Articles At A Glance
Rediscovering Old Wooden Ware and Some of Their Makers
As seen in The Antique Shoppe Newspaper, June 2007
Before you tag your grandmothers wood salad bowl and storage pieces for your next garage sale, learn a few facts beginning with the name. The wood eating, serving and storage pieces used by many of Americas settlers is properly called “Treenware.” Which meant it was made from trees. It is known as “turned wood”, when turned on a lathe into more decorative pieces.
CLUES: These days, many 19th century pieces, when by a recognized maker, come to market, prices can be high. In the process of being re-discovered and re-evaluated are containers known as Peaseware and Lehnware, made beginning in the 1850s, 60s. They were named after their makers: the Pease family of Ohio and the Lehn family of Pennsylvania.
While they are appreciated for their functional decorative containers they also created one-of-a-kind items. These unique pieces of Peaseware were sold at world’s fairs and expositions from 1876 to 1906. According to research done by collect-writers Gene and Linda Kargas “they developed elaborate “glued-up” ware to attract customers at these events. An example a humidor, discovered in Maine, had many attachments.” Prices can vary widely. Opportunities for collecting abound since it has gone unrecognized until recently. Peaseware is made of maple, sometimes combined with other woods and lacquered. Lehnware had paint decorated surfaces and being more colorful than Peaseware usually sold for more to folk art collectors. At a recent Cowan Auction in Cincinnati, Ohio, a covered container “with traces of red paint” was sold as Peaseware for $920. Was it , therefore Lehnware and would it have sold for as much if so?
Turned burl bowls have long fetched big bucks at auctions and shops, often several thousand dollars.
To give you an idea of what type of treenware is still around, here is a bit of history. When you think about pioneer homes, realize that not only meal service, but food preparation and preservation required objects that could be cleaned, scalded and were practically non-breakable. To meet the need there was treenware for bread making, pickling and salting. You name it and there was a treenware object for it.
In early America wood so plentiful that coopers, turners and other woodworkers had their choice of burls (gnarled, knotty protuberances on various trees) and woods known for their fine graining.
Porringers and decorative spoons were finely turned and often carved. Burl was incorporated into the design. The most common burl used was maple. Painted bowls and boxes can be European or newly aged reproductions. “Wagon blue” used to paint farm wagons, and “turkey red” were favorites. Gray, gray green, dark green and blue are apt to be new.
Dovetailed boxes should have hand forged nails of copper or iron. The earliest bowls were hand-hollowed. Later examples will show 19th century turners marks (concentric circles).
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