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image of cow creamer
January 24, 2020

Simply bovine

If you've ever been perplexed by the collection of Staffordshire creamers in GW, this story is for you
by Allyson Irish

The collection of porcelain cows were given to the Academy as a gift from Milton Steinbach, Class of 1920, and his wife, Ruth. According to an essay by former head of school Don McNemar, the Steinbachs owned a large collection of Staffordshire Creamers that were displayed in their New York City apartment.

McNemar's essay, written in April 2015, provides additional insight into how and when the cows arrived at Andover.

The Cows in Steinbach Lobby

The Staffordshire Creamers, better known as “The Cows,” across from the entrance to the Steinbach Theatre in George Washington Hall were a gift from Mrs. Steinbach upon her death.

Mrs. Steinbach’s husband [Milton, Class of 1920] had been an active Phillips Academy trustee and a loyal supporter of the school. He was deceased before I became head of school, so I only had the pleasure of knowing Mrs. Steinbach, whom Britta [the wife of Don McNemar] and I would visit a couple of times a year at her New York apartment.

When we walked into Mrs. Steinbach’s apartment on Central Park South, we were struck by two things: One was the windows overlooking Central Park with grand views of the park in the center of Manhattan. On the opposite wall was a fireplace with shelves above it containing an extensive collection of ceramic cows of all colors, poses, and styles.

Mrs. Steinbach explained that Mr. Steinbach had gotten her one of these Staffordshire Creamers in the shape of a cow as a whimsical gift. They both loved it and began collecting these cows that were designed to hold cream which could be poured out of the cow’s mouth.

As we came to know Mrs. Steinbach, we enjoyed evenings together in New York talking about PA experiences she and Mr. Steinbach had enjoyed and we shared stories of Andover today. We invariably talked about the cow collection and how certain cows had come to be included in the Steinbach collection.

On one visit, Mrs. Steinbach said she had decided that she wanted the cow collection to come to Phillips Academy, if we would like to have the cows. The only thing she asked was that the collection be maintained as a group and not broken up. After consultation, we agreed that Phillips Academy would like to have the collection.

We also agreed on a place to display the cows at Andover. At that time, we were in the midst of raising funds for the renovation and expansion of George Washington Hall with major new performance space for theatre and the arts. Mrs. Steinbach agreed that she would like to fund the black box theatre in the new wing of GW Hall. We decided together that the cows should be displayed in the lobby space outside the Steinbach Theatre. We then asked the architects for the new GW wing to include in their design the shelves to display the cows.

However, the cows arrived at PA before the Steinbach Theatre was completed so their first home was in Phelps House. We had cows on mantles, on bookshelves, and on desks throughout the Head’s residence, prompting many questions about “where did all these cows come from?”

And each September when new students would come to Phelps House to meet us during orientation, Britta would pick up a cow from the mantlepiece and talk about the Steinbachs. She would describe how the Steinbachs, and so many others who believe in Andover, have contributed to support scholarships, teaching, programs, theatres, and buildings.

Britta would conclude with: “Today, you the new students of Andover, join this wonderful legacy of belief in the vision of Andover and of generosity in supporting the school with oh, so many gifts of time, of expertise, of funds, and yes, even of cows.”

[footnote]

The collection of Staffordshire cows now reside in the case across from the entrance to the Steinbach Theatre.

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