EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio (WKBN) – At one point in time, there were about 200 potteries in East Liverpool, and by the turn of the century, 50% of American dinnerware was being produced in this city along the Ohio River.
Now, there’s one bottle kiln left on 2nd Street, but the impact pottery has had on the area will outlast any crock, plate or bowl.
“It was everything for this town; it created this town,” said Susan Weaver, director of the Museum of Ceramics.
Weaver said the pottery industry began in East Liverpool around 1840, and the area was considered a “single-industry town.” People either worked in a pottery, knew someone that did or owned one.
“James Bennet was our first potter. While we attribute that to him, there were other potters in the area, but he was the first commercial potter. He opened it, saw it was going to do well, sent to England for his three brothers, that just started that flow of Staffordshire potters into this area,” Weaver said.
Bennett’s stay was short, leaving after four years, but by that time, there were four other potteries running, which marked the beginning of the industry.
The pottery industry refers to potteries in Columbiana County like American Mug and Stein, which makes Starbucks mugs, and also those out of state like the Fiesta Tableware Company in Newell, W. Va., a popular stop for residents of Ohio on their way to the casino.
“Fiesta Tableware hires a lot of people, so there’s still quite a few potters in the area,” Weaver said.
Known as the “Crockery City” or the “City of Hills and Kilns,” East Liverpool might not be pumping out pottery as it did back in the day, but the city holds onto those roots. Just look at its mascot: The Potters.
“I think the sense of pride when they see some of the most beautiful artwork, in terms of ceramic artwork, came from this area. Some people don’t realize how significant East Liverpool was. Dinnerware was the mainstay, but in the art pottery such as Lotus Ware, this stuff is known all over the world, and I think some of the young people don’t realize that they have that legacy here,” Weaver said.
While the youngsters might not realize it, pottery might be the reason they call this city home. Their ancestors might have come here to work in a pottery in the days before television, social media and automatic transmissions.
“We’re plate turners. Anybody from this area that goes into a restaurant, first thing they do is flip the plate to see where the trademark is, make sure they’re buying American, locally made. There are people that know all about the potteries, there’s some really knowledgable collectors and historians in this area,” Weaver said.