East Liverpool Historical Society

This article originally appeared in the 1979 Pottery Festival Souvenir Program

East Liverpool ....100 Years Ago

("The following is republished from the March 22, 1879 edition of the "East Liverpool Tribune"--a forerunner to the present-day "Evening Review." It was published in a weekly journal of industry which called the East Liverpool of that time, "Ceramic City-The Staffordshire of America. "J

"Articles of manufacture classed under the general term of pottery are very numerous, and there is little doubt that dishes and cooking utensils made of clay were among the first produc-tions of the human race as next to subsistence. These necessaries constituted the principal want of primitive mankind. Many useful as well as ornamental wares of clay have been produced from time to time, and some of those by the more enlightened nations of antiquity have excited our wonder and admiration for their unique design and artistic finish.

As the values of pottery ware appreciated-both for useful and decorative purposes-so did its manufacture increase. From other countries it leaped across the English Channel, and soon one entire country-that of Staffordshire-was given over to this industry. From England it has crossed the broad Atlantic, and in the new world established itself so rapidly and on such a per-manent basis that a few years hence foreign wares will, like English steel and hardware, be almost wholly excluded from the American market

The growth of this industry in the United States is truly astonishing, for some twenty five years or thirty years ago none but the most common articles were produced, and these in but limited quantities. Now the manufacture embraces cream colored china, white granite ware, yellow and Rockingham wares and pure china and decorated goods. In the matter of decoration great progress has been made, the skill and artistic ability of American workmen being such as to commend their examples to the highest favor.

The Centennial Exhibition no doubt aided largely in developing this industry, especially in art pieces and decorative ware, besides giving our manufacturers an opportunity of studying the best productions of other nations in this line. It awakened them to the fact that by vigorously exercising their ingenuity and energy they could make it play a most important part in the com-mercial and industrial career of our preeminent country. If any argument were needed to prove the beneficient policy of a protective tariff to build up the manufactures of a nation, it might be said that the pottery industry only attained a permanent foot-hold when the government im-posed a tariff on foreign wares. Capital was at once liberally invested, and the best machinery and skilled labor employed, resulting in a far superior class of goods and a reduction in prices

Our potters have made many changes in their designs, improved the process of manufacture and selected better qualities of clay, thus reducing the art to little less than a science. One fact is already apparent, which is that our potters are already striving, and with eminent success, to make their ordinary commercial wares beautiful in design and finish. Heretofore utility only has been considered without regard to ornamentation. Now the cultivated tastes of people who desire their table ware to look pretty, as well as to be serviceable, can be gratified with home productions. It is an indisputable fact that such wares can be made and will sell readily, thus preventing to a great extent importations from abroad. This is a praiseworthy beginning, and our manufacturers should keep constantly in mind the all-important object of advancement. Improvement everywhere and in everything is the order of the day. He who persistently shuns this fact is bound to be left behind in the race for manufacturing supremacy. If American potters
would extend their trade and increase their prosperity they must do it by superiority in all that pertains to this branch of industry. They can do this by intelligently and resolutely improving their articles in every conceivable way.

East Liverpool, situated in Columbiana County, Ohio, has attained great prominence in this particular industry. The number of potteries and extent of production entitle it to rank as the Staffordshire of the great west, while the vigorous progressiveness evidenced by the firms engaged in the business indicates that it bids fair very soon to outstrip Trenton, N.J., its eastern rival. The first pottery was built in 1839 and has long since disappeared. Others were gradually added in succeeding years, the number of establishments now in operation being twen-ty three, including two knob factories. Until lately East Liverpool enjoyed prominence only for the production of yellow and Rocking wares, but since the panic of 1873 a great change has taken place in this particular.

At this time there was only one concern producing white ware and now there are ten, while others will be added this year. Not less than one million dollars of capital is invested in grounds and buildings, and it is estimated that fully 1,200 persons are employed in the various factories, while many more are sustained by this industry in the mining of clay, etc. From a small village a few years since, East Liverpool has increased to population of nearly five thousand inhabitants.

All the clay used for common ware is mined from the hills on which the town is built, but for white ware large quantities of clay are brought from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois, Missouri and other states. The town is lighted with natural gas, and many of the fac-tories are also furnished with light, heat and fuel from gas wells sunk in various localities."

(East Liverpool, indeed, was taking the lead, along with the entire Ohio Valley, in the U.S. manufacture of decorated pottery.)


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