Category Archives: Ohio River Pottery

Ohio River Pottery: A Bowl is a Bowl is a . . .

Not a true statement. In my mind, there are bowls – and then there are bowls.

Sometimes, bowls take on very interesting shapes. Even production pieces like those made at Steubenville Pottery for the American Modern line of dinnerware designed by Russel Wright.

This bowl is a vessel that seems to cradle all that it holds. Sometimes it looks like an open hand . . .it is a curve that does not stop at a hard edge at the top. The edge is curved back on itself. There is not one hard edge.


Other times, I take a look and see a shell. It is, after all, a vessel. The shape is borrowed from the natural world . . .  organic and minimalist. Modern and classic.


Bailey-Walker China: Blue and White Ironstone

Sometimes I look through a stack of plates with amazement. Really? Seventy-five years old? These plates are really that old? How in the world did they produce millions of plates, literally in the case of Bailey-Walker China Company and at the end of the day, have a quality product. As one writer has put it, the plates are “bullet proof.”


Plate, Bailey-Walker China (Bedford, Ohio), ca. 1930s

I believe it might have something to do with the fact that the potters, decorators and packers and all others associated with the potteries in Ohio, had a sense that this was their work – the finished plate was the fruit of their labor. In modern terms, the folks who worked there were invested in the company. . . Indeed, in the early accounts of the opening of Bailey-Walker pottery in Bedford Ohio, writers described the spontaneous parade and joy of the good citizens in Bedford. It was a day of celebration – the kilns would fire!

These ironstone dishes are a part of that spirit of excellence. They were produced in the 1930s – the back stamps bear the Bailey-Walker logo and the Albert Pick logo. The Albert Pick Company in Chicago distributed wares to restaurants and other industries.

Blue and White Ironstone Cup and Saucer, Bailey-Walker China

Blue and White Ironstone Cup and Saucer, Bailey-Walker China

If you like blue and white china then these will delight .  . . They are beautiful. The stylized floral reminds me of block prints from India or Provençal prints.  And, so practical. While I would  not use them for target practice, they will certainly survive the everyday of life in the home.


Blue and White Dessert Plate, Bailey-Walker China, ca. 1930s


One last note, if you know the name of this pattern – please share!


A Mix of Plates. Bailey-Walker with Johnson Brothers Snowhite Regency, Homer Laughlin Best China.The small plate at the very top of the stack, old white Ironstone from the cupboard.

Plain Old White Ironstone Bowls

A good chili bowl should hold chili. A better than good bowl for chili should not be too wide  – leave the wide bowl for cereal. A wide bowl holds the contents certainly but the narrower width means that the chili will cool down quicker. Maybe a small thing. But early pottery manufacturers in Ohio recognized these small yet critical differences for the food service industry – restaurants, hotels, trains and later plane.


Ironstone Chili Bowl, Warwick China

Durability mattered; certainly, but so did style. The shape and form of these “plain old white” bowls is certain proof that form and function were married perfectly.


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Ready for Chili – Vintage Restaurant China



Shenango China, Strawberry Hill Oval Plate with Chile Bowl By Buffalo China with Maroon Airbrushed Trim

Selling Pieces of the Past: The World is Your Marketplace

Governor  James Rhodes brought the dream of the Appalachian Highway to life with a lot of political capital earned over the span of a long political career. Born and raised in Southern Ohio, his efforts on behalf of the people and the economy of Appalachian Ohio are still remembered. Jimmy, as the old timers call him, is a local hero.


Appalachian Highway, Wikipedia.


Others traveling through the region might read the roadside sign dedicated to his memory. As one newspaper reported:

On its long, empty stretches, the James A. Rhodes Appalachian Highway gives drivers green vistas of southern Ohio’s rolling hills. This is not the green that planners had in mind.

The need for connecting roads was felt long before Governor Rhodes. H. R. Wylie, the owner of the pottery in Huntington, was very active in politics on the West Virginia side of the Ohio River. Mr. Wylie lobbied for support, invested a great deal of money to effect change and even entertained the idea of running for state office. Roads were essential for commerce – which as every school boy knows is good for the people.


A Railroad Tunnel Built in the Late 19th Century, Moonville, Ohio.

