Generations of the Crolius family, originally from the German Rhineland, operated one of America’s earliest stoneware potteries in New York City’s lower Manhattan beginning around 1728. William Crolius established the first kiln near the site of what is now known as the African Burial Ground, and moved to various locations around today’s City Hall and the pond known as the Collect. The pottery produced a wide variety of utilitarian salt-glazed wares. The Crolius family was politically active, and members fought in the Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War. During British occupation, the family removed to the Montclair area of New Jersey, where they continued their pottery operation before relocating back to New York City after the war.
This impressive punch bowl was most probably a special commission. It is dated 1811 and bears the name Elisabeth Crane. The Crane family, for whom Cranetown (now Montclair) was named, was probably known to the Croliuses from their time of residence in that area. The form of the bowl is inspired by Chinese export porcelain of the period, and the exterior is emblazoned with elaborate foliate cobalt decoration. When the bowl was emptied of its refreshment, a beautiful cobalt full-bodied fish on the interior would be revealed.
Stacy C. Hollander, “Punch Bowl,” exhibition label for Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum. Stacy C. Hollander and Valérie Rousseau, curators. New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2014.