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Roseville Pottery Company

Roseville Pottery Co. was founded in Roseville, Ohio in 1890, before a second plant was opened in 1898. By the turn of the century, the company focused on producing fine art pottery as well as their traditional, utilitarian pieces. Though World War II affected production, the company successfully existed through 1954.

Prior to 1936, Roseville fine art pottery was either unmarked, or marked by stamp or sticker. Post 1936, the Roseville name was marked on the bottom of the pottery, along with a number that represents a pattern number, followed by a number that represents the piece’s size in inches. Each piece is molded to a pattern-mold, and hand-painted. Thus, each piece of pottery boasts the intimacy of the artist’s touch, and is unique even within its pattern and type.

 
 

Van Briggle Pottery Company

Van Briggle Pottery was founded in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1899, by Artus Van Briggle and Anne Louise Gregory. Both had once been acclaimed hand-painters for the famous Rookwood Pottery company in Cincinnati, where they were thrust into the ceramic world. Having met during their artistic studies in Europe, the pair began the company upon their return.

Both Artus and Anne had studied painting, though their talents ultimately led them away from the easel and toward the potter's studio. Van Briggle became highly interested in a lost glazing technique which originally flourished during the Ming dynasty in China, and began experimenting with glazes until he could replicate it. Thus, Van Briggle's signature matte glazing was born in the spring of 1901.

Van Briggle passed away from tuberculosis on July 4, 1904. His wife, Anne, carried the company until she sold it in 1912, before moving to Denver to pursue painting full-time until her death in 1929. The company is still in operation today and produces tiles and other ceramics in kind to the original manufacturing style set up by Van Briggle himself. The most prized Van Briggle pieces are early, through the 1920s, though every Van Briggle is certainly a prized work of art.

 
 

McCoy Pottery Company

McCoy Pottery Company was founded by Nelson McCoy Sr. as the Nelson McCoy Sanitary and Stoneware Company in Roseville, Ohio. The company manufactured utilitarian stoneware goods until 1919, when it joined with eleven other pottery companies to form the American Clay Products Company in Zanesville, Ohio. Together, the ACPC had printed catalogs and produced stonewares without any one company's trademark, and sales were made primarily through traveling salesmen. The group-effort that was the ACPC thrived until 1926, when it dissolved, causing the twelve member-companies to once again become independent of one another. 

In order to re-establish their individuality, McCoy changed their name to Nelson McCoy Sanitary Stoneware Co., and changed their patterns to reflect the dawning era. By about 1929, the company began marking the base of their wares with a trademark for recognition. However, the changing times caused demand for sanitary stonewares to decrease, and the desire for decorative pieces to increase. Thus, the company redirected again. To herald their new direction, they changed their name to the Nelson McCoy Pottery Company, better known as McCoy Pottery Co., and Nelson's son was promoted to president.

The company operated until 1967, when it was sold to the Mt. Clemens Pottery Co., and Nelson's Jr. remained the president. In 1974, it was again sold to the Lancaster Colony Corporation, and by 1981, Nelson Jr. retired. In suit with the company's history, it was sold in 1985 to the Designer Accents of New Jersey, which had also recently acquired both the Holiday Designs of Sebring, Ohio and the Sunstone Pottery of Cambridge, Ohio. Designer Accents functioned until 1990 when they shuttered their doors for good. 

 
 

Rookwood Pottery Company

Rookwood Pottery was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1880, as the first manufacturing company in the US that was founded by a woman. The founder, Maria Longworth Nichols, reportedly named the company after the many rooks (crows) on her father's land, adding the suffix wood to harken to Wedgwood.

In 1883, Nichols passed along her interest in the Rookwood to the company's manager, William Taylor. Under Taylor's ownership, the company continued to expand and prosper. Some of the company's earliest pottery pieces are oriental in nature, as their designs were heavily influenced by Japanese ceramics. Their pieces are marked in various ways, though most notably, with the Rookwood trademark (a conjoined reversed 'R' and forward-facing 'P') surrounded by fourteen flames, a roman numeral year below, and a pattern number last. Between 1886-1900, one flame was added to the logo per year.

The company peaked in the 1920s when it partnered with Tiffany & Co. However, they did not as fully recover post Depression Era, but continued production until 1967. Since 2011, Marilyn and Martin Wade have owned the company, and are continuing its tradition of quality and beauty.

