Archives for category: Stoneware

Osage Rub Stoneware Jug, 1843-1910, stoneware, steel wire, wood, H: 9 ¾ x D: 7 in. The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of the Estate of Wilson McGown, F0015.1960.

M. E. Waite’s Osage Rub – “Better than a Cocktail next Morning.” So says an advertisement in the 1903 edition of the Barber’s Journal. [1] Merton E. Waite originally operated The Barber Supply House out of Utica, New York, producing his hair tonic for men across the entire country. Waite advertised his Osage Rub for its remedial qualities as well as its practical qualities. He claimed that his hair tonic provided relief from sun headaches, acting as a cooling agent for the scalp and face after a shave, while also fulfilling the purpose of a styling product, which left the hair “as soft and glossy as a kitten’s fur,” and “Makes the old head feel like new.” [2]

A stoneware jug (F0015.1960), once use to carry this tonic found its way into the collections of The Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, New York. But while smaller bottles and advertisements incorporate catchy slogans, the label on this jug is very simple, in fact, the jug as a whole is quite plain. In terms of advertising, the only words on the jug are, “Osage Rub for the Hair and Head, M. E. Waite, Trade Mark Registered, Utica, N. Y.” Looking at the material, stoneware was also traditionally a material reserved for utilitarian purposes. During the 1800s, porcelain was the highest quality clay, and stoneware was the lowest. The cheap material, with an absence of the colorful slogans suggests that this particular jug was not meant for the general audience. The qualities of this container did not necessarily demonstrate wealth to the average consumer. They do, however, speak to Merton Waite’s practicality as a businessman – knowing what his audiences demanded, and cutting costs at every opportunity.

With success came the need to market his products appropriately – Waite could not simply sell his Osage Rub in one size only. He needed to understand how to sell his product to different audiences, mainly the general public and professionals. Barbers would recognize Osage Rub from the advertisements. The container did not matter to this audience – only the product. Therefore, he did not need to make the container pretty to sell it, as he might with smaller bottles meant for the individual consumer. For large orders shipped to barber shops, he packaged Osage Rub in cheaper, stoneware jugs. To do this, he took advantage of local resources, partnering with another business in Utica, White’s Pottery, which specialized in stoneware. [3] The localized partnership with White’s Pottery made for fast and cheap shipping of the Osage Rub jugs, and took the responsibility of packaging materials out of the hands of Merton Waite, allowing him to focus solely on making his product.

The Osage Rub Jug portrays Waite as the quintessential businessman – competitive, yet economical. M. E. Waite’s entrepreneurial spirit shines through his jug, and shows the continued importance of partnerships and practicality in business.


Post written by Nathan Samoriski


[1] “Osage Rub,” The Barbers Journal 14, no. 1 (January 1903): 2.

[2] “Sun Headache,” Harper’s Bazaar (July, 1903): 34.

[3] Osage Rub Stoneware Jug, Farmers’ Museum Collections, S Museum, F0015.1960, Documentation.


Ceramics were used throughout history, and have been found across the globe from as far back as 20,000 years ago.[1] However, salt-glazed stoneware, a common ceramic product, is not nearly that old. Dating back to the 13th century at least, salt-glazed stoneware spread across Europe and was a dominant form of pottery in the United States by the 19th century.[2] These jugs became prominent in homes and their kitchens, used for storage and containment of beverages or other liquid products.


Fulper Bros. stoneware Jug, New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, New York. Gift of Preston Bassett, NYSHA Collection, N0277.1962. Photo by Alex Sniffen

This jug in particular, produced by Fulper Bros sometime after 1880, is an example of a primary type of form used in salt-glazed pottery.[3] Fulper Bros. is also known for producing pottery with interesting and unique decorations, and an example of that can be seen on the face of this jug. Three women, each in different pose, are dressed scantly dress in form-fitting bathing suits from the late 19th or early 20th century.[4] Decoration like this was common for Fulper Bros, and it can be seen in a few other of their jugs that they became known for their style. For example, this second jug depicts a female acrobat, and another man who is dressed as a circus ringmaster.[5]

Their jugs are an excellent example of popular stoneware, but the conflict appears when this primarily utilitarian artifact, designed for storage, becomes an object for display in the home. Fulper was a popular potter, perhaps these decorations on display would indicate to friends and family that you are well-off enough to own one of these pieces, not for storage but rather to show. The shapes of these women may also indicate that you supported a specific appearance or were in line with the current fashions, in addition to maintaining your functional home responsibilities.


