The Western Stoneware Company: A Merger of Past and Present
History of The Monmouth Pottery Company
In 1894 The Monmouth Pottery Company introduced a simple utilitarian collection of salt glazed, and albany slip glazed, stoneware vessels. Many items in The Monmouth Pottery Company's early collection of bowls, butter churns, crock jars, and jugs were actually decorated by hand with primitive cobalt markings.
A classic, and hard to find, cobalt identification marking used by The Monmouth Pottery Company in the early days was the "two men in a crock mark" which simply featured two men standing in a crock. The Monmouth Pottery Company's earliest items can be easily identified by the their distinct markings because the company soon switched from hand drawn cobalt markings to stencils and stamps. And, salt and albany slip glazes were quickly replaced with bristol glaze as The Monmouth Pottery Company grew.
By 1902 The Monmouth Pottery Company was primarily marking their wares with a stamped maple leaf design emblazoned with "Monmouth Pottery Co. Monmouth Ill". Stoneware animal figurines such as cows and pigs were soon added to the product line, and in a short amount of time The Monmouth Pottery Company was also producing miniatures and promotional items. Many of the smaller items, such as the stoneware animal figurines, were not marked with the stamped Monmouth Pottery maple leaf design for identification.
Collectors can easily mistake one of the Monmouth Pottery Company's unmarked stoneware miniatures, promotional items, or animal figurines for similar pieces from companies, such as Red Wing Union Stoneware, that competed with Monmouth Pottery at the time.
History of The Western Stoneware Company
In 1905, The Monmouth Pottery Company was sold, and in 1906 it was merged with six other stoneware companies to create The Western Stoneware Company of Monmouth Illinois. The six companies that merged with The Monmouth Pottery Company to create The Western Stoneware Company were The Weir Pottery Company, Macomb Stoneware Company, Macomb Pottery Company, D. Culbertson Stoneware Company, Clinton Stoneware Company, and Fort Dodge Stoneware.
Each of the seven stoneware companies that merged to form The Western Stoneware Company had one or two stoneware or pottery specialties and each was designated with a specific Plant Number. The Monmouth Pottery Company was designated as Plant Number One, and continued to produce the utilitarian stoneware bowls, churns, and crock jars it had become well known for.
The Weir Pottery Company, established in 1899, was designated as Plant Number Two after the merger that created The Western Stoneware Company. The Weir Pottery Company was famous for creating promotional pieces for the Heinz Company, for their fine stoneware fruit jars, and for manufacturing the original Old Sleepy Eye pitchers and steins for the Old Sleepy Eye Milling Company of Minnesota.
Macomb Stoneware, established in 1899, was designated as Plant Number Three but a fire destroyed the facilities in 1913. And, Macomb Pottery, incorporated in 1880, was Plant Number Four. Macomb Pottery produced the Cardinal brand of redware along with other specialty lines of stoneware and pottery until the facilities were sold in 1956.
The D. Culbertson Stoneware Company of White Hall Illinois was known as Plant Number Five and remained in operation until 1916. Clinton Stoneware of Clinton Missouri, established in 1898, was designated as Plant Number Six and produced stoneware until 1910. And, Fort Dodge Stoneware of Fort Dodge Iowa, established in 1892, was designated as Plant Number Seven until a fire destroyed the facilities one year after the merger.
After the merger, The Western Stoneware Company retained the stamped maple leaf logo of The Monmouth Pottery Company and simply changed the company name. Early vessels can be identified by the stamped maple leaf emblazoned with The Western Stoneware Company name and one of the seven plant numbers.
With seven stoneware and pottery companies operating under The Western Stoneware Company name, a wide range of stoneware and pottery products developed. From basic utilitarian stoneware vessels such as bowls, crocks, and butter churns to designer quality pottery lamps, flower planters, water coolers, and art inspired pottery pieces, The Western Stoneware Company became well known for offering a diverse collection of products.
Among the most popular of The Western Stoneware Company's lines were the the blue and white stoneware collections, the highly collectible spongeware collection, the Marcrest dinnerware line, and the Monmouth Pottery art and garden wares.
The Western Stoneware Company logo, derived from Monmouth Pottery's original stamped maple leaf design, was used fairly consistently but slight variations occurred throughout the years. Some pieces remained unmarked, and many of the promotional items created for merchants were marked with the customer's name and logo instead of The Western Stoneware Company logo.
Collecting Western Stoneware Company Wares
The Western Stoneware Company is still in operation today and stoneware is produced at the last remaining factory, Plant Number Two. The Western Stoneware Company has been purchased several times over the years, most recently in 2006. As a company that has been in operation for over 100 years, The Western Stoneware Company is known for highly collectible pieces and many collectors enjoy learning to identify the history of specific stoneware items by studying their Plant Number, unique markings, and company logo stampings.
Some collectors specialize in pre-merger pieces, such as the earliest Monmouth Pottery wares which feature salt or albany slip glazed pieces with hand drawn cobalt markings. Other collectors prefer specific lines from the post-merger Western Stoneware Company, or challenge themselves to identify and collect Western Stoneware's small unmarked stoneware figurines or promotional items.