A couple weeks ago my main water line backed up and I had to have a plumber come and clear the line. They recommended I have the old clay pipe replaced with PVC pipe to the tune of $3,700. I opted for the $270 temporary fix, keeping the old clay sewer tiles in place and hoping they will remain clog-free another few years.
This leads me to our "Show and Tell" item for today, which is sewer tile art. Years ago, during the late 1800's to early 1900's, the companies that manufactured the tiles that were used in my clay pipes would use the same clay to make little figural items, such as lions, copies of Staffordshire dogs, or vases. These items are very collectible now, and fall into the category of folk art.
The banks of the Ohio River were a huge source of clay, and there were many potteries that produced sewer tile items from Ohio. I live in Michigan, just about 10 miles from the little town of Grand Ledge. The Grand Ledge Sewer Tile Company produced sewer tiles and sewer tile collectibles, many of them with identifying marks. Occasionally we come across these items at local auctions.
This Grand Ledge Sewer Tile lion below is helpfully marked on the side, so there is no question about its authenticity. It was sold by Ebay seller Rocky'sVariety Store recently for $149.00, which gives us an idea of the value of a marked figural sewer tile item:
Some sewer tile figures were cast in molds, and others were pieces of the pipe with added decoration, such as a section of pipe turned into a log form cemetery planter or a humidor. Still others were hand formed, and take on a very folky charm. I've seen these hand formed pieces before at local auctions, thinking they were some high school kid's project from ceramics class. What a surprise when the gavel fell at nearly $100 per piece!
I hope you will keep your eyes open for sewer tile items, especially if you live in the Ohio River Valley area, where they should be relatively plentiful.