Fulper Bros. Acrobat Jug. New York History Blog.

Today, jugs like the ones that the Fulper Bros produced can be considered valuable folk art, produced by artists and potters who may have only worked in apprentice position underneath a master potter. These jugs are now displayed in museums and in other collections, and can be viewed through different lenses depending on the interpreter. Gone is the time when these containers were used prominently in the home, they have now become objects and artifacts of study. After all this time, however, their status as items on display still stands.

Alex Sniffen

[1] Sindya Bhanoo, “Remnants of an Ancient Kitchen Are Found in China.” The New York Times, July 2, 2012. Accessed December 2, 2015.

[2] G.C.Nelson. ‘Ceramics: A Potter’s Handbook.’ Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., New York. 1966.

[3] “Unique Stoneware Jug Depicting Entertainment Acquired – New York History,” New York History. April 11, 2013. Accessed December 3, 2015.

[4] “History of Bathing Suits.” Victoriana Magazine, Accessed December 3, 2015.

[5] “Unique Stoneware Jug Depicting Entertainment Acquired – New York History.” New York History. April 11, 2013. Accessed December 3, 2015.


By Emily Q Welch

Medicine is part of daily American life, whether in the form of prescription antibiotics or over the counter pain killers. Our constant consumption of medicine means that not only do medical practitioners go through strenuous education and training, the drugs they prescribe are

Microbe Killer Jug

Microbe Killer No. 2 Jug, 1886-1913, W.M. Radam, stoneware with wooden cork, H: 15 x W: 7 x D: 8 in. New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, New York, N0033.1975, Photographed by Emily Q Welch

similarly sent through rigorous testing before reaching the general public. Development of new drugs can take up to ten years, consisting of pre-clinical, non-human testing, three stages of clinical testing on people and final approval by the FDA[1]. However, the medical field as we know it today was developed after years of trial and error and was once plagued with quack-doctors and their falsified remedies for all ailments. A prime example is encapsulated by this stoneware jug, labeled “WM RADAM’S MICROBE KILLER NO. 2”.

W.M. Radam was a Prussian immigrant gardener who first began his medical “practice” after several trained doctors failed to cure him of his own varied ailments in the late 1800’s. In his search for a cure, he stumbled upon the concept of “microbes,”, which he compared to pests in a garden. He developed his “microbe killer” and sold it to the masses, after recieving his September 28th, 1886 patent on the microbe killer, opening seventeen production facilities across the nation, proclaiming his remedy could cure all illnesses simply by imbibing it until the body’s tissues were soaked in it and the microbes were rid of the body [2]. However, in 1913, a lawsuit was brought against Radam as chemists claimed his remedy a complete hoax, lacking any curative properties at all [3]. Daniel R. Barnett says in his article on the subject, “The 1886 patent revealed that Radam manufactured Microbe Killer by mixing powdered sulfur, sodium nitrate, manganese oxide, sandalwood, and potassium chloride and burning the mixture in an oven; the vapors mixed with vapor from water located in a closed tank in which the oven sat. After the treated water was allowed to condense and then filtered to remove any sediment, a tiny amount of wine was added to give the Microbe Killer a light pink tint”[2]. The federal lawsuit that followed won national attention as Minneapolis court systems assessed the validity of the claims [4]. Yet, it is no surprise that On November 28th, 1913 the court system confirmed this faux-remedy to be a hoax and ordered the “microbe killer” to be confiscated destroyed [3].

The thought of a similar medicinal hoax making it to the American marketplace today seems unlikely. However, herbal remedies and supplements that do not undergo such rigorous testing are still available to the public today. How far have our modern pharmacological practices only created a better distinction between bio-medicine and possible herbal-based fallacies? The story of the microbe killer still resonates with Americans today as medicine has only become further ingrained into the fabric of our culture. It is not out of place to ask, how long until the next “microbe killer” becomes incorporated into our medicine cabinets on the word of the next W.M. Radam?

[1]”Clinical Trials,” PhRMA, accessed November 21, 2015,

[2] Daniel R. Barnett. “William Radam and the Microbe Killer: An Account of Classic Medical Quackery from the Heart of Texas.” The North Texas Skeptic (2004). Accessed November 18, 2015.

[3] B.T. Galloway. “Misbranding of Radam’s Microbe Killer.” U.S. Department of Agriculture Bureau of Chemistry Service and Regulatory Announcements 235-41 (1914) 235-241.

[4]“Government Wins in Microbe Killer Case.” The Journal of the National Association of Retail Druggists 150 (1914): 150.