by Ronald E. Gray
This month's stein was made by the firm of Rosskopf & Gerz of Höhr (Höhr-Grenzhausen after 1935), which is in the Westerwald area of Germany. I have wanted to own a Rosskopf & Gerz stein, preferably an incised or character stein, since I obtained a copy of the soft cover book entitled Rosskopf & Gerz: Steinzeugfabrik - Stoneware Factory Höhr im Westerwald 1901-1914 (see reference 1). The book is in both German and English. I saw a copy of this book for sale, as well as the Reinhold Merkelbach book, on the site listed in reference 2, but additional copies can be found at other used book store sites, particularly those in Germany. SCI member George Schamberger also has both of the books currently offered for sale in the Selling section of this site. Most of the information in this article is based on this valuable resource.
While neither the Student Prince nor Mario Lanza are featured on this month's stein, I can just imagine that the gentleman standing is urging his three cohorts to Drink, Drink, Drink. This, of course, is the drinking song from The Student Prince. See reference 2 for the lyrics. "(Liquor laws prohibit us from giving you a taste of beer, but you can get a taste of the music by clicking here. Just click on the Drink, Drink, Drink sound system that is compatible with your computer. It will play in the background while you return to read the rest of the article.) "Those of you that were at the 1986 SCI convention in San Diego may recall that we attended a performance of The Student Prince in an outdoor theater in Balboa Park. If you have ever seen a performance there, you definitely know it is on the flight path for the San Diego airport when you attend a performance. One of the prerequisites to be an actor there is the ability to freeze the action, whether it be song or dialog, whenever a flight is going over the park. Can you imagine stopping your singing or holding your swig of beer in the middle of this song!
My search for a Rosskopf & Gerz stein began with the two prime stein auction catalogs, Gary Kirsner Auctions and Andre Ammelounx The Stein Auction Company (TSACO), which I then expanded to my other auction catalogs. I am particular about knowing the maker of my steins, and I prefer to have them with the manufacturer's mark. It was very important to have such a marked stein in this case because the original molds were known to have been bought by Eckhardt & Engler, which could lead to doubts about the authenticity of the manufacturer. I reviewed 293 catalogs listing over 138,000 lots. Removing the non-stein lots (beakers, bowls, pitchers, plaques, figurines, pipes, pokals, etc.) resulted in over 114,000 lots of steins, mugs and drinking horns. This number should be taken with a grain of salt as non-selling lots are often relisted, and damaged and new steins are often grouped due to cost considerations. In addition, there are the statistical aberrations and bias, commonly known as errors. This review revealed only seven listings for Rosskopf & Gerz. There were quite a few more listings for Eckhardt & Engler, which either were marked or clearly were contemporary steins. All but one of the Rosskopf & Gerz listings stated "by Rosskopf & Gerz" (one stated "probably Rosskopf & Gerz") rather than "marked Rosskopf & Gerz." The word "by" generally indicates an attribution based on an old catalog listing or known characteristics employed by the manufacturer. One listing did state it was marked "RG," which I presume was due to the "u" being too faint to see. One listing clearly was not a Rosskopf & Gerz stein since the mold number was too high for the known mold numbers shown in the 1914 catalog. The other six listings do appear in the 1914 catalog. Two different auction catalogs in 1983 spelled the name as "Russkopf & Gerz." Since my Internet search did not reveal anything with that spelling, I presume it was just an early misspelling of the name. I called on a few of the listings and received confirmation that the lot did not contain a manufacturer's mark. It was not surprising that I had difficulty in obtaining a marked Rosskopf & Gerz stein as you will soon see in the following discussion of the firm, based primarily upon the information in the book by Dr. Dry-von Zeschwitz.
