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Squirrel Bottle

Shop of Rudolph Christ
Place Made:
Salem North Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
lead glazed earthenware
HOA: 8 1/4″; DIA: 3 3/8″
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Earthenware squirrel bottle, press molded and lead glazed, copper green with iron oxide splotches on the head and tail. Base, body, and paws molded separately, spout thrown and applied; ears hand formed and applied; squirrel is holding a nut to his mouth.

MAKER: Rudolph Christ can be credited for the successful production and marketing of press-molded figural wares during his tenure as master of the pottery at Salem (1789–1821). Rudolph Christ apprenticed under Gottfried Aust in Salem, North Carolina. He established his own pottery in Bethabara in 1786 and worked there until 1789. He succeeded Aust as master potter in Salem from 1789 to 1821. (Ceramics in America 2009). The use of press-molded wares also continued through the tenure of John Holland, who apprenticed under Rudolph Christ and as noted in Moravian records, inherited molds used in Christ’s shop. Rudolph Christ retired in 1821 and John Holland took over as Salem’s third master potter. His tenure was short lived, however, and the pottery ceased to operate as a congregational business in 1829.

Brown, Johanna. “Tradition and Adaptation in Press-Molded Earthenware.” CERAMICS IN AMERICA (2009): 105-138.

TECHNIQUE: A variety of glazes, ranging from clear lead to brown, green, and mottled were used on Salem bottles. The bottles were formed by rolling out sheets of clay, then pressing them into halves of a two part mold which when joined would form the body of the animal. The base was molded separately.

STYLE: Moravian potters in Wachovia began producing molded bottles in the shape of animals about 1800; this may have been done in imitation of English Staffordshire wares which became popular durng the third quarter of the eighteenth century. Squirrel bottles, which were made in at least three sizes, appear on pottery inventories as early as 1804.

ATTRIBUTED ARTIST: MAKER: Rudolph Christ (1750-1833), the son of Rudolph Christ and Anna Wolf, was born in Lauten, Wurtemberg, Germany. He arrived in Bethabara in 1764 at the age of fourteen. In 1766, he apprenticed to Gottfried Aust, whose shop was in Salem, with whom he had a turbulent relationship. In August, 1770, the Elders Conference noted in its minutes that “Aust and his apprentice Christ have separated again” and Christ had written a letter to Brother Marshall begging to be released from his master and to be transferred to another settlement. After repeated requests, Christ was finally released in 1771, and he became the apprentice to the Salem gunmaker. Due to the lack of business at the gunshop, however, Christ returned to Aust’s pottery in 1772. He was freed of his apprenticeship in either 1773 or 1774, yet he remained in the pottery as a journeyman. Christ learned the art of making Queensware, while Aust continued to produce only earthenware. The young man listed this difference of materials as one of the many reasons he should be permitted to establish his own pottery. Time after time his attempts were thwarted by the Elders Conference, who clearly thought of him as a troublemaker. In 1780, the Elders Conference suggested that he marry Elizabeth Oesterlein, who became his first wife. This marriage gave him further reason to desire to be on his own, and finally in 1785, he received permission to set up his own business in Bethabara. He produced simpler varieties of Queensware such as moulded plates and Oriental form bowls. Many works had a mottled glaze. He had his own apprentices some of whom were Jacob Myer, David Baumgarten, and John Butner, who became master of the Bethabara pottery when Christ returned to Salem. Christ experimented with tin-enameled or faience pottery and grey salt-glazed stoneware which was popular in Pennsylvania. Christ was the master in Bethabara from 1786 to 1789, and then he became the master of Salem from 1789 to 1821.

Credit Line:
Gift of Frank L. Horton