Knobs Of A Different Color
Southern Accents owner, Garlan Gudger, Jr., has a fascination with door knobs. He’s been collecting them since he was a child. Much of his prized collection is on display in the SA showroom in Cullman, Alabama. While Garlan is passionate about salvaging architectural antiques, question him about the door knobs and you will discover that he has a wealth of information along with many interesting stories about them. One such story is a tale about porcelain knobs that serves as a stark reminder of a period in American history that will never be forgotten.
In the early 1850’s, a variety of mineral knobs were patented in black, white, and brown colors. The knobs were made of porcelain mixed with minerals which created a material that was harder and more durable than its wooden predecessors. These knobs were commonly used in rural farm homes, as well as the service areas of wealthy plantation homes. The tale that has been passed down through door knob collectors is that the color of the door knob indicated who was allowed to enter. People of color were allowed to enter if the door knob was black. White knobs designated “white only” entrances and a brown knob symbolized an entry accessible to both skin tones. If you visit an architectural salvage store, there are always more black and white porcelain knobs than brown, a fact that lends credence to this tale.
History is written for those yet to come. The accurate recording of historical events is important lest we forget. While we do not know if the tale of the colored porcelain knobs is factual, it does serve as a reminder. A reminder that we live in a country made up of a remarkable diversity of creative people. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
The beautiful brown porcelain door knob shown above is known as a Bennington knob. These knobs were created in a factory in Bennington, Vermont. A mineral was swirled with a brown clay mixture to create a unique pattern. While all brown knobs with this swirl pattern are known as a Bennington, a true Bennington knob has a cream base and is a nice, rare find!
Written by: Lisa Jones