The Reinhold Merkelbach pottery was founded in 1845 in the Westerwald town of Höhr. Art pottery was first produced there in 1882. Character steins were among the first steins produced in those early years. The 1895 Reinhold Merkelbach catalog included 29 different figurals. In fact, mold number 1 was a character stein of a ½ liter Munich Child; mold number 3 was a Monk, and mold number 11 was Gambrinus. From 1912-1918, Reinhold Merkelbach was part of a partnership known as Steinzeugwerke GmbH. Reinhold Merkelbach did not, however, contribute any character steins to this combine. From 1982 until 1988, Reinhold Merkelbach was part of the Goebel Company and was known as Goebel Merkelbach. During this collaboration, they produced a series of character steins that are listed in this book as Goebel Merkelbach. Today the company is known as Merkelbach Manufaktur GmbH. and produces only one character stein, a lighthouse.
During early production years, Reinhold Merkelbach often marked their stein bases. This mark was usually the incised hexagram with an [RM] inside it. A mold number often accompanied this mark. On some figurals with a recessed base (but not one made for a music box), the familiar basemark does not appear.
Reinhold Merkelbach worked in both cream stoneware and blue-grey stoneware. The majority of their character production was hand-painted cream stoneware.
The majority of Reinhold Merkelbach character steins were made in the ½ liter size. Very few of their figurals came in multiple sizes. The only notable exception is the very first one, the Munich Child. Because of the demand for souvenir items, this stein was adapted to ¼ liter, ½ liter, two liter, 2½ liter and five liter sizes. There may have been a one-liter size also, but none has been reported yet. In fact, there are still several character steins pictured in their 1895 catalog that have not yet surfaced.
There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to how Reinhold Merkelbach numbered steins. We can only assume that, if the first stein produced was mold number 1, the higher the number, the later the stein was introduced. Their first design, mold number 1, was a ½ liter Munich Child character stein which was introduced in 1882. It was probably a popular product since it stayed in their line for a long period of time (see figure ____).
PEWTER LID RIMS
Pewter lid rims are present on many Reinhold Merkelbach character steins. However, many were produced without them. All character steins made by Reinhold Merkelbach were produced only one way, either with a pewter rim for the lid or without a pewter rim. Reinhold Merkelbach generally did not vary their manufacturing methods. However, if they changed the design of the stein, they sometimes also changed the use of the lid rim, as in the case of the Bavaria one-liter figural. The later version did not receive a lid rim while the earlier one did.
MUSIC BOX BASES
Some early Reinhold Merkelbach figurals were made with more than one type of base. Some pieces usually contain slightly recessed bases, generally decorated with a line of German text, while others do not. Some of these same character steins were also available with a flared, deeper hollow music box base. These include the Monkey with Guitar, the Cat with Seltzer Bottle, and the Rich Mother-in-law. This flared music box base adds a new dimension to the richness of the stein (see figure ___). In the case of the modern Monk figural, the music box is sometimes mounted in the lid. Some of these Monks were also made with music boxes in their bases. This is the only character stein that was manufactured in this manner.
Reinhold Merkelbach often made changes in their designs over the years. As mentioned earlier, the statue of Bavaria (mold #579) was first designed standing on a rock and with a pewter lid rim. A later version shows her on a stand marked Bavaria and without the rim. The Beehive stein (mold #1384) has been seen in four different versions. The earliest version includes 20 bees hovering around the hive. In the next version, there are only 17. In the third and fourth versions, the lettering in the heart-shaped side panels is in block letters and 19 bees are present. The latest version is in full color and contains the 1945-1968 Reinhold Merkelbach incised mark.