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State Historical Society of Iowa Press Release

For immediate release January 5, 2009

Contact: Jeff Morgan, Jeff.Morgan@iowa.gov, (515) 281-3858

History for Lunch: Iowa’s potters and potteries

Lecture series features State Historical Museum’s Michael Smith Jan. 21  

(IOWA CITY) – The State Historical Society of Iowa’s popular “History for Lunch” lecture series continues this month with State Historical Museum Chief Curator Michael Smith, who will discuss early Iowa potters and potteries.

 History for Lunch will be at noon Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009, at SHSI's Centennial Building, 402 Iowa Avenue (Iowa and Gilbert streets) in Iowa City. The lecture is free and the public is encouraged to bring a brown bag lunch. Call 319-335-3911 for more information.

 Smith’s illustrated presentation will focus on Iowa’s thriving pottery industry in the 19th century, with examples of what was produced and insights into various makers, methods and pieces.

 Born in Chicago, Smith earned a Bachelor of Arts in American History from The College of William & Mary and a Master of Museum Practice from the University of Michigan.

 He has 35 years of experience in the museum field, including stints at The Henry Ford Museum and the North Carolina Historic Sites. He has been with the State Historical Museum for more than 20 years, with an area of expertise in American Decorative Arts.

 Smith’s personal interest in and collection of redware and stoneware pottery led him to create “Made from Mud: Iowa’s Potters and Potteries, 1830-1930,” an exhibit on display through April 12 at the State Historical Museum in Des Moines.

 “Made from Mud” showcases Iowa ceramics, which have been largely ignored by historians of the decorative arts.

 The exhibit explores the 19th century discovery of superior clay deposits in Iowa that gave birth to a thriving ceramics industry, especially in Boone, Mahaska, Muscatine, Polk, Van Buren, Wapello, Warren and Webster counties.

 Although machine techniques were increasingly adopted from about 1870 on, the exhibit concentrates on wheel thrown jugs, jars, pans and churns produced by these potteries in a variety of sizes for storing, preserving and preparing food.


The State Historical Society of Iowa is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and is a trustee of Iowa's historical legacy and an advocate for understanding Iowa's past. It identifies, records, collects, preserves, manages and provides access to Iowa's historical resources. Its dual mission of preservation and education serves Iowans of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates information, and encourages and supports historical preservation and education efforts of others throughout the state. Visit www.iowahistory.org or call 515-281-5111 for more information.


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