How an Orillian Facilitated the American Art Pottery Movement

Feb 15, 2022 | History, Publications | 0 comments

By Fred Blair

In 1850, at 37 years old, Frederick married Anna Brownrigg in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was employed as a bookkeeper in Michael and Nimrod Tempest’s Hamilton Road Pottery.  In 1865, Frederick purchased the company.  He employed from 10 to 31 potters in making yellow clay ware, like ceramic fruit jars for the canning industry.  His pottery was not always stamped with the company name DALLAS.

About 1869, Frederick switched production to white clay ware to make finer art pottery.  At that time, upper class women were purchasing fired pottery to decorate as a hobby.  The advertisement in the image here was directed at those ladies. 

In 1876, an exhibition was held in Philadelphia to celebrate the Centennial of the United States.  Mrs. McLaughlin and Mrs. Nichols of Cincinnati were inspired by the underglaze art pottery produced in England, France, and Japan and they were both determined to learn the technique.

In 1879, Mary Louise McLaughlin formed the Cincinnati Pottery Club.  Maria Longworth Nichols was affronted as she did not receive an invitation to join the club.  This created some friction between the two ladies.  Mrs. Nichols had rented studio space at Coultry Pottery but had a dispute with them and left.  Frederick rented her some of his studio space.  Later that year the pottery club moved into Frederick’s Pottery as well.  However, his kilns were too hot to fire the finely painted glazed pieces.  Mrs. Nichols purchased a kiln to fire over glazes and Mrs. McLaughlin purchased one to fire under glazes.  There was artistic rivalry between the two ladies but they shared their special kilns with each other.  Both ladies had held the record for the largest vase crafted in the US at about that time.

Amanda Merriam’s plaque in the accompanying image was fired in all three types of kilns in the Dallas Pottery in 1882.  Mrs. Nichols’ “Dragon Vase”, circa 1879-1880, was fired there as well.

There were over 200 amateur potters in the city and Frederick saw an increasing demand for art pottery in the US.  He expanded the size of his pottery production while also investing in clay deposits in several states.  The number of potters in his employ increased to over 90 with a similar increase in other staff.  His pottery became the largest business in the city.  The number of other fine art potteries in the country increased as well and the market for art pottery became saturated in the early 1880s.

 On June 9, 1881, Frederick died and his pottery went out of business the following year.  Due to the decreased demand for their wares two other large potteries in the city went out of business too.  Mrs. Nichols however was undaunted.  In 1880, she used family money to purchase a factory and established Rookwood Pottery, which is still in business.  If you watch the American Antiques Roadshow, you will have seen some examples of their pottery.  Images of these Cincinnati lady’s work can also be found online.

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