“Rebecca” Pitchers

1930s Rebecca Pitcher by Log Cabin Pottery (signed).  The tall narrow form identifies it; the handle is more practical than most, and would have fit into the kiln much better than the J.B. Cole-style tall looped handles..

1930s Rebecca Pitcher by Log Cabin Pottery (signed). The tall narrow shape and flared spout identifies it; the handle is more practical than most, and would have fit into the kiln much better than the J.B. Cole-style exaggerated loop handles..

The blog “Potters for the N.C. Pottery Center” has an interesting and useful new post about “Rebecca” pitchers, which were one of the most popular products of local potters during the “art pottery” era of the 1930s and 40s.  Go to their blog entry here.

The name comes from the Biblical story of Rebecca at the well of Nahor in Genesis, Chapter 24.   Isaac, son of Abraham, was old enough to marry, and Abraham sent a servant to the city of Nahor in Mesopotamia to find a suitable young woman.  The servant arrived at the local well with ten of Abraham’s camels, and planned to ask the young women of the city for a drink of water.  Any one who not only gave him a drink, but poured water for the camels, would be the one sent by God for Isaac’s wife.

“Rebecca, who was born to Bethuel… came out with her pitcher on her shoulder… And she went down to the well, filled her pitcher… And the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please let me drink a little water from your pitcher.”  So she said, “Drink, my lord.”  Then she… let down her pitcher and gave him a drink.   And when she had finished… she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.”  then she hastened and emptied her pitcher into the trough, ran back to the well to draw water, and drew water for all his camels.  [verses 15-20]

Rebeccas from the 1940 JB Cole catalog.

Rebeccas from the 1940 JB Cole catalog.

The form was one of the most popular products of the J.B. Cole Pottery on the border between Randolph and Montgomery counties.  Their 1940 catalog displays many different sizes and several different forms of Rebecca pitcher (see the catalog here).   The children of J.B. Cole, Waymon and Nell, both lived in Randolph county and were familiar figures at the pottery for more than 60 years; they both made Rebecca pitchers large and small and in a myriad of different glaze colors.

Rebecca jugs were one of the first forms which were “just for show,” meaning that they had no day to day use.  The tall, narrow shape and impractical tall looped handle of the jugs were impractical for almost any method of dipping and carrying water in rural North Carolina.

Stoneware milk pitcher (signed), made by my great-grandfather W. Henry Chrisco.

Stoneware milk pitcher (signed), made by my great-grandfather W. Henry Chrisco.

The standard utilitarian forms were pitchers and jugs.  Pitchers were short and fat, with wide mouths, usually used to serve milk;

Stoneware jug made by the Taylor pottery in Petersburg, VA.

Stoneware jug made by the Taylor pottery in Petersburg, VA.

Jugs were round and bulbous with narrow mouths, usually used to store and transport liquor.

Islamic ewer from Iran, ca. 700 AD.  Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Islamic ewer from Iran, ca. 700 AD. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The shape of a Rebecca pitcher is that of a “ewer,” an ancient ceremonial form with a single tall handle and a flaring spout.  This was definitely NOT a traditional North Carolina form, and was probably copied from Sunday School literature which illustrated archeological forms.

Modern Rebecca Pitcher by King's Pottery.

Modern Rebecca Pitcher by King's Pottery.

The form is still offered in some fashion by most of the Seagrove area potters.  Here’s one from King’s Pottery, which has their website here.

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5 Responses to ““Rebecca” Pitchers”

  1. Toby Chriscoe Says:

    I have a couple of questions about the picture of the pottery made and signed by W.H. Chrisco. This piece looks like it has a glaze on it (maybe it is the light in the picture) and from my experience most of his are salt glaze or no glaze at all. And most of his pieces are more like the jug pictured below his. Also, did he really sign it or is it his stamp? I’m just trying to find out more about W.H. Chrisco pottery and the history of the man since he is my great-great grandfather. If anyone can help out, it would be greatly appreciated.

  2. macwhatley Says:

    That photograph came from an online auction catalog; it does look shinier and smoother than usual, but that may be the photograph. He only made salt-glazed stoneware, but the highest quality of that ideally comes out looking like the surface of an eggshell. Lesser quality (even out of the same kiln) will have rougher glazing, and what he would have considered the lowest quality, pieces where the salt liquified and dripped greenish glassy spots on the pot, collectors actually consider the most desirable today.
    I am sure that it is stamped “W.H CRISCO” as that is what is usually meant when a catalog says “signed.” None of my family pieces have a signature, although many have numerals incised by hand (usually to indicate the gallon capacity).
    I have a few stamped pieces and a few more that aren’t signed that I know he made because my grandfather Walter B. Chriscoe told us so.
    One of these days I will write about Henry Chrisco and his pottery shop that was accessioned by the Smithsonian in the 1970s.

  3. michael Says:

    Hi, I thought that you may be interested in a very large C.C.Cole Pottery, Rebecca Jug that I am posting on eBay later today. It is an exquisite piece and a wonderful representation of this work. The auction # will be 350351600950. Thanks for your time, Dr. M Weir (Retired)

  4. David Jackson Says:

    I purchased 3 Rebecca 5.5 inch pitchers yesterday at the Goodwill store. Two of them are marked on the base Nell Cole Graves 92 Age 83 and have the famous Cole Aqua glaze. One is in a green and marked J.B. Coles Seagrove Nell Cole Graves age 84 NC 1993. I collect antique bottles and pottery and feel blessed to add these to my collection.

  5. Larice Canoy white Says:

    Henry Chriscoe was my great grandfather too. I would love to have more information on the smithonian information. Thank you

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