Tobacco To Treasure – A Sarreguemines Majolica Story
Sarreguemines is a French spelling of the local Lorraine-German dialect name “Saargemin” meaning “confluence into the Saar” and is located at the confluence of the Blies tributary and the Saar river, 40 miles (64 km) east of Metz, 60 miles (97 km) northwest of Strasbourg in the Lorraine region of France.
There, in 1790, three Strasbourg tobacco merchants, Nicolas Jacoby, Augustin Jacoby and Joseph Fabry opened a pottery firm in an old oil mill and by the beginning of the nineteenth century had managed to establish a reputation for production diversification and quality.
By 1860 the firm boasted 2,000 workers (an increase of around 1700 over only 20 years), four kilns, an excess of four million gross annually and an unprecedented product range. Materials were shipped along the Saar river by boat between their now five plants and it was amidst this thriving industry that stoneware moulded high standard majolica production began and became identified with Sarreguemines.
In 1871, following the Franco-Prussian War and with the Treaty of Frankfurt, Sarreguemines came under German control as part of the region known as the Imperial Province of Alsace-Lorraine but majolica production continued.
The McKinley Tariff Act 1890, an act of the United States Congress framed by Representative William McKinley, raised the average duty on imports to almost fifty percent and required that all imports to be marked with the country of manufacture. Though this would have impacted on Sarreguemines majolica exports, it wasn’t until the beginning of the 1900s ( well after the McKinley Tariff was replaced with the Wilson–Gorman Tariff Act in 1894, which promptly lowered tariff rates ) that Sarreguemines added the Lorraine crest and the words ‘Made in Germany’ to their mark.
In 1899 the English cottoned on to the advertising value of the French made character jugs when an alcoholic beverage distributor ordered from Sarreguemines and added logos to them as a form of brand promotion. These advertising jugs were so popular that, before long, English potteries began to manufacture their own character jug versions. Collectors are often able to identify the English jugs by the thick potting, bluish skin tones and often untidy colouring. English designs often have blue toned colored interiors quite unlike the the Sarreguemines turquoise.
In 1907, Sarreguemines, now with 3250 employees, became one of the most dominant global pottery manufacturers and had a reputation for excellence. Eventually it was returned to French control after the end of World War 1.
Sarreguemines exported around the globe to buyers in South America, Australia, Norway and Russia with many of them ordering more specialised commemorative majolica character jugs (toby jugs) representing presidents or national heroes.
The majolica market value has recently improved as new collectors have entered the market and demand has exceeded supply. The internet has helped to fuel interest and has encouraged more collectors whilst improving item availability and exposure. Rare Sarreguemines examples have rocketed in price but the more readily available items can still be obtained at competitive prices.