There was some beautiful pottery made here in Florida, some of it as good as any made at the Newcomb or Rookwood potteries and not many people know about it.
The story of Old Florida Pottery begins back in the days of the Florida frontier, before the advent of refrigeration. People needed to preserve, store and carry their food. Meat had to be salted, butter churned, milk and water stored, vegetables pickled, jam preserved and faces washed. The pots, churns, jugs, and jars needed to survive in the Florida wilderness were all made out of state.
KNOX HILL POTTERY, DE FUNIAK SPRINGS
The first pottery in Florida was opened at Knox Hill, near present day DeFuniak Springs, in Walton County in 1859. The pottery produced alkaline and salt glazed pottery typical of that made in the South in the early 19th Century.
SOUTHERN POTTERY WORKS, PENSACOLA
In 1869, a young man from Detroit, Michigan, John W. Kohler, moved to Pensacola, married the daughter of the lighthouse keeper and opened the Southern Pottery Works on Eight Avenue in downtown Pensacola. Kohler spent the next thirty-five years there producing utilitarian pottery for the southern market.
YORK POTTERY, LAKE BUTLER
With the beginning of the Civil War, Henry York a young man from Lake Butler just north of Gainesville, enlisted in the Seventh Florida Infantry. At Missionary Ridge, York was shot through the left chest but survived. In 1888 York began the third pottery in Florida producing salt glazed stoneware that looks very much like majolica.
MANATEE RIVER POTTERY, BRADENTOWN
In 1914, Mary Ward moved to Bradentown and started the Manatee River Pottery. The pottery produced unglazed vases, candlesticks, wall pockets and lamp bases all hand decorated with Florida scenes. In 1921 Mary sold her interest in the Manatee River Pottery to potters from folding, Denmark, Henry A. Graack, Senior and Henry Junior.
GRAACK POTTERY, BRADENTOWN
The Graacks changed the name of the pottery to Graack Pottery and continued production in Bradentown with plans for national distribution. A few years later the Graacks left Bradentown. Henry Senior returned to Denmark and Henry Junior to New York City.
ORLANDO POTTERIES, ORLANDO
Mary Ward with the help of Orlando's leading citizens started the Orlando Potteries in 1921. Experienced potters were brought in from East Liverpool, England and Mr. Hunt from the Rookwood Pottery in Ohio. There were six artists at the pottery including Joseph Nash, Andrew De Vries and Panos Booziotes all graduates of the Art Institute of Chicago and T. Riggs of the Art Students League of New York.
LOS MANOS POTTERY, WEST PALM BEACH
Addison Mizner, an unknown but talented architect who would become one of the recognized geniuses of America architecture, came to Palm Beach in 1918 for some sun and rest. Soon Mizner was designing homes for Palm Beach residents. He started Mizner Industries to produce the floor and roof tile, pottery and furniture his homes needed. Los Manos Pottery produced small wheel thrown pottery and large pots capable of holding trees.
KOHLER WARE FLORIDA POTTERY, ST. PETERSBURG
Joseph A. Kohler moved to St. Petersburg sometime before 1916. Kohler, the son of John W. Kohler of the Southern Pottery Works in Pensacola, started the Kohler Ware Florida Pottery in St. Petersburg in 1920. Pottery produced in St. Petersburg was very much like Manatee, Graack and Orlando pottery.
SILVER SPRINGS POTTERY, OCALA
In 1935 Henry Graack Jr. who had left Bradentown in 1924, was making pottery at Ft. Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain in upstate New York, when he was invited to Ocala, Florida and the Silver Springs by William Rae the owner of the Springs. Graack spent the next thirty-one years, until his death in Ocala in 1966, making souvenir pottery for tourists at the spring.
CRARY POTTERY, BLUFF SPRINGS
In 1933 John W. Crary II and his sons were trying to earn a living from their general store in Bluff Springs up in the panhandle north of Pensacola. The Crary's used bricks from an old family brick yard to build a kiln and spending some $4.50 for turnings, were in the pottery business. The Crary Pottery at Bluff Springs produced Albany slip and Bristol slip utilitarian pottery from 1933 to 1939.
ROYAL HICKMAN LIMITED, TAMPA
In 1949, Royal Hickman, one of America's leading ceramic designers, moved to Clearwater Beach from Chattanooga, Tennessee planning on retirement. Hickman found himself very bored, purchased some land in Tampa; out on Nebraska Avenue and started Royal Hickman Limited. The Tampa plant produced some of Hickman's best ceramic designs. The pottery is marked on the base, "ROYAL HICKMAN, FLORIDA" or with a paper label..
MERRITT ISLAND POTTERY, MERRITT ISLAND
Melvin Casper and his mother Peggy Jamieson founded the Merritt Island Pottery in 1937 after moving there from Chicago. They built the pottery out of planks milled from pine trees cut on the property. Casper spent a few years in China with General Stillwell during World War II but returned to continue making pottery on Merritt Island. He remains there today teaching and making pottery, at 84 a master potter.
Eve Alsman Fuller, who was active in the art community in St. Petersburg in the 1910- 1930 period , wrote in her art column for the St. Petersburg Times, "A community, be it large or small, should receive the creative efforts of its citizens in a prideful manner, tendering due honor and helpfulness; participating joyously in the results of the efforts." Let us begin the celebration of Florida pottery.
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American Art Pottery Association
Read Article on Old Florida Pottery in
Antiques & Art Around Florida