Tea lovers can go a bit gaga over collectible teawares. Sometimes they even go trolling the antique stores, garage sales, and flea markets, hoping to find that special something such as a Wedgwood cup and saucer. Not that I’ve ever done that, nope, not me, uh-uh, well maybe once … or twice … or every Saturday afternoon I could manage.
Actually, I had to go only as far as my TV remote for a particular find: Byrd Pottery. The stoneware (also called “crockery”) pieces are true collectibles, according to Bob Phillips on Texas Country Reporter.
The company started in 1932 in Tyler, Texas, when growing roses was a major business in the area and around the time that the East Texas oilfield was discovered. Tyler was even known as the rose capital of the world. Byrd Pottery bloomed with those roses and the town, as the population grew to over 28,000, and they were in business until around 1960, a relatively short time that makes their pieces somewhat rare. The founder was J.J. Byrd, who moved to Tyler with his family from Rhonesboro, Texas, where he had co-owned Rhonesboro Pottery with A.S. Byrd, his father. J.J.’s wife, Maude “Mama” Byrd, was one of the designers and focused on planters and vases for tourists to buy. However, there are also pitchers, creamers, covered sugar bowls, mugs in various styles, lidded storage jars, and other pieces for your teatime delight.
This company and the fairly limited number of pieces created there that still exist has been a secret among collectors of stoneware for many years. A guidebook was privately published in 1991 by Robert Fleet to help identify the pieces, but it’s now out of print and considered something of a collectible in its own right. You can find a copy here or there for sale, mainly online. His son, Gary Fleet, is an avid collector and a High School sports coach in Tyler.
Byrd Pottery pieces have been found in locations across the U.S., mostly in their most famous design, called “Blue Bonnet” or alternately “Blue Peak,” depending on which seller you go by. It’s a rather crude and simple design in creamy white with cobalt blue “bonnets” or “peaks” applied with a sponge. Other designs are solid creamy white, solid brown, and solid cobalt blue, as well as stippled. Some of their pieces are as small as 3¼” high by 4” wide while others are as large as an unglazed jug that is 13½” tall and 9” in diameter or a 3-gallon wall crock with cobalt markings saying “FROM TYLER POTTERY 3 TYLER TEX.” One of the rarest items is a batter bowl with a pour spout and big handle — perfect for whipping up some scone batter for your next teatime!
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