|Identification of Brush-McCoy Pottery|
The Brush Pottery Company was founded in Zanesville, Ohio in 1906 by a man named George Brush, and its early history is closely tied to a better-known pottery, McCoy. The first Brush Pottery lasted only a few years until it burned down and George Brush went to work for the J. W. McCoy Pottery Co. In 1911, the two companies merged and became the Brush-McCoy pottery, and soon after, J.W.'s son Nelson McCoy founded his own pottery as well. After J.W.'s death, Nelson McCoy continued to be involved in the Brush-McCoy pottery until he resigned in 1918. In 1925, the McCoy name was dropped and the pottery became known as Brush Pottery. Production continued through the middle of 1982.
Since the Brush and McCoy potteries shared the same heritage, Brush pottery has a similar look and feel to McCoy, a pottery made popular in the last few years by exposure in Martha Stewart's magazine and books. Although for most of its existence it was known as the Brush Pottery, Brush McCoy is understood by collectors to encompass all of the pottery made by this company.
The first way to become familiar with Brush pottery is to look through books and begin to recognize shapes and glazes that were popular. There is a good text description of some of Brush's earlier lines at the McCoy Pottery website. Some of the later Brush pieces are shown in Figure 1. Some excellent references are The Collectors Guide to Brush-McCoy, Vol I and Vol II, by Martha and Steve Sanford, and The Collecter's Encyclopedia of Brush-McCoy Pottery, by Sharon and Bob Huxford. Some of the Brush pieces are marked, either with a script Brush as shown in Figure 2 or with just a mold number and USA, but many of their works were either unmarked or identified with a paper label which has vanished over time.
Much of the pottery made in the USA throughout the middle and later 1900's has a distinctive look and feel. Brush pottery is heavy. Of course, heavy is a relative term so you may have to scout out other types of pottery at antique malls and flea markets and compare their look and feel with items that are known to be Brush-McCoy. A scale from light to heavy is included as Figure 3; porcelain and many of the made in Japan planters (such as Napco) are easy to find and provide an example that is lighter than Brush-McCoy. Shawnee, although heavier than most of the Japanese pottery, is typically somewhat lighter than Brush pottery. Stoneware, on the heaviest end of the scale, is heavier than most of the later Brush-McCoy planters and vases, although Brush did make stoneware early on. If you are already familiar with McCoy pottery, then the feel of Brush pottery will be very similar.
Brush planters and vases often rest on two unglazed feet, as shown in the Figure 4. There are several shades of green that were very popular (an avocado-like shade was one of them), along with ivory, white, pink and black, but the pottery can also be found in other colors.
I have seen people get Brush pottery confused with brushed ware. Brushed ware is a line of Red Wing pottery that had stain applied to the outside and then brushed off, and is not related to Brush Pottery.
My personal Brush collection got started by my obsession with animal planters and figurines, and Brush-McCoy is certainly well-represented in this category! The best way to identify Brush animals is, of course, to study the books referenced above but after looking at enough of them there are a few things that stand out. Observations appear below.
As with the rest of the Brush-McCoy pottery, the figural and animal planters are relatively heavy. Many of them have fairly detailed molds and are glazed all in one color. Cold paint may still be present on the planter if it hasn't been worn or washed off through the years. Some of the Brush animals, such as the series of garden dishes, are airbrushed in multiple colors.
Several of the Brush animal planters appear in a flesh-colored glaze as shown (as well as you can show color on a computer monitor, anyway) in Figure 5. The pottery underneath is typically textured like fur or feathers, and the light and heavy glazed areas create a nice effect; once you've seen several of the pieces in real life (by browsing antique stores, of course!) it will be almost unmistakable, as I've not really seen any other pottery use that color. Shawnee has a glaze that is similar, but it has slightly more pink in it, and the figurine is usually smooth underneath, rather than textured.
Several of the Brush animals (see Figure 6) can still be had on the cheap, at least in the places we frequent (north Texas and south & central Wisconsin), because many of them were not marked. Especially easy to find are the ducks, Ferdinand the Bull, and the sitting cats.