Sunday, February 20, 2011

Largest Pottery in the United States

Our Senior group takes monthly trips and our leader has always come up with usual place to visit.

Recently we visit the largest remaining pottery plant in the U.S. A. It is in Zaneville, Ohio which was among the first areas of the nation’s interior to be settled in the late 1700’s following the Revolutionary War. The Ohio River Valley was a path for early pioneers and a birthplace for pottery given its accessible water transportation and availability of essential raw materials, clay and sand.

Ohio’s pioneer farmers, construction of the Ohio & Erie Canal, and the production of pottery shaped Zanesville, a river town founded in 1797. Zanesville’s pottery industry grew out of necessity, the pioneer farmers’ need for inexpensive containers and tableware, made possible by rich local clay and sand deposits. Watertight containers were necessary to transport crops, grains, and other farm products up the Ohio & Erie Canal destined to the eastern markets of Philadelphia and New York, and as far south as New Orleans.

By 1850 as many as 41 potteries owned my farmers were producing in the Muskingum County area, at which time full-time commercial pottery manufactures began to emerge.

During the early 20th century, the Industrial Revolution took hold of Zanesville, coal-fired steam operations developed, electricity became available and the ceramics industry grew. Factories producing all types of household stoneware products grew rapidly, feeding a consumer demand across the nation.

Hartstone was first produced in 1976 in Chatham, New Jersey. Pat and Sharon Hart’s goal was to create beautiful, handcrafted quality articles for the preparation and presentation of food. Hartstone’s first product was the stoneware cookie mold. This product allowed home cooks to create beautifully shaped, three-dimensional cookies. The Hartstone cookie molds were an instant hit, and Hartstone grew quickly.

In 1983 Mr. Hart moved his manufacturing facility to Zanesville, Ohio because of its known pottery heritage and the availability of a facility to expand his growing business. In 1983, Hartstone began producing hand-decorated gift and tableware. As with the cookie molds, this segment of the business grew quickly and now makes up the majority of Hartstone sales.

Hartstone Pottery now operates in a building that was once operated by the JB Owens Pottery
Company, built in 1902. This beautiful old post-and-beam building, fleeced in brick, shows the scars of many alterations, including that of fire.

In the mid-1990s, the Harts sold the business to Carlisle Home Products, USA, Inc. Carlisle operated the business for approximately eight and a half years. Carlisle stopped plant production in the spring of 2005, and most factory employees found themselves without jobs.

In June, 2005, the pottery was reborn. A group of investors from Zanesville and other locales around the country, having heard the story of Hartstone, and recognizing the plight of its employees, negotiated with Carlisle for the purchase of the 12 acre pottery and all of its equipment. In the next few days rehired former employees, restarted the manufacturing processes, and reopened the on-site factory store where people can buy their pottery at reasonable prices.

Within days, loyal Hartstone customers returned to the factory store, some of them just wanting to share their enthusiasm about the reopening of a treasured landmark.

Today, one company with 1100 stores keeps the company busy producing for them along many other stores purchasing as well.

Our group enjoyed this trip and so did I.

The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts. --Proverbs 17:3 (KJV)

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