Westerwald stoneware manufacturers had done quite well in international trade fairs in the latter part of the 19th century. The 1900 World's Fair, however, was a disappointment for the Westerwald manufacturers. It also was a time when there was an over supply of stoneware, the export market was dominated by a few strong companies and stein style preferences were changing. In addition, World War I would soon overtake all of Europe. It was in this environment that Alois Jacob Gerz and Karl Wilhelm Rosskopf would undertake the startup of a new stoneware factory in 1901. Herr Gerz was a businessman, while Herr Rosskopf was a potter and designer. Both gentlemen trained under Reinhold Hanke. The firm was registered as a Company in 1903 and Gerz became the sole owner when Rosskopf left the company in 1905. Eckhardt & Engler, a wholesaler founded in 1898, became the Company's marketing arm in 1907. Eckhardt & Engler acquired their own kiln in 1914 and bought some molds from Rosskopf & Gerz in 1918. Herr Gerz died in 1913 and his widow ran the firm during the next few years. The war took its toll, not only in lives of individuals, but also firms. Rosskopf and Gerz entered bankruptcy in 1917 and Eckhardt & Engler bought the remaining molds in 1922 or 1923. Much of this information is also confirmed in Keramik-Marken Lexikon (see reference 3), one of the better reference sources for marks, although it is only in German. That reference book shows the name as Roßkopf und Gerz, employing the Esszet ligature which we write as "ss". Most stein manufacturers diverted production to other necessary wares and the author (Dr. Dry-von Zeschwitz) doubts the Company restarted production after the war.
While the 1914 Rosskopf & Gerz catalog lists mold numbers up to 1023, there can be no doubt that this small firm did not produce huge quantities of steins in its short history. The Company's incised mark was the initials "RuG," for Rosskopf und Gerz, inside a rectangular border. The bottom of the steins sometimes contain the stamped or incised mark "GES. GESCHUTZT," which means registered design, on two lines. The author believes this is unique to Rosskopf and Gerz, but I have also seen the two-line version of this wording on a stein with a Dümler and Breiden mark, although that wording was in lower case letters. The author also believes that the individual digits of the mold numbers can help identify unmarked steins. She does not elaborate on this characteristic, however, and only shows one sample of the mold number on the bottom of a stein. Further complicating the situation, Eckhardt & Engler used the same mold numbers on the steins produced by them using the old Rosskopf & Gerz molds. Who is to say that all the Eckhardt & Engler steins contain their unique mark? As you can see, it is not surprising that I was having difficulty in locating a suitable marked example of this manufacturer (I only know of two, mine and the one listed in Gary Kirsner's December 1, 2003 catalog as lot 474). The Beer Stein Library (see reference 4) has a Rosskopf & Gerz catalog, but membership for that site is required to view the catalogs.
As we all know, half the fun in stein collecting is in the hunt. My persistence came to fruition when I finally found my Holy Grail listed on eBay. Luckily the listing did not list the manufacturer and I did not have too much competition in acquiring it. The stein has an incised scene showing four men being served our favorite beverage by a bar maid. The German verse of "Gesundheit und ein froher Muth sind besser als viel Geld und gut" translates to "Good health and a happy disposition are better than much money and property." An owl is shown holding a sword over a hunting horn. Perhaps the owl signifies they have made a wise choice. The bottom has the incised "RuG" mark and the mold number "432."
Having acquired the stein, my interest in Rosskopf & Gerz was renewed. This time I studied the book rather than merely re-reading it. I immediately noted a couple of items of interest. On page 19 the author states the firm probably bought designs from Karl Görig and that the firm's own artist-designers included locally born Kilian Beuler. Girmscheid collectors should recognize that name as he was considered to be an exclusive employee of Girmscheid. Reading further, I found a picture of a stein (see black-and-white photo) that looked familiar. It was attributed to Rosskopf & Gerz, but the only mark on the bottom was 931 (not shown) and it does not appear in the 1914 catalog. I have the same stein in my Girmscheid collection with the same mold number, but containing the Girmscheid two-story house mark (see photos). The author states that the scene on 931 is reminiscent of the Bohemian artist Alfons Mucha (1860-1939) (see reference 6). Further deepening the mystery, Andre Ammelounx has a 1L Girmscheid stein, mold 961, listed in his February 23, 2005 auction catalog (lot 44). It has the same scene as the February Stein of the Month, yet it bears a Girmscheid trademark. The Beer Stein Library shows a different stein for Girmscheid mold 961.