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Bluebonnet
Decorated Pottery
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                                                                * THE MEYER FAMILY POTTERY*

AS EARLY TEXAS WAS SETTLED, THERE WAS A HUGE DEMAND FOR FOOD STORAGE VESSELS.  AS EARLY AS
1839, TAYLOR BROWN WAS WORKING IN RUSK COUNTY.  BY 1850, THREE MORE POTTERIES WERE ESTABLISHED,
AND SOON AFTER THAT, TWELVE MORE.  THEY WERE LOCATED IN EAST TEXAS ON THE WILCOX CLAY
FORMATION, WHICH EXTENDS ACROSS TEXAS THROUGH BASTROP AND SAN ANTONIO  AREAS.  THESE POTTERS
MIGRATED DOWN FROM THE CAROLINAS AND GEORGIA.

IN 1885, GERMAN IMMIGRANTS FRANZ SHULTZ AND WILLIAM MEYER LANDED AT INDIANOLA.  THEY WERE TRAINED
IN THE ART OF POTTERY MAKING, BUT MEYER WANTED TO TRY HIS HAND AT FARMING.  THAT VENTURE FAILED,
AND MEYER FOUND HIMSELF ONCE AGAIN IN THE COMPANY OF SHULTZ WHEN HE HIRED ON WITH WILLIAM
SAENGER WHO HAD COME TO AMERICA IN 1874, AND MIGRATED DOWN THROUGH NEW JERSEY, KANSAS, AND
MISSOURI.  HE ESTABLISHED HIS POTTERY IN ST. HEDWIG, AND LATER MOVED TO ELMENDORF.

IN 1887, WILLIAM MEYER MARRIED SHULTZ'S DAUGHTER, AND THE TWO MEN OPENED THEIR OWN POTTERY ON
FIVE  ACRES OF LAND PURCHASED IN ATASCOSA FOR $25.00.  BY THIS TIME. THERE WERE DOZENS MORE
POTTERY OPERATIONS IN EAST TEXAS, BASTROP, AND THE SAN ANTONIO AREAS.

VESSELS ARE FORMED BY HAND ON POTTERS WHEELS FROM BALLS OF HIGHLY PROCESSED CLAY.  THEY ARE
ALLOWED TO DRY UNTIL THEY CAN BE HANDLED.  THEY ARE THEN READY TO BE GLAZED TO SEAL THE BODY OF
CLAY TO RENDER IT SUITABLE FOR USE FOR FOOD AND LIQUID STORAGE.  MEYER IS UNUSUAL IN THE WAY HE
ATTACHED HIS JUG HANDLES TO THE SHOULDER RATHER THAN THE MOUTH RING.  MEYER WAS SUCH A SKILLED
MASTER POTTER THAT HE REPORTEDLY COULD THROW ONE HUNDRED TEN GALLON JARS IN ONE DAY!

EARLY POTTERS USED THE SALT GLAZING TECHNIQUE.  ALBANY SLIP GLAZE WAS DEVELOPED NEAR ALBANY,
NEW YORK.  IT WAS MADE FROM LOCAL CLAY AND WAS OF VERY HIGH QUALITY AND DEPENDABLE.  THIS TYPE
GLAZE WAS USED TO SEAL THE INSIDES OF THE VESSELS.  THE WARES WERE THEN LOADED INTO THE KILN WITH
THE OUTSIDE SURFACES UNGLAZED.  WOOD, FUEL OIL OR NATURAL GAS WERE USED AS FUEL SOURCES TO HEAT
THE KILN.  ONCE THE KILN REACHED IT'S HIGHEST TEMPERATURES, ROCK SALT WAS THROWN INTO THE KILN
WHERE IT VAPORIZES, RESULTING IN THE REACTION OF SODIUM AND SILICA FROM THE SIDES OF THE VESSEL,
CREATING A HARD, SHINY GLAZE.

