“Sweet” Keepsakes: Cookie Jars

Mar 3, 2012 | 2012 Articles, Diana Bulls, Food Fun, Hometown History

by Diana Bulls

At the end of the article is a cookie recipe to make cookies to put in those cookie jars, plus a coupon for the Reedley Sandwich Shop.

One of my favorite memories of my grandmother is that of her bottomless cookie jar. Grandma’s cookie jar was always full of snicker doodles, chocolate chip, peanut butter, or my favorite, Oatmeal Crunchies. The old black, crockery jar was shaped like a bean pot and had painted red cherries arching across its front. It sat on the counter just inside the kitchen door, which made it handy for marauding grandchildren. My brother, Bill, was caught red-handed one day and dropped the cookie jar lid on the floor, where it broke in half. Grandma patiently mended the jar lid and continued to use it, but from then on the lid made a distinctive “clink” when closed, so Grandma always knew when it was in the process of being raided.

Cherry jar: My Grandmother Dutcher’s cookie jar

The first cookie jars in history seem to show up in 18th century England as “biscuit jars” or “biscuit tins.” These were made of hand-painted china, of glass with tin lids, or sometimes totally out of tin with a tin lid. The English, in case you didn’t know, refer to cookies as “biscuits.”

Biscuit jars came across the Atlantic with our early English ancestors, but the American cookie only reached popularity around the turn of the century, when the name was derived from the Dutch wedding cake known as “koekje.” The few cookie jars manufactured in the United States at that time tended to be of plain stone ware for home or of glass with a screw-on tin lid for commercial businesses. A homemaker might just as well use an empty coffee tin or cardboard oatmeal box to store cookies in.

In 1929, cookie jar history took a giant leap. This is when what is commonly believed to be the first ceramic cookie jar was made by the Brush Pottery Company of Zanesville, Ohio. The jar was green with the word “Cookies” embossed on the front. Early ceramic jars were made of white earthenware with a clear alkaline glaze and then decorated with “cold paint.” The resulting artwork usually wore off quite soon. By 1940, most pottery firms were utilizing under-glazes which were long-lasting.

The 1940s through the 1970s are considered to be the “golden age” of American cookie jars, and McCoy Pottery Company of Roseville, Ohio is considered to be the leader. They produced an amazing array of jars which ranged from chickens and cartoon characters to clowns and kissing penguins. The McCoy Company has produced a McCoy Cookie Jar Index that lists all of their cookie jars dating from the late 1930s to present day. Each cookie jar is listed by year has a link to the history and an image of the jar: http://www.mccoypottery.com/cookiejars/.

Other popular cookie jar manufacturers of that era include Red Wing, Regal China, Brush, California Originals, Metlox, Hall, Abingdon, Treasure Craft, Doranne of California, Robinson-Ransbottom, Hull, Twin Winton and Shawnee Pottery. Cookie jars were produced in all shapes and sizes. Some jars only had one or two production runs which make them very scarce, however, lots of other jars sold in the hundreds of thousands, making them still available and affordable.

Mammy coookie jar: 1930s cold painted jar

America’s most famous cookie jar collector was the pop artist Andy Warhol. He purchased most of his jars at flea markets. When his apartment’s contents were auctioned off in 1988, his collection of 175 common, everyday cookie jars sold for an incredible $240,000.

You might have inherited your grandmother’s cookie jar, or maybe your mother’s—this could be a start for your own collection. There are lots of jars that can still be found at thrift stores and yard sales ranging from $2 to $10, that will make the search fun. Or, check out the vintage jars online or in antique stores. As with all collectibles, you should do some research before you buy an expensive cookie jar—there are reproductions that can fool even the experts. The bottom line is that you should buy a cookie jar because you love it.

Mrs. Fields Cookie Jar

I am very lucky to have inherited that cherry covered cookie jar from my Grandmother, and it sits happily on my kitchen counter complete with its mended lid and a newer chip that came from one of my own girls. I have to confess, though, that as a working mother, at our house the jar was most often filled with store-bought cookies… and they seemed to taste better straight out of the cookie jar!


Oatmeal Crunchies (from Lola Dutcher)
1 C flour
½ C sugar
½ tsp soda
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ C brown sugar
½ C shortening
1 egg
¼ tsp vanilla
¾ C quick oatmeal
½ C walnutsHeat oven to 375o F.
Sift together flour, white sugar, soda, baking powder & salt in mixing bowl. Add brown sugar, shortening, egg and vanilla. Beat well. Add oatmeal and walnuts. Form into small balls and roll in white sugar. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 10 to 12 minutes.

Why not treat yourself to something at the Reedley Sandwich Shop & save the cookies for dessert!

Diana Bulls is an ongoing contributor to our
Hometown History section, having collected vintage kitchen utensils for over 40 years; she is also actively involved with the Reedley Historical Society.


  1. I just bought an identical Mammy cookie jar that is pictured on your website. What would the value of it be if it were in mint condition with no chips and such?

    • I have a cherry cookie jar like your grandmothers and would like to know if you have found what kind it is and also the value. I can’t find anything on it. thanks, Linda

  2. My mom had a cherry cookie jar like your grandmother’s. Would like to know if you have any information about it.


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