Personal Effects, Dec. 11
Published 9:05 am Tuesday, December 13, 2016
By Jerry Sampson
Question: Mr. Sampson, Just what is this? It’s been in my family for as long as I can remember and an aunt said it was a dipper, but I don’t think that that’s right. It’s very smooth and old. There is no hole in the handle to hang it. It stands a little over five inches high. No marks that I can see. There was one I saw at Shaker Village in the kitchen years ago. I enjoy your articles. Thank you.
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Answer: If you saw one of these in the kitchen at Shaker Village it was in the right spot. This is a piggin. A piggin is a staved small bucket with a handle. It was used for dipping and for measuring out items like oatmeal, rice, wheat or flour — just about anything in a kitchen that would need dipping or scooping out. So your aunt was correct.
It makes no difference if it had a hole or not. The name piggin has some interesting history around it.
The word is an obscure Gaelic word, from at least the 14th century. Originally it started out as pigean, which means an earthen ware pitcher, jug or pot. Over time it evolved into piggin.
Your piece dates from the 1840s to the 1860s period. They ranged from large to small. You can find the larger ones but this tiny size is very collectible. You never encounter these in the market anymore.
The only thing that could make them any more desirable is the addition of an original coat of red, yellow or blue paint.
Don’t paint it. It’s never had a drop of paint on it. An original paint is the only thing that could increase its value.
That smooth surface is very, very likely original and can’t be duplicated. Do nothing to it… ever! Only dust it with a damp cloth from time to time.
I have to say that this piggin is just stunning. The way that it’s constructed, the age and its patina, makes one think that it could be Shaker, but with out a provenance it’s just a great old country piece.
I’ve got a feeling that at a good high end country show, that this piggin would carry a price tag of about $300. It’s just a great piece. Thank you for sharing it with us.