Stein of the Month: June 2004

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~ A Hand-Painted Stein by Reinhold Merkelbach ~
by Ronald E. Gray


June is noted for its weddings and, consequently, its anniversaries. This month’s stein shows a young couple holding hands while they stroll in the garden under a grove of trees. The scene is hand-painted and you can not only feel the paint, but also see where it is raised. The saying appearing on the sides is
Die Lerche sang der Sonnenschein
Lag schimmernd über Flur und Hain.
The lark sang, sunshine
lay shimmering over fields and meadows.
The scene depicts a couple in Biedermeier dress, the floral wreath encircling the couple and the style of pewter lid and thumblift placing its origin in the Jugendstil era, circa 1910. The lid is engraved, representing a gift of a savings association to their cashier. Perhaps it was intended as a gift for a special occasion, such as marriage or retirement. Thanks to Dagmar Rives for the translation.

Reinhold Merkelbach made this stein and the bottom of the stein shows their impressed mark, a circle containing “R. Merkelbach” in the upper section of the circle and “Grenzhausen” in the lower section of the circle. The two sections are separated by an “o” on both sides of the circle. This mark was used from around 1900 according to Keramik-Marken Lexikon: Porzellan und Keramik Report 1885-1935 Europa (Festland) by Dieter Zühlsdorff. It is one of numerous marks used by the firm. Another unknown mark, an “F,” also is impressed in the bottom of the stein. This mark recently appeared on another unmarked salt-glazed stein on eBay. If anyone has another stein with this latter mark, please let us know the manufacturer, if known, of the stein. A recent post on SteinTalk suggests that skilled artisans preparing steins for firing, by removing mold lines and other flaws, were required to put their mark on the bottom of the stein for control purposes. The mark could be a letter, number or symbol. It may be another way to identify steins by Reinhold Merkelbach.

Each side of the scene on this stein contains a pair of initials; as you face the stein “TH” appears on the left side, and "OH" or  “CH” appears on the right side. I have a book on Reinhold Merkelbach, although it is entirely in German. The book does list some of the designers of that firm, but I did not see any names that would match either of these initials. After some hard-nosed research, Walt Vogdes came up with the name of Theodor Otto Hahn. My Keramik-Marken Lexikon book lists a firm named Theodor Otto Hahn of Klotzsche, Sachsen, Germany that existed until 1910. The Das Münchner Kindl book shows (page 172 if you have a copy of the book) some steins designed by Theodor Otto Hahn and notes that he used the signature ”Th. O. Hahn” or the monogram “TOH.” Walt also has a stein showing the initials “THOH” (see photo at right), although the style is slightly different. It does not contain a manufacturer's trademark. Given the date Herr Hahn’s firm ceased operations, it is possible that he then designed steins for other firms as the date of 1910 does fit in with the Jugendstil style used on my stein. I think it is safe to thank Walt for solving the mystery of the initials on this stein.

The unmarked stein I saw on eBay with the “F” mark also contained the initials “CD.” Unfortunately, no one was listed in the book with those initials either.

Roland Henschen wrote a column on the firm of Reinhold Merkelbach in the Tri-State Trader on November 27, 1971. In summary of that column, the Merkelbach family can trace their pottery background to the 1600s. This firm (other Merkelbachs operated Merkelbach & Wick, Karl Merkelbach, III, Merkelbach & Remy and Walter Merkelbach and this doesn’t take into account those Merkelbachs that married into other pottery families) was founded by Wilhelm Merkelbach, IV in 1845. His son, Wilhelm Reinhold Merkelbach, ran the firm from 1859 until his death in 1891. Wilhelm’s wife Tosca ran the firm until 1905 when their son Paul took over. Upon Paul’s death in WWI in 1918, Tosca again ran the firm up to 1931. An assistant then ran the firm from 1931 to 1960. In 1969, a team of offspring of Professor Dr. R. Merkelbach administered the firm.

Our German-speaking collectors may enjoy visiting this site,  www.koblenz.de/sehenswertes/erlebt/merkel.htm, to learn more about Reinhold and Toska Merkelbach. The Goebel Porzellanfabrik acquired an interest in Reinhold Merkelbach in the 1970s and the Goebel name was adopted in the trademark. Merkelbach has since been spun off by Goebel and once again operates independently. The Merkelbach web site is at www.westerwald-keramik.de/handwerk_merkelbach2.htm.

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