Our wonderful vintage Saffron Ware lidded casserole was produced by the Red Wing Union Stoneware Company between 1906 and 1936. Not only does this vintage American art pottery casserole have its lid, but it is in excellent condition - which makes it a truly remarkable find! The base of the vintage Red Wing Saffron Ware casserole is 4" in height, with the entire casserole measuring approximately 5" in height with the lid in place. The lid is 7-1/2" in diameter, the casserole base is 6-7/8" inches in diameter, and the top of the Red Wing casserole is approximately 9-1/2" from handle end to handle end. The Red Wing Saffron Ware line of kitchenware, which featured several shapes of containers, casseroles, pitchers, mugs and other utilitarian items, was made from a lighter weight, more porous clay than Red Wing's usual stoneware clay. As a result, surviving Saffron Ware pieces are often chipped, cracked and charred from use in the kitchen oven. The more porous nature of the clay is not the only reason why so many Red Wing items show substantial signs of wear: these items were used on a daily basis, which increased the likelihood that they would be damaged. In addition, the button lid, which was a prominent vintage Red Wing art pottery design, was difficult to grip firmly. As a result, many lids were dropped and broken (Google "Red Wing Lids" and you will see proof of a significant secondary market in Red Wing ceramic lids for every possible type of Red Wing item). Some vintage Red Wing Saffron Ware was sponged, but the most distinctive version featured the unique, soft yellow coloring of the natural clay with a simple design of alternating cream and brown banding, which is what our lidded casserole features. Molded, vertical ribs cover the entire circumference of the casserole, and the lid features the distinctive Red Wing button handle and lovely, molded petal design. The bottom of this vintage art pottery casserole features a beautiful, molded spoke design with the circular Red Wing Saffron Ware mark. Our lidded casserole presents a unique opportunity for the collector: there are two other Red Wing Saffron Ware lidded casseroles currently on the market, but they are both in very poor, used condition with multiple, dark oven char stains, vertical fissures and other significant cracks, as well as large, visible chips and nicks on the outer body of the dish. By contrast, our vintage Red Wing Saffron Ware lidded casserole belonged to a woman who rarely, if ever, cooked. Please examine our photographs carefully. They provide an excellent indication of its condition, and I am certain that you will agree that our vintage lidded Red Wing casserole is a superb specimen!. Our Saffron Ware casserole is completely free of staining and crackling. In fact, the surface of this vintage American art pottery casserole is luminous! There are a few dark marks on the very bottom of the casserole which occurred when the dish was placed on surfaces that accumulated dust and dirt. There is one shallow rim chip to the underside of the lid (see our photographs), but this chip is not visible from the exterior. There is also a small area of excess clay on the rim of the Red Wing Saffron Ware casserole base that was not cleaned away after the piece was removed from the mold at the factory. As a result, the extra clay was glazed over and fired, becoming a permanent part of this beautiful dish. We have only mentioned this unique feature in the interest of full disclosure -- the extra clay is not really a defect, as it does not affect the way that the lid fits onto the base, nor is it visible from the exterior. This vintage Saffron Ware lidded casserole would be a wonderful gift or acquisition for an American Art Pottery or Red Wing collection.
BRIEF HISTORY: The Red Wing, Minnesota area clay industry got its start when German immigrants settled there during the 1860's. The settlers were skilled potters, and they quickly noticed that the local clay was perfect for producing utilitarian stoneware items like crocks, jugs, and other forms of pottery used for food storage and preparation. There were a number of stoneware companies that began operations in the Red Wing area during the late 19th century. In 1877, the Red Wing Stoneware Co. began producing utilitarian items, such as hand-turned jugs, water coolers, and butter churns, some with capacities of up to 40 gallons. Many of these earliest pieces had glassy, mottled, salt-glazed surfaces, the result of rock salt being tossed into a kiln while the piece was being fired. In 1883, the Minnesota Stoneware Company began operations in the same area, and then in 1892, the North Star Stoneware Company opened its doors. Three stoneware manufacturers in the same general area proved not to be good for business, and so in 1894 the three companies began taking steps to merge into one. In 1896 the North Star Company merged its operations with the newly named The Union Stoneware Company, which was run by the remaining two companies. In 1906, the merger became complete, and the newly unified company was renamed The Red Wing Union Stoneware Company. Over the course of subsequent years, the company moved from the production of strictly utilitarian items, to the production of dinnerware and art pottery. With modernization and the shift in production from stoneware to pottery, the company was renamed The Red Wing Potteries in 1936. The company closed its doors in 1967 temporarily due to a strike. Today Red Wing Pottery still makes both zinc/Bristol glazed products as well as salt-glazed, hand-thrown, kiln fired items.(Source: The Red Wing Collector's Society, Inc., www. redwingcollectors.org, and Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Wing_Pottery).
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