Local history gives the honor of establishing the first serious pottery operation to one Alexander Vance who arrived in the early years of the 19th century and, while still in his teens, began a potter’s trade in Greensboro.
The ware produced by Alexander and brother James was likely made from local red clay. The Vance brothers introduced others to the joys of pottery making and within a decade several individuals were involved in the manufacture of clay products in this small river town. One of these was Daniel Boughner, an orphan who, according to legend, was given a home and a job by the Vance family.
In 1819, with the Vances’ departure to Ohio, young Boughner bought the business and began pottery fabrication in earnest. Boughner appears to be the first area potter to make and fire stoneware in a salt kiln. Boughner pottery is among the earliest stoneware produced in southwestern Pennsylvania.
The Boughner firm may have been the first stoneware operation of significance to establish itself in the Greensboro area, but by no means did it have a corner on the market. The potential for manufacturing and shipping clay goods was wide open when two brothers, James and William ‘Leet’ Hamilton, arrived from New Brighton, Pennsylvania, around 1850 to start a pottery manufactory of their own. Bringing with them years of experience in the trade, the Hamilton brothers apparently located their business operation on Water Street under the name, James Hamilton and Company.
The history of the Greensboro stoneware industry is fraught with mergers, splits, separations, buy-ins, and sell outs. This is especially true of the original Hamilton company. By 1866, Leet Hamilton had sold whatever business holdings he had to his son, Frank, and a newly acquired son-in-law, John Jones. Jones along with his brother-in-law soon set about the task of producing and selling crockery on a grand scale.
Located on Diamond Street, the firm of Hamilton and Jones was the only real competitor of cross-town rival James Hamilton in the Greensboro district. The company was also known as the Star Pottery and for a while, as the Union works. The business continued to produce pottery for over thirty years and its reputation was widespread. Available records indicate that the Hamilton and Jones company, while a close rival of James Hamilton and Company, never actually surpassed the latter in production. Since records are available only through 1880, it is possible that the Hamilton and Jones Pottery was the major producer of pottery goods in southwestern Pennsylvania during the last decades of the 19th century. However, the sources of competition slowly had their effect, and the company eventually fell upon hard times. The final blow came in 1897, when a fire destroyed the plant and closed down operations. Although the company attempted to move into the Williams and Reppert plant across town, efforts to start anew were futile.
James Hamilton remained in control of his firm until 1880. A share of the business had been sold in 1866, but he continued to hold the majority interest for the next fourteen years until he sold out completely to Thomas Reppert and W.T. Williams. In 1884 Reppert purchased the entire business from Williams, making himself the sole proprietor. Williams was able to buy back into the business once again in 1890. Pottery marked Williams and Reppert is still fairly common today. According to old business records from this company, stoneware was being made during the 1880′s and 1890′s for dealers in at least four states.
This partnership lasted for twenty years. By the beginning of World War I all significant production had ended and this generally marks the period (~1915-16) end of stoneware manufacturing in Greensboro.
Source of Information: OLD POTS by Phil Schaltenbrand
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