Documenting the American South

Doc South header logo Home
Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina
Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina
Commemorative Landscapes banner
  • Monument Name

    The Mickey Coffee Pot, Winston-Salem

  • Type

    Sculpture

  • Subjects

    Industry

    Local History

  • Creator

    Samuel Mickey, Sculptor

    Julius Mickey, Sculptor

  • City

    Winston-Salem

  • County

    Forsyth

  • Description

    The monument, made of silver-painted metal and wood, is crafted in the shape of a large old-fashioned coffee pot and has a volume of 740 gallons. It stands 7'3" tall and has a diameter of 27" at its top and 64" at its bottom. Including the supporting post, the monument stands at roughly 12' in height.

    Adhered to the supporting post is a rectangular plaque containing the monument's inscription.

    Image of the plaque
    Vintage postcards: "The Big Coffee Pot" One of the City's Old Landmarks, ca. 1959 | Coffee Pot. One of Salem's old land marks | Salem's Famous Landmark, "The Big Coffee Pot", ca. 1915 | The Big Coffee Pot, ca. 1930-1945

  • Inscription

    THE MICKEY COFFEE POT / BUILT IN 1858 BY THE BROTHERS / SAMUEL AND JULIUS MICKEY, MORAVIAN / DESCENDANTS OF THE FOUNDERS OF SALEM, THIS / LANDMARK ORIGINALLY STOOD AS A SIGN IN / FRONT OF THEIR TIN SHOP AT THE CORNER OF / SOUTH MAIN AND BELEWS STREETS IN SALEM / WACHOVIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY

  • Custodian

    City of Winston-Salem

  • Dedication Date

    March 14, 1976

  • Decade

    1970s

  • Geographic Coordinates

    36.090830 , -80.242890 View in Geobrowsemap pin

  • Supporting Sources

      "Plaque Put On Coffee Pot," Winston-Salem Journal, (Winston-Salem, NC), March 15, 1976, 16

      "The Mickey Coffee Pot," Smithsonian Institution, (accessed May 20, 2014) Link

      "The Salem Coffee Pot," The Wachovia Historical Society, (accessed May 22, 2014) Link

      Davis, Chester. "The Coffee Pot: One of the City's Widely Known Symbols," (accessed May 22, 2014) Link

      Sexton, Scott. "Mystery of the 1930 Salem Coffee Pot Explosion Solved," Winston-Salem Journal, (Winston-Salem, NC), December 30, 2012, (accessed May 22, 2014) Link

  • Public Site

    Yes

  • Materials & Techniques

    Sculpture: Silver-painted tin and wood

    Base: concrete

  • Monument Dedication and Unveiling

    The Wachovia Historical Society installed the plaque on the Coffee Pot monument at 3:00 p.m. on March 14, 1976 and held a ceremony to honor the Mickey brothers. Frank Albright (serving as director of the Winston-Salem Museum at that time) blew into a conch shell while the plaque was affixed. Dr. Edwin Stockton, Jr., president of the Wachovia Historical Society, read letters from United States President Gerald Ford and Winston-Salem Mayor Franklin Shirley to a crowd of approximately seventy people.

  • Nickname

    Salem Coffee Pot, Old Salem Coffee Pot, Old Coffee Pot

  • Subject Notes

    Until 1948, when Bishop Howard Rondthaler was president of Salem College, students had to sign out before venturing further north than the Coffee Pot, as it separated Salem from Winston.

    A number of stories and folklore surround the Coffee Pot. Claims of people inside the Coffee Pot range from a small boy in the 1800s who often climbed through the monument's trap door to light a fire inside in order to boil water and make steam come out of the spout, to conflicting stories of a Union or Confederate soldier hiding inside during the Civil War. However, no evidence has been found to suggest that this was possible or safe.

    Additionally, some claim that coffee was prepared for large numbers of people who attended lovefeasts at Easter and Christmas by lighting a similar means of lighting a fire inside and boiling water. Similar stories describe General Stoneman taking his federal troops through Salem in 1865 where the people of Salem met the soldiers at the town limits and brought them to the Coffee Pot, where they served them hot coffee.

    However, another local story relates that, in 1930, a group of local boys (who later became prominent members of Winston-Salem) made a firecracker and threw it into the Coffee Pot. They were ultimately caught because one of the pieces of scrap paper used in the fire cracker's construction contained a grandmother's address and was still legible after the explosion. The only harm to the Coffee Pot was a rip in a metal seam and each of the boys involved were required to pay $3.00 as compensation for the damage.

    Additionally, in the fall of 1975, when the Russian basketball team came to Winston-Salem, they were given miniature versions of the Coffee Pot sculpture as mementos of their visit.

  • Controversies

    While in its original location outside of the Mickeys' tinsmith shop, the Coffee Pot protruded into the street and posed a danger even to the horse and buggy traffic of the day. After the shop was later handed off to a different tinsmith, L.B. Brickenstein, the Coffee Pot remained out by the street. However, in 1920, a horse and buggy was traveling over twenty miles per hours and knocked the sculpture over, almost hitting a woman and child. This incident, along with existing sign regulation ordinances, gave strength to the voices of those who opposed the sculpture's restoration to its former location. Although the Coffee Pot was kept behind the store for a time, Henry Fries and Bishop Edward Rondthaler spoke up and argued for the symbolic significance of the Coffee Pot. Ultimately, the town aldermen allowed it to be relocated but required that it be placed further away from the street.

  • Location

    The Coffee Pot monument is located in a grassy plot at the junction of South Main Street, Old Salem Road, and Brookstown Avenue.

  • Landscape

    The Coffee Pot monument sits on a grass plot surrounded by various bushes and flowers. Also located on this plot are two large trees and two light/telephone poles. Otherwise, the area is devoid of any architecture.

  • Former Locations

    After its creation in 1858, the Coffee Pot served as a functional advertisement outside of Julius and Samuel Mickey's tinsmith shop at South Main Street and Belews Street. It also spent time behind the store's location due to an unfortunate traffic accident (as described above). However, in 1959, the Coffee Pot had to be moved again due to the construction of Interstate 40.

Know anything else about this monument that isn't mentioned here? If you have additional information on this or any other monument in our collection fill out the form at the Contact Us link in the footer. Thank you.