THIS IS WHERE THE MEYER POTTERY IS THE MOST UNIQUE!  AFTER THE FIRST FEW YEARS OF USING SALT, THEY
BEGAN TO USE A SLIP GLAZE INSIDE AND OUT.  AND, NOT YOUR TYPICAL ALBANY SLIP GLAZE!  MEYER HAD FOUND
A LOCAL SOURCE OF UNIQUE CLAY LOCATED ON THE LEON CREEK NEAR SAN ANTONIO WHERE KELLY AIR FORCE
BASE WAS LATER BUILT.  THIS UNIQUE CLAY GIVES THE STONEWARE COLOR VARIATIONS RANGING FROM
BROWN TO MUSTARD YELLOW TO OLIVE GREEN.

OTHER SLIP GLAZES COMMONLY USED IN TEXAS WERE MADE FROM MIXTURES OF WOOD ASH, GLASS, SALT, AND
OTHER INGREDIENTS, AND ARE VERY DIFFERENT FROM THE SALT AND SLIP GLAZES.

MOST UTILITARIAN TEXAS POTTERIES STILL IN OPERATION BY 1900 CEASED TO OPERATE BY 1915.  COMPETITION
FROM THE EASTERN STATES CONTRIBUTED TO THEIR DECLINE BY PRODUCING CLEAN, WHITE GLAZED WARES
FROM THE NEWLY DEVELOPED WHITE BRISTOL GLAZE.  INCREASED MOBILITY OF THE POPULATIONS MADE IT
POSSIBLE FOR THE EASTERN FACTORIES TO INNUNDATE TEXAS WITH THEIR WARES.  THESE FACTORIES EVEN
FILLED SPECIAL ORDERS FOR TEXAS MERCHANTS.  IT WASN'T LONG AFTERWARD THAT INEXPENSIVE GLASS
WARES WERE MASS PRODUCED AND EVEN GIVEN OUT IN BOXES OF OATMEAL, SOAP POWDER, ETC., AND MOST
POTTERIES WERE EXTINCT BY THIS TIME.

THE MEYER FAMILY CONTINUED ON WITH THEIR BUSINESS, BUT BEGAN TO TURN OUT FLORAL WARES AND
SOUVENIR ITEMS.  BY 1944, KELLY AIR FORCE BASE WAS BUILT AT THE LEON CREEK SITE, AND THE MEYERS
COULD NO LONGER OBTAIN THE CLAY FOR THEIR TRADEMARK GLAZE.  THEY EXPERIMENTED WITH LEAD GLAZES
AND DEVELOPED A LINE OF DINNERWARE CALLED PATIO POTTERY.  BUT, THAT VENTURE WAS NOT SUCCESSFUL.  
THE POTTERY CONTINUED TO TURN OUT UNGLAZED FLORAL WARE AND SOUVENIR ITEMS SOLD AT KRESS
STORES, THE ALAMO, AND BUCKHORN SALOON, AND OTHER TOURIST ATTRACTIONS.  THESE SOUVENIR ITEMS
WERE PAINTED WITH BLUEBONNET OR DESERT SCENES OR SWIRLED COLORS.  THE POTTERY CEASED TO
OPERATE IN 1962, AND THE EQUIPMENT WAS SOLD OFF IN 1964.

MEYER POTTERY IS TRULY UNIQUE IN IT'S USE OF THE MULTI-COLORED LEON GLAZE, IT'S
A-TYPICAL AND DIFFICULT TO EXECUTE SHOULDER HANDLE, IT'S DIVERSE RANGE OF ARTICLES MANUFACTURED
(PLATES, BOWLS, PITCHERS, ANIMAL FEEDERS, FLORAL WARE, ETC.), AND IT'S LONGEVITY OF PRODUCTION.  IT IS
HIGHLY PRIZED BY COLLECTORS, AND INCREASINGLY DIFFICULT TO FIND!

*SPEECH GIVEN BY LINDA ANDERSON AT THE HADA ANTIQUES SHOW
*SPONSORED BY THE HERITAGE SOCIETY, HOUSTON
*SEPTEMBER 19, 2003
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