A miniature stoneware water pitcher, made in 1877 and attributed to 17-year-old Parkersburg potter Walter Donaghho, was recently purchased at a yard sale in Marietta. The pitcher, purchased for $5 with only two others known to exist today, is valued at $1,000 to $1,500 at auction.
Walter Donaghho was the son of famous potter A.P. Donaghho who came from Fredericktown, Pa., to Parkersburg in 1870 and opened a pottery business in 1874 on 14 acres near Bull Creek on what was known then as "Pottery Junction" at the intersection of Murdoch and Emerson avenues near Terrapin Park.
The pottery operated in Parkersburg from 1874 until 1903. After A.P. Donaghho died in 1899 at the age of 70, Walter Donaghho took control of the company hiring a number of other talented potters, including Dan Mercer, who created thousands of pieces of stoneware of every shape and size for Donaghho and later for his own pottery company in Parkersburg. Due to other potteries then starting to create stoneware more quickly and at a cheaper price Walter was forced to close the family business in 1903.
Today, A.P Donaghho jars are very much in demand by collectors all around the country, especially the hand-decorated jars. But because of the time required for such detail, Donaghho soon gave up in 1880 and started using stencils to mark the pottery.
When buying Donaghho pottery, beware of copies. On many of them Donaghho is misspelled Donoggho. The ware was dried in a steam-heated room, after which it was stenciled with cobalt oxide. The pots were marked "A.P. Donaghho" or "Excelsior Pottery" on big pieces and "Parkersburg W.Va." Many were decorated with advertisements for retail establishments such as Roberts Hardware Store in Elizabeth, W.Va., and Smith Hardware, Parkersburg. Researching, I found a large quantity of the pottery was sold in Ohio, West Virginia and Virginia, and most of it was handmade on a potters wheel; all the crocks or wide-mouth pots featured a bold top molding and two ear handles on the shoulder below the rim. Jugs had a small top opening for a plug and a one ring handle. Canning jars usually had no handles but have a deep groove for the rim for the wax seal. Pottery that was hand decorated with birds, flowers, and other artwork on the outsides of the jars are more valuable than those that were just plainly stenciled "Donaghho" Parkersburg, W.Va., across the front of them.
To get top dollar for Donaghho jars today they must be up for bid among hundreds of buyers at auction. A 14-inch crock made in 1870 and hand decorated by Donaghho recently brought $3,000 at an out of town auction. A 10-gallon Donaghho crock marked Excelsior Pottery, Parkersburg, W.Va., recently sold on eBay for $975 in mint condition. Researching the death records of the Donaghho family, I found after A.P. Donaghho died in 1899.
Larry Koon is the author of several price guide books on antiques and collectibles. His column appears every Monday on Life. Send letters to Treasure in the Attic, c/o The Marietta Times, 700 Channel Lane, Marietta 45750; or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. When writing, send a complete description of the item, along with size, and color.