Discover Vintage America - JULY 2017

The Ransburg Company made much more than pottery

I'm not doing my typical question and answer column this month because I want to share a couple of things I found when doing a local appraisal event. Yep, I do shop when I have a moment.

I was doing my typical run-through and came to a booth where a couple of items stopped me in my tracks. I found a Ransburg Pottery cookie jar and large serving bowl. At one time I collected Ransburg Pottery but it became hard to find and I eventually sold my collection. This is a decision that I regret to this day. The Ransburg Pottery line is filled with vibrant colors and all the details, such as the flowers, are completely hand painted.

Ransburg Pottery was started by Harper J. Ransburg, the son of an Indiana Quaker farmer, who quit school in 8th grade to work and help his family. In 1911, Ransburg moved to Ohio where he started a glass-cutting business. His line of glassware was called "The Glass of Class" and featured very intricately cut glass patterns. World War I brought a lot of opportunity to makers who were able to mass-produce glassware but Ransburg did not have the money to purchase equipment that would allow him to compete. Even though his glass sold well in the early days, sales dropped and Ransburg adapted.

Ransburg moved to Indianapolis in 1920, where The Harper J. Ransburg Co. was created. Ransburg took out a loan and expanded in to other ventures such as making candles with silver dripped around the outside. Ransburg also began working with glassware again. He created glass with colorful, raised designs called "chewing gum" glass. Another line in his glassware is called "Arte Venezia," based on Italian glass designs it has colorful gem-like pieces as part of the designs.

Moving in to the 1930s, the Depression changed the needs of the buying public. The glassware was too expensive and not a "needed" item so the company began producing stoneware pottery and metalware. The pottery is all brightly colored with hand-painted designs. Most of the pottery pieces are marked but not all of them; you just have to learn what to look for. The metal items include canisters, breadboxes, lidded cake carriers, salt and pepper shakers and similar, much needed homewares. Production of these items continued through the 1950s.

Ransburg was a marketing wiz. His cookie jars were sold filled with cookies and he also had his ware displayed in the windows of hardware stores to catch the eye of women.
Wrought iron products were also introduced in the 1930s but World War II brought about a shortage of metal for decorative uses. The wrought iron line picked up again in 1946 and continued through 1955.

The company continued to add to its line and in the 1950s introduced wicker products along with an expansion of wirework and utilitarian metal wares. The 1960s heralded in the age of plastic for the Ransburg Co.

Behind the scenes all three of Ransburg's sons joined the business in the 1930s and introduced the "electrostatic painting" process. One of the sons was looking for ways to decrease the wasted paint on metal objects and from those efforts invented electrostatic painting. Electrostatic painting is still in use today primarily by automotive manufacturing companies.

Ransburg glass items and candles are hard to find. The wicker and wrought iron is difficult to discern from similar items made by other companies. The metal items and stoneware are easy to recognize as Ransburg items and these pieces are out there though sparsely.

The resale value on the cookie jar, with no chips to the body or paint, is $60. The large serving bowl has a resale value of $45-$50.

Note: All prices given are for sale in a private sale, antique shop or other resale outlet. Price is also dependent upon the geographic area in which you are selling. Auction value, selling to a dealer or pawnshop prices are about half or less of resale value.

Michelle Staley is a Lenexa, KS-based dealer and researcher with 35 years of experience in the antique trade. Send questions with photos to Michelle to Please keep queries to one question; questions without photos of the item may not be answered. Michelle is also available for consulting and extensive research work beyond this column. If you would like an appraisal on an antique or collectible please go to for a one-on-one appraisal.