by Salvatore Mazzone
I recently acquired an example of the Schierholz Catalog Number 69 "Bürgermeister," a ½-liter porcelain figural stein (Picture 1).
Although reproductions of this stein were made by Schierholz from about 1986 to 1995, I am quite certain that this is an early-1900s original.
A Bürgermeister is the mayor or chairman of the executive council in towns and cities in many German-speaking countries in Europe. This Bürgermeister has "Karlsbad" written across his belly. This was not standard on the piece and would have been done at the Schierholz factory in response to a special order. I have seen custom writing on a number of other Schierholz steins but it's the first time I've seen it on this one.
Perhaps a shop owner special ordered one or more of these steins to sell to the tourist trade. Or maybe a resident simply chose it to sport the name of his beloved town. It might even be that it was gifted-to and/or purchased-by one of the actual Bürgermeisters of Karlsbad.
But the first question is, "Which Karlsbad does the writing refer to?"
Karlsbad was the former name of a city in Bohemia, named after Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and the King of Bohemia, who founded the city in the 14th century. It was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire prior to 1918 and is now named Karlovy Vary and part of the Czech Republic. It is the site of numerous hot springs and thermal mineral baths and has been a tourist hotspot since its founding. Both the German "Karlsbad" and Czech "Karlovy Vary" translate to "Charles Bath" or "Charles Spa" in English.
Karlsbad, Germany, on the other hand, is a much smaller town located in the state of Baden-Württemberg, in southwestern Germany. It also has a number of thermal baths, the first of which was opened by Count Karl Wilhelm von Baden in 1719. However, it was not until 1971 that the villages of Auersbach, Ittersbach, Langensteinbach, Mutschelbach, and Spielberg were united to form the City of Karslbad.
Since Karlsbad, Germany did not exist in the early 1900s, it is clear that the "Karlsbad" written on the stein refers to the city that is now Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic.
I queried the auction house and found out that the owner was a deceased Philadelphia lawyer, the family was of Russian descent, the nearest relative had dementia and would be unable to provide any additional information, and that privacy restrictions precluded their disclosing the family's name.
I very much wanted to find out more about the provenance of the stein if I could, so, I engaged in email dialogs with the City of Karlovy Vary Information Office and Ron Fox, but did not garner any additional useful information or insight.
In other words, I basically came up empty.
Made by C.G.Schierholz & Sohn in Plaue, Thuringia, Germany, it's pretty clear that the stein once resided in Karlsbad, Bohemia, now Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, found its way to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and now lives with me in Tampa, Florida. Beyond that, its history appears to have been lost in the sands of time, as is the case for so many of the steins that grace our shelves.
Still, I think this special order Der Bürgermeister is a neat addition to my collection. Is any Schierholz not?