Cookie jar

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Cookie jars are utilitarian or decorative ceramic or glass jars often found in American and Canadian kitchens. In the United Kingdom, they are known as biscuit barrels or biscuit jars. If they are cans made out of tinplate, they are called biscuit tins. While used to store actual cookies or biscuits, they are sometimes employed to store other edible items like candy or dog treats, or non-edible items like currency (in the manner of a piggy bank).

Origin and history[edit]

Cookie jars, also known as biscuit barrels or jars, have been used in England since the latter part of the 18th century. They were often made of glass with metal lids. Cookie jars became popular in America around the time of the Great Depression in 1929. Early American cookie jars were made of glass with metal screw-on lids. In the 1930s, stoneware became predominant as the material for American cookie jars. Early cookie jars typically have simple cylindrical shapes and were often painted with floral or leaf decorations or emblazoned with colorful decals.

The Brush Pottery Company of Zanesville, Ohio is generally recognized as producing the first ceramic cookie jar. The jar was green with the word "Cookies" embossed on the front. Most cookie jar manufacturers followed Brush's move to ceramics in the late 1930s, and designs became more innovative with figures, fruits, vegetables, animals, and other whimsical interpretations such as the Hull "Little Red Riding Hood" predominating. The golden period for American cookie jar production covers the years from 1940 until 1970, with several manufacturers rising to prominence.

McCoy cookie jars (produced in Roseville, Ohio) are highly prized among collectors. The company made cookie jars from about 1939 until production ceased in 1987, and the first jar produced ("Mammy") became, in time, one of the most collectible and valuable.

American Bisque of Williamstown, West Virginia is recognized as another top manufacturer of cookie jars. They are particularly distinguished for the many cartoon characters cookie jars.

Other well respected US manufacturers of cookie jars include Red Wing of Minnesota, Metlox Pottery of California, Abingdon Pottery of Illinois, and Shawnee Pottery of Ohio.

American cookie jar manufacturers[edit]

A cookie jar style container, used to hold dog treats.

American cookie jar themes[edit]

A rocket ship from American Bisque, ca. 1960. Space themes were popular as the space race began in earnest during the late 1950s.

Andy Warhol[edit]

Artist Andy Warhol amassed a collection of 175 ceramic cookie jars. These were in a multitude of shapes and figures. Most were purchased at flea markets. Warhol's collection was featured in a prominent news magazine and sparked an interest in collecting cookie jars. When asked in the 1970s why he pursued the 1930s and 1940s jars, Warhol said simply, "They are time pieces." At an auction of his apartment's contents in 1987, Warhol's collection of cookie jars realized $250,000.

Other uses[edit]

An American Bisque cookie jar using the Funny Animal theme popular in America during the 1950s.
  • Sometimes the phrase "keep your hands out of the cookie jar" is a way of telling someone to stay out of other people's business, even when to do so seems lucrative.
  • In financial reporting, "cookie jar accounting" is the practice of increasing reserves during good years and eating them up during bad years. This process of income smoothing is totally ethical, but non-disclosure - especially to consistently reach performance targets - is illegal.
  • In computer programming, a "cookie jar" is an area of memory set aside for storing cookies.

Popular culture[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to cookie jars at Wikimedia Commons