“The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Winston-Salem, N.C., has focused for a few years on expanding its holdings of antiques from the western edge of the Southeast. In October the museum set an auction record for Kentucky pottery: at Case Antiques in Knoxville, Tenn., it spent $55,200 on an eight-gallon butter churn [scroll down to No. 229] with “Kentucky 1836” in blue script and the stamped name of the potter, Isaac Thomas. The piece, the earliest known ceramic vessel made in Kentucky, will be exhibited in a gallery about westward expansion, tucked between Kentucky cherry furniture and silverware.
“The auction estimate was $3,000 to $3,500, but the museum ended up in a bidding war with a private collector. The final price ‘caught us a bit by surprise,’ said the museum’s chief curator, Robert Leath, ‘but when you’re determined, you’re determined.’
“Mr. Leath added that the two-foot-tall churn was ‘a fantastic self-promoting object.’
“ ‘It’s really shouting out its identity,’ he said. ‘It tells you everything you could want to know about it, all in cobalt-blue decoration, on a monumental scale.’ ”
– From The New York Times (Dec. 23)
Although the Times rates the butter churn among “the year’s more intriguing auction lots” (along with a Roy Rogers saddle and a folk predecessor of the Monopoly game), the sale seems not to have merited a mention elsewhere — even on the MESDA site. C’mon, newspeople — historical significance aside, what reader wouldn’t be curious about a churn that cost more than a new Porsche?