Canadian Stoneware Water Cooler Brings $30,680 At Miller & Miller Auction

Tulip-Inlaid Shrank Sells For $10,030

March 22, 2019

A Morton & Company stoneware water cooler from the early 1850s, made by Justus Morton in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, soared to $30,680 to take top lot honors in Miller & Miller Auctions Ltd.’s 499-lot Canadiana and Historic Objects Auction, held Feb. 9 online and in the New Hamburg, Ontario, Canada gallery. All prices quoted are in Canadian dollars and include a buyer’s premium.
The water cooler easily surpassed its $15,000-$18,000 estimate and was elaborately decorated with figures, including a man wrestling with lions with fish-like heads, a man smoking a pipe, a woman taking snuff and others with Greek, Roman or biblical origins, rare for utilitarian pottery. Morton left Lyons, N.Y., in 1849 to found Canada’s first stoneware pottery factory.
The auction was a treasure trove of Canadian history, one that included signs and advertising, historical photographs and ephemera, clocks, folk art, decoys and primitives, early pottery, fruit jars and stoneware, sports memorabilia, paintings, heirloom furniture and more. Many, but not all of the items in the sale were specific to Canada, hence the title Canadiana and Historic Objects.
“Overall the sale was extremely well-received and brought out a number of serious Ontario collectors and dealers who’d never attended a Miller & Miller auction event before,” said Ben Lennox of Miller & Miller Auctions. “Many bidders made the two- to four-hour car drive from all over Ontario, places like Collingwood, Kingston, Windsor, and Niagara, to name a few.”
“The best of the best, the rare, the unique and the extraordinary items continue to shine. Beyond the water cooler, which was among the surprise lots of the sale and really excited the crowd, we once again saw incredible strength with early Ontario license plates, Canadian art, advertising signs, clocks and early toys. It was a great way to kick off 2019,” continued Lennox.
The auction attracted around 200 people to the gallery and thousands more to bid online via, and the Miller & Miller website, Phone and absentee bids were also accepted.
The furniture category included a schrank (Pennsylvania German for a two-door clothing wardrobe), a tulip-inlaid masterpiece made in Upper Canada (Hanover or Gray County) in the second half of the 19th century attributed to John Klempp ($10,030), as well as a Great Waterloo County harvest table holding three drawers with wood pegged turned legs, 72 inches long with original stain ($4,025).
Antique Canadian license plates proved to be popular with bidders. Top lots included a pair of 1910 Ontario plates made from rubber with whitewall bar, having no cracks ($8,850); a pair of 1916 Ontario cloth-bound cardboard temporary plates, Serial #T1050” ($5,310); and a rare pair of 1911 cobalt porcelain enamel plates made by The McClary Stove Company ($2,070).
Timepieces also performed well. An English tall case clock with the dial, signed “Ryrie Birks, Toronto,” 104 inches tall, purchased at an Ontario estate sale in the 1950s, brought $7,670; a Pequegnat “Regulator #1” said to be the finest weight-driven office clock ever made, 35 inches tall with a refinished case, realized $4,025; and an American-made 14-carat gold 1930s Walt Disney presentation watch by Hamilton, engraved “To RK 1937 from (Walt Disney),” made $1,770.
A 1960 face mask allegedly used in practice by the legendary Montreal Canadians hockey star Jacques Plante, but never worn in an actual NHL game, retrieved from the trash in 1963 by his former teammate John “Fergie” Ferguson Sr., rose to $4,720. Also, a miniature canoe, made around 1890 and attributed to John Stephenson (Peterborough, Ont.), known as the “grandfather of the Peterborough canoe,” one of only four known “sample models” by him, hit $6,900.
A rare early Canadian Grand Trunk Railroad lithograph advertising poster signed “Toronto Lithographing Co.” and titled “The Globe Special Train, Passing Dundas,” housed in a 34.25-by-28.25 inch frame, left the station for $5,400. Also, an oil-on-canvas painting by Frank Shirley Panabaker (1904-92), signed lower left and titled “Georgian Bay,” changed hands for $3,300.
A Canadian-made, 1930s-era Schneider’s porcelain sign boasting an early version of the iconic “Dutch Girl” graphic and with superb color and gloss, 22.5-by-46.5 inches, made $5,015, while a German Belsnickel Christmas store display, larger than usual at 18.5 inches and meant to hold candy, made of handpainted papier-mâché composition with felt clothing and a real fur beard and hair, holding a genuine feather tree with blown glass ornaments, commanded $3,000.
Surprise lots that well outperformed their pre-sale estimates included a fire captain’s walking stick from Yorkville Station 312 (Toronto’s oldest firehall, built in 1878 and still in operation), with a highly ornate gold-filled handle inscribed to “Captain Urwin” and dated 1905 ($1,770), and an amber skater’s lantern, with no chips, cracks or damage ($1,495).
To learn more about Miller & Miller Auctions, call either 519-573-3710 or 519-716-5606 or visit


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