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Ohio River Pottery: Pope-Gosser China

In the early twentieth century, Mr. Wells the president of Homer Laughlin China Company appeared before a Congressional Committee on tariffs to plead the case of American Potteries. He argued that foreign wares, particularly German and Japanese imports, were given an unfair advantage in the current laws governing tariffs. One of the committee members questioned whether or not quality china was produced in the United States. Mr. Wells gave two examples, first he spoke about Sebring Pottery and then he produced examples produced by Pope-Gosser Company. He confessed that Pope-Gosser produced very little of the beautiful china except for their reputation. Most of the white ware then produced was a much lower quality because of the price competition.

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Ohio River Pottery: Black and White Restaurant China

Call it what you will . . . Retro Diner, Restaurant China or Restaurant Ware. To my eye, these plates look fresh and modern. Black is back but did it ever fade away?

The scalloped edge brings a cottage in the country feel. The bold black thick border looks clean and contemporary. Add to a collection or start a collection with these pieces. They will be with you a long, long time.

Adding a few photographs so that you can see them all together and on their own.


Hard to choose a favorite when I favor them all . . .



Shenango China Plate, Black Arrows and Circles on White

Russell Wright Chartreuse Salt and Pepper Shakers – For You

All that is needed to understand the beauty of  ergonomics is to hold the salt and pepper shakers designed by Russel Wright for Steubenville in your hands . . . to hold them is to love them. They fit the hand so perfectly.

And we would like to give you that opportunity. We are giving away this set of chartreuse Russel Wright Salt and Pepper Shakers.

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Ohio River Pottery: Shadows by John Gilkes for Taylor, Smith & Taylor

The ink was barely dry on his master’s thesis when John Gilkes accepted the position of Lead Designer for the Taylor, Smith Taylor Pottery. Gilkes, under the tutelage of Arthur E. Baggs, the renown potter and professor of ceramics at Ohio State University, researched production techniques for new dinnerware shapes. Innovation was paramount to the potteries that had enjoyed success along the banks of the Ohio River. Especially in light of the heightened competition from the Asian marketplaces and the new attraction of plastics to homemakers.

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Restaurant Ware: Warwick China Company, Wheeling, West Virginia


Warwick China Company enjoyed a long history – over sixty years producing decorative pieces, fine dinnerware and finally, vitrified china. According to their catalog ca. 1940s, they produced “Vitrified China for Hotels, Clubs, Restaurants, Institutions, Steamships, Railroads, and Hospitals.”  No doubt, their entry into china production for commercial accounts was one way in which the Warwick China Company hoped to keep the kilns firing and so many residents of Wheeling employed. After all, Wheeling was one of the great manufacturing centers in the nineteenth century. Sadly, this manufacturer closed in doors in 1951.

Warwick had produced some of the most beautiful china – highly decorated and complex pieces. They were one of the few American potteries to attempt the manufacture of flow blue. Their expertise was well known in the pottery world. Wheeling of course possessed all of the natural assets necessary to produce, market and ship wares. The chamber of commerce of Wheeling announced that Wheeling was at the crossroads for manufacturing and shipping. Most American pottery was manufactured in the Ohio Valley along the mighty Ohio River. And as a consequence, Wheeling certainly played an important part in the history of Ohio River Pottery.

Map from Chamber of Commerce Brochure

Map from Chamber of Commerce Brochure

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Ohio River Pottery: Russel Wright for Steubenville Pottery, American Modern

The dinnerware designed by Russel Wright is included in the rather broad [and vague] category, Mid Century Modern.  Russel Wright designed the new line of American Modern Dinnerware in the 1930s. His designs were, in part, a reaction to the formality of the late Victorian dinner table. Many courses served with service changes that required “help” in the kitchen. A way of living,  that was certainly at odds in the 1930s when many could no longer afford imported fancy serve ware or a household staff to serve. His stated intent was to bring design to everyone – American Modern would become the best selling dinnerware in American history.

His design took another turn; the post modernist turn. He looked to the form and function of each piece, first, and then applied glazes that reflected the natural world. You might even say, he used organic shapes and colors that soothed a generation in an era of unsettling news –  economic downturns, political unease and total war on a global scale. As much as his design fascinates, his later avocation to restore land that included abandoned quarries near the Hudson River inspires me. I plan to visit . .

The first piece of Russel Wright that I found was in a box in an abandoned trailer. Although I didn’t know who made the piece, I was captivated by the color and shape. I soon discovered the pitcher was manufactured by Iroquois China and designed by Russel Wright. The pitcher is definitive of Wright’s design – curves that do not end. There are no hard edges. Truly wonderful to hold and behold.  And the color  . . .  drawn from the forest at sunset.

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