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  • Writer's pictureCarole Conn

Peaseware, the Ultimate American Treen

Wooden kitchen and storage utensils have been in use for hundreds of years, perhaps thousands of years.

We Americans have a strong tradition of using wood to create all kinds of useful objects, primarily because of the abundance of wood that existed in our new world. Objects crafted of wood or often called treen.

The early settlers crafted eating utensils including plates, bowls and spoons from the wood around them. Wood was cheap and available, and unlike china, did not break easily.

Beginning in the late 18th century and early 19th century, lathes were used to produce practical objects with decorative touches. Covered boxes and bowls were needed to store herbs, spices, grains, sugar, and precious objects. A lathe- turned sugar bowl is a rare and beautiful object, but often has hairlines and cracks due to the expansion and contraction of wood over time. It is hard to find an early mortar, or bowl without expansion cracks. Even with them, the object can be extremely collectible and valuable.

The Pease family were early settlers into the Connecticut River Valley in southern Massachusetts. They milled lumber and created wooden objects. At the time, furniture created in the Connecticut River Valley was some of the most beautiful and sought after in the colonies and early republic. It is known for its refinement, sympathetic design, and careful use of fine woods.

David Mills Pease was born in the Connecticut River Valley of Massachusetts in 1815. He took the opportunity to move his family to eastern Ohio during our initial expansion west. In 1840 he settled in the Cascade Valley of Northeast Ohio, and founded his business in 1850.

Pease was heavily influenced by the refinement of the furniture that was made in the area where he was born. He set about to create exquisitely crafted and delicately designed treenware, primarily in the form of covered bowls and boxes for the storage of kitchen staples.

He used only the finest maple. He developed and produced intricately turned items which he then lacquered to retain the beauty of the maple. While many others attempted to produce attractive treen containers, none reached the height of refinement and beauty as the objects produced by Pease.

Peaseware, as it has become known, is highly collectible and valuable today. It is rare to find a piece that retains its beautiful mellow surface and is without cracks or breaks. Look for a bulbous bowls with intricate turnings and fitted lids with turned finials. These were made in all sizes, from less than 2 inches tall to over a foot tall. Some have wire bail handles with wood grips, making them easier to carry. The shapes vary slightly, but are readily identifiable as Peaseware.

The other notable producer of finely turned wood objects was the Lehn family of Pennsylvania. Their goods were markedly different from Peaseware. The turnings are less defined and more obvious, and their objects were almost universally painted bright colors. Lehnware is also extremely collectible and hard to find.

Most Peaseware pieces that you find today were made between 1860 and 1890, although the company continued in business into the beginning of the 20th century. Look for original surfaces, although some early painted surfaces are very pleasing, lids that fit, and pieces with as little damage as possible. Expect to pay well over $200 for smaller pieces and well over $1000 for large pieces. Pieces that display well in spite of some flaws can sometimes be found for under $200.

This is my collection. They look great in my kitchen, and I love them all, but few of them are perfect.

Happy hunting!

Carole Conn


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