Pottery Making in Nebraska

The first known pottery factory in Nebraska Territory was established at Dakota City around 1859 by John B. Ziegler and Charles F. Eckhart, who were also partners in a general store. The Dakota City Pottery employed five men and was described as “the most extensive stone-ware manufactor on the Missouri River.” It not only supplied the local demands for stoneware but manufactured enough to cover an acre of ground on the levee with jugs, jars, crocks, and pots awaiting shipment by steamboat to eastern markets. At least one marked example of this pottery is in the collections of the Nebraska State Historical Society.

During the 1860s John B. Ziegler also operated a pottery at Bellevue, and E. L. Grubb and Trule Stevens had kilns at Nemaha City. In 1867 the Nebraska City Pottery was going “full blast and turning out specimens of earthenware that would put to shame some of the Eastern Potteries.”

The long history of Louisville as a site of pottery manufacture began in 1878 when J. T. A. Hoover founded the Louisville Stoneware Manufacturing Company. As the only pottery then operating in the state, Hoover’s small factory equipped with “modern machinery” was turning out seven thousand stoneware jars a month in 1879. By 1887 the Louisville operation, which had become the Western Pottery Company, had thirty employees, was manufacturing 4,500 gallons of stoneware a day, and planned to expand into the manufacture of chinaware.

The Nebraska Business Directories of the 1880s list potters in Alma, Aurora, Steele City, Franklin, Omaha, and Lincoln. With the exception of the Lincoln Pottery Works, most of these potteries appear to have operated for only a few years.

The Lincoln Pottery Works was established by O. V. Eaton in 1880 and continued its operations until the early 1900s. During the 1890s the firm had twenty-five employees in its manufacturing department and three traveling salesmen operating in Nebraska and Kansas. In 1891 it produced over 300,000 pieces of stoneware and 1,500 flower pots. The company’s catalogue listed a large variety of stoneware and crockery items including milk pans, beer mugs, large jars, stone churns, water jars, stone pitchers, preserve jars, cuspidors, vases, urns, and hanging baskets.

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