mortens Studio dogs are marked with a circle copyright on the bottom, have excellent detail and are heavy.
Klay Kraft of Milford, Nebraska, made salt and pepper shakers and ashtrays shaped like states. This company also made dogs, as we have one with the original label.
This cocker has much the same design as those made by several other companies and without the label we would not have identified that one correctly.
Abingdon Pottery made many vases in Art Deco style but also made some figurines. One of these was a dog planter with a heavy glaze on a rectangular base.
George RumRill didn't have a pottery, but he used Redwing, Gonder, Florence and Royal Haeger to produce his designs. He made a small dog planter shown in one of the catalogs as "R 204."
RedWing made two different sizes of dachshund planters.
Uhl pottery of Evansville and Huntingburg, Indiana made a Scottie dog similar to the Bauer dog. The tail of the Uhl scottie extends from the body. Uhl also made another sitting terrier, a bulldog and three miniature standing dogs.
Salt and pepper shakers were a Rosemeade pottery specialty, and the begging puppies are cute and quality American pottery. You may also find the begging puppy as a figurine. Two mini cocker spaniels in different coloring are Rosemeade products, too.
Numerous dog heads are classic salt and pepper shakers from Rosemeade, including a chow-chow, fox terrier, bloodhound, Dalmatian, and greyhound. It also made the Boston terrier, Scottish terrier, English bulldog and English setter along with a cocker spaniel and a toy spaniel, all salt and pepper shakers.
The pointer salt and pepper are unusual because they are full-body figurines, not just the head. Rosemeade made a wolfhound, both as a TV light and as a planter. It also made Russian wolfhound figurines as bookends. A cocker spaniel spoonrest was another Rosemeade product.
The same mold for the salt and pepper shakers was used on ashtrays, and some figurines were sold separately, Darlene Dommel explains in Collectors Encyclopedia of Rosemeade Pottery Identification.
Broadmoor Pottery of Colorado Springs made a small dachshund in brown and maybe a miniature mutt with floppy ears and big eyes. Darlene Dommel shows that pooch in Collector's Encyclopedia of the Dakota Potteries: Identification & Values as Dickinson Clay Products, not Broadmoor. I've seen it identified as Broadmoor as well.
Rocky Mountain Art Pottery made a 10-inch poodle figurine.
Many American pottery dogs are available for $5 to $50, so you can collect without using all of your grocery money. A few figurines are worth watching for -- you may find a sleeper if someone doesn't recognize the maker.
- Stangl Pottery in New Jersey made mostly bird figurines, but it made a wolfhound you'll want to watch for. Stangl also made a standing wire-haired terrier and a sitting dog numbered "3280."
- In California pottery, the Bauer terrier is another treasure.
- Brayton Laguna made a Pluto to watch for.
- Will-George was a California company that made some fine-quality dog figurines that are uncommon enough to be spendy.
- Kay Finch dogs are as valuable as they are expressive and she often used a very light stamp on the bottom.
If you find one of these treasures, you'll be hooked for a lifetime of collecting.
We have more articles on pottery here.
For the dog lovers out there, see the American Kennel Club — they've been an invaluable resource for determining some of the pedigrees in these pieces.
If you notice that any of these figurine breeds are mismarked, let us know!