Submitted by HPA Treasurer Bob Kirkwood
Every July, pottery lovers from all walks of life and from all over the country come to Crooksville, Ohio and the surrounding communities for “Pottery Week”. Ever wonder why it all happens in Perry and Muskingum counties in Ohio? Why did the pottery industry take root and thrive here? Why did a little known village in northern Perry County, Crooksville, become known as the “Pottery Capitol of the World”?
In the late 1800’s, Ohio was noted for clay products ranging from brick and drain tile to excellent ornamental wares. At the turn of the century southern Muskingum and northern Perry counties of Ohio were booming in the stoneware industry. Farming, clay digging/mining, wood chopping, and potting were the primary livelihoods for the area. Southeast Ohio soon produced every pottery style known and where constantly making improvements on previously used methods. Local clays, abundant wood, coal and gas was readily available to fire the kilns. The natural resources of the area coupled with a large number of skilled craftsman in the area led to Crooksville and the surrounding communities becoming known as the “Pottery Center of the World”.
Pioneers found high quality local clay veins, as much as 14 ft. thick, in the area. Clay is still mined today in Saltillo, just west of Crooksville. Clay working grew out of the farmer’s need for inexpensive containers and tableware. Almost every farm had a small pottery. The part-time early potteries, worked by the farmers were named “bluebirds”, because their production resumed when the bluebirds returned from the south and the clay could be mined. By the way, in the early days, Blue Birds were as common in southeast Ohio as Robins are today.
Farmers were soon selling the utility wares needed for canning and the entire household, door-to-door. There was additional development of the pottery industry, on a larger scale, after the flatboats began transporting cargoes from Zanesville to New Orleans via the Muskingum, Ohio and ultimately the Mississippi River. County potters hauled their wares by horse and wagon to Putnam Landing in Zanesville, unloaded and stored them on the riverbank until they could load the wares on the flatboats.
In 1888, the effort to expedite pottery manufacture prompted some potters to produce wares on or next to the riverbank. The demand for pottery products rose to the thousands and the area potters were unable to keep up. The potters soon discovered they were able to increase their production by turning their wheels by steam power rather than foot power. Soon machine made products were in full swing and production numbers skyrocketed.
When railroads began operating more in & around Zanesville, connecting the surrounding communities, shipments were not only more practical, but faster and national sales were possible. The locals of the time who had sold door to door now took the railcar to distant points where, along the way, they sold their wares and delivered their goods to shops and stores in far off towns.
At the turn of the century, the demand for pottery ware was growing rapidly and soon pottery companies were being formed and mass production began. Companies like Hull, McCoy, Brush, Ransbottom, Weller, Roseville and many more can trace their heritage back to the early days of the pioneers and farmers and their part-time “blue-bird” potteries. Further development and improvements to the Muskingum River Waterway, Regional Railroads and the National Road greatly enhanced the connection to a growing regional and national market.
The Hull Pottery Association (HPA) is dedicated to continue this long pottery lineage. In the spirit of many decades of love that’s been put into Hull Pottery, the HPA was formed in 1994 with approx. 90 members joining the first year. Since that time the HPA has grown too hundreds of members nationwide. The HPA Charter states “The HPA will preserve, educate and promote Hull Pottery, its collectors, and its heritage. In this connection, it will recognize and honor the work and dedication of past Hull employees who contributed in the design, production and sale of Hull Pottery. The HPA will support and promote the collection of Hull Pottery by soliciting new memberships; conducting shows and sales on a regional and national basis; identifying and strengthening relationships with antique dealers who prominently show and sell Hull Pottery. Finally, the Association will recognize and support individuals who author and publish books which provide valuable historical information, display pictures of a great number of Hull pieces and provide guidelines for each piece.”
Special THANKS goes to The Hull Pottery Association Board of Directors and all the members, nationwide, for keeping Hull Pottery in the for-front of collectors and lovers of pottery for everyone to enjoy, young and old alike. Also, a great deal of THANKS goes to wonderful authors such a Brenda Roberts (The Collector’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Hull Pottery) and Joan Hull (HULL, The Heavenly Pottery). Their excellent books, not only provides pictures and price guides of Hull Pottery, but their extensive research, from an historical standpoint, tell the story of the Hull Pottery Company. These reference books are used by many, many collectors, novice & the most experienced alike. Where you find Hull Pottery and collectors, most likely, you’ll find one of their books.
Hull Pottery Company operations spanned eight decades of producing beautiful pottery. It is our hope you will seek and find your own Hull.
Happy Hull Hunting!!!!