 
 

Robinson-Ransbottom Pottery Company

The Ransbottom Pottery Company was founded in 1901 by the three Ransbottom brothers: Frank, Edwin, Charles, and Mort. In 1919, a brick and tile company called the American Clay Products Company was formed, and by 1926, the two had merged to become the Robinson-Ransbottom Pottery Company (RRP Co.).

The company is sometimes confused with Roseville Pottery Co., because Robinson-Ransbottom Pottery Co. was located in Roseville, Ohio. They grew to become America’s largest manufacturer of utilitarian stoneware goods. Their blue crown mark garnered them the nickname “Crown Pottery”. They continued to produce until 2005, when the company shuttered for good.

 
 

J. & J.G. Low Art Tile Works

J. & J.G. Low Art Tile Works was founded in 1877 in Chelsea, Massachusetts by John Gardner Low and his father, John Low. They were inspired to start the company after attending the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania the year before.

One of only a few companies that worked to advance tile design from utilitarian to works of art, the company specialized in high-relief designs intended for stoves, fireplaces, walls, and even soda fountains.

Of the tile-makers in the industry, J. & J.G. Low Art Tile Works had earned a prominent reputation for their innovative designs, receiving numerous American and European awards. The height of their prestige occurred in the early 1880s. Members of the British royal family championed the company at an exhibition of their work before 1883.

In 1878, artist and designer George Robertson was hired into the company, and invented the the company’s iconic chocolate brown, amber, turquoise blues, rose, and olive green earth toned glazes.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Institutions are proud owners of several tile collections manufactured by J. & J.G. Low.

Please click here for a correlating excerpt about J. & J.G. Low Art Tile Works from In Pursuit of Beauty: Americans and the Aesthetic Movement by Doreen Bolger Burke, of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

→ Please click here for a PDF of relevant pages of the company's 1881 catalog.

→ Please click here for a scan of Plate XI from the company's 1887 catalog.

 

Niloak Pottery Company

Niloak Pottery Company first began in 1897 as a local pottery production in Benton, Arkansas, by brothers Charles, Paul and Lee Hyten. They made a business of creating churns, jugs, chicken feeders, crocks, and pots for utilitarian use by the citizens of their town. By 1902, Paul and Lee had broken from the family business, leaving Charles with sole ownership. He changed the company name to Eagle Pottery Company in 1907.

The Eagle Pottery Company grew to initial regional fame with the production of what is now known to be the company’s most famous and popular line of art pottery: Niloak. Niloak’s name comes from the word ‘kaolin’ spelled backwards; kaolin is a type of clay that was used by the company to produce their ceramics. The 1910 Niloak line is distinguished by its swirled neriage finish, a technique that was also implemented by the Ouachita Pottery Company, a competitor that was located in nearby Hot Springs. Though Ouachita Pottery had begun producing neriage pottery as early as 1906, Niloak Pottery’s adaptation became more popular.

Aside from expected growth and an increased employment of potters and greater production rates, there is not much known about the company’s history between 1915 and 1922. By 1922, the fad of neriage pottery had significantly increased, sending Charles and some of his chosen employees out on the road to promote their pieces, marketing the Niloak line to store owners across the United States. With their endeavors came a rise in public interest. Competing pottery companies around the nation sought to produce imitation neriage pieces, causing Niloak Pottery Company to trademark the swirled technique by 1928.

After taking out loans to produce their next line of pottery, called Hywood pottery, Niloak was hit with the hardships of the Great Depression that was just beginning to unravel. The Hywood line was comprised of over 400 new pieces, which were seemingly impossible to sell under the financial oppression of the times. The Niloak Pottery Company fell into receivership by 1934, at which point a group of businessmen from Little Rock bought them out. The company failed to produce or sell much for the next six years.

World War II brought some relief to the company’s slowing, as they were contracted to produce ceramic jars and porcelain electrical insulators for wartime efforts, as well as mugs for use by American soldiers. Yet, the small successes would not last long. A fire befell the company in 1945, which delayed production and, therefore, sales. This would ultimately result in the shuttering of the manufactory in 1947. Today, wares produced by the Niloak Pottery Company are very collectible, as the once-famous company’s lifetime was short, but greatly fashionable and beloved.