Located in Williamstown, West Virginia, the company originally started as a maker of Kewpie Doll heads — mostly because of World War I supply lines being stopped to European products. B.E. Allen purchased the company in 1922 and it stayed in the family until sold in 1982, it closed only one year late.
As with several other pottery companies, the history gets a little fuzzy. Pottery companies that were intertwined with American Bisque include American Pottery, Ludowici-Celadon, and Terrace Ceramics. To further complicate the history, American Bisque made and decorated jars that were (then) distributed by Cardinal China Company. The Complete Cookie Jar Book *by Mike Schneider does it’s best to untangle the maze of cookie jar companies and products and is well worth adding to the book shelf if you are interested in learning more about American cookie jars.
As with many of the companies from the golden age of cookie jar production, other products included planters, banks, pitchers among their most popular products.
Large wedge shapes on the bottom of the jars are one way to tell an American Bisque jar. Many jars are marked with U.S.A. and sometimes with a mold number. Airbrushing is common on American Bisque jars and adds to their distinctive look.
Fakes and Reproductions
As with many of pottery companies, reproductions are also a problem when dealing with American Bisque jars. Especially beware of the higher priced jars such as Casper, Audrey, the Flintstones jars and the Popeye series. One of the best ways to distinguish a reproduction is by the size, most of them are anywhere from 1/2″ – 1″ shorter than the legitimate jar. Also look for details on the paintings, facial features, etc.
The Bottom Line
One of the more prolific producers of cookie jars, American Bisque jars are well-made, heavy jars and an asset to any collection. There are numerous jars to choose from, including many licensed pieces, with prices ranging from $50 on up to over $1000. One of the rarest of them all is the Herman and Katnip jar licensed by Harvey Cartoons. I’ve personally seen the jar for sale three times, once for $7,000, once for $10,000 and an auction held by Hakes.com where the final price was over $10,000.
*There were several versions of this book, but any version will do for the basic information on American cookie jar companies, including marks and histories.