Morton Pottery antique vegetable shaped planters are a must have for every garden. Morton pottery was among the most popular in the United States and sold in nearly every city and town. It's among the most affordable antique collectibles and widely available.
History of Morton Pottery
The term "Morton pottery" can refer to the work from any number of different companies located in Morton, Illinois. These include:
- Rapp Brothers Brick and Tile Company
- Morton Brick and Tile Company
- Morton Pottery Works
- Morton Earthenware Company
- Cliftwood Art Potteries/M. Rapp and Sons
- Midwest Pottery
- American Art Potteries
- Morton Potteries Company
Building Trade Origins
The original, the Rapp Brothers Brick and Tile Company, was started in 1877, the brainchild of six German brothers, the Rapp family. Its first three incarnations primarily produced utilitarian bricks and tiles, as the names suggest.
Branching Out to Decorative Productions
Cliftwood Art Potteries, started in 1920, was the first company to produce mostly decorative items and today only collectors even know that Morton Potteries began for the building trade.
Cliftwood Art Potteries' decorative pottery was produced with high end artistic values, rather like its contemporary Roseville Pottery. Matthew Rapp was particularly talented at creating drip glazes, particularly chocolate brown, cobalt blue, and jade colored. Some pieces even used very thin gold or platinum decoration. Because the metal was so thin, it could be rubbed off easily and so it's very rare to find these pieces in good condition.
Despite the many fires that plagued the company during the 1950s, it produced hundreds of thousands of various novelty figurines, Morton Pottery vegetable shaped planters, and "wall pockets," pieces that were mounted on walls and could hold flowers or grasses, selling them door to door as well as through five and dime shops throughout the nation.
The Company's Demise
After a series of financial and management troubles, including fires, competition from cheaper overseas production, IRS seizures, and bankruptcies, that started in the 1950s. The Morton Potteries Company returned to utilitarian goods briefly, primarily crock pot liners, and then closed for the last time in 1976.
As mentioned above, Cliftwood's drip glazes were its outstanding contribution and most recognizable feature.
Most of the animal figures today stand out as kitsch. The various ducks, cats, and dogs, have exaggerated features and impossibly sweet expressions. The iconic lovebirds, while more realistic, are cuddled together sentimentally and painted in rather translucent pastel colors.
Antique Vegetable Shaped Planters and Other Rareties
Figurines and animal planters, especially birds, were the most commonly produced, but it also produced items in smaller batches, most of which are quite rare. These include the Morton Pottery antique vegetable shaped planters, Davy Crockett figures made to capitalize on the popularity of the television show, and political memorabilia.
Because the Morton Potteries has such a strong association with the Illinois heartland, some prominent politicians used them as campaign memorabilia. FDR ordered miniature beer steins to remind potential voters that he promised to end Prohibition. The Republican State Senator and presidential candidate Everett McKinley Dirksen commissioned pottery elephants and ashtrays with elephants. John F. Kennedy, whose brother, Joe Jr., trained during WWII with Gilbert Rapp, a descendant of the founders, commissioned donkey figurines.
Collecting Morton Pottery
Morton pieces are very rarely signed or stamped, so it's difficult to identify pieces for certain. A good illustrated collectible price guide will be a help because prices vary according to rarity and condition. The fine art pottery usually costs about $30 to $60, while the novelty decorative items usually sell for between $10 and $30.