At Americana Journal we have a particular adoration for rabbits. It’s Leroy’s fault.
Leroy is the office rabbit. At one time, however, he was someone’s much-beloved and quite-tame pet.
Daughter No. 2 and I happened upon Leroy while walking in a wooded park last September. He had apparently been dumped at a spot close to a nearby country road. A domestic rabbit in the wild typically ends up as the dinner guest of a coyote. We couldn’t bear to see that happen. When Leroy allowed me to walk over and pick him up, it was a foregone conclusion he would go home with us.
Daughter No. 1, who loves to give our pets old-fashioned names she has discovered during our expeditions to 19th-century cemeteries, quickly decided what to call the latest addition to our menagerie. Shortly thereafter, plans to send Leroy to another home folded when we decided our new buddy had already become a part of the family.
That’s how he came to be the office rabbit.
The fascination over our furry friend — possibly the softest animal you’ll ever touch — has led us to pay particular attention to any rabbit-related antiques we come across. During the Keramics 2011 session held by Humler & Nolan on June 4 in Cincinnati, the showstopper for us was a Saturday Evening Girls breakfast set with a repeating decoration of three running rabbits.
The story behind the set left us nodding in a that’s-so-cool kind of fashion.
According to the auction catalog, the bowl, plate and cup were made in 1919 for Emily Velona Barringer, the newborn daughter of Dr. Emily Dunning Barringer. Dr. Barringer was the world’s first ambulance surgeon and the first woman to secure a surgical residency. Her daughter apparently never used the set, as it remained in remarkable condition. Each piece was marked “S.E.G. 10-19 AM” in black slip on the bottom, as well as “Emily Her Bowl” (or mug or plate) in a prominent place. Having remained in Dr. Barringer’s family until recently, the set sold at auction for $2,990 (with buyer’s premium).
It’s a great grouping of American art pottery. But the set also has fantastic provenance, which is something you can’t buy at Pottery Barn. That’s what distinguishes antiques from knock-offs and new items found at shopping malls and in mail-order catalogs — it’s more that just age, it’s the story behind many of the pieces. Even Leroy would agree with that.
FYI: For information on Humler & Nolan, see the Web site here.