About the State Historical Society > News > 2009

State Historical Society of Iowa Press Release

For immediate release April 13, 2009

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

Historical Museum extends popular pottery exhibit

Made from Mud” now open until September 2009

(DES MOINES) – The State Historical Museum today announced it has extended a major exhibit of more than 300 pieces of Iowa stoneware until September 2009.

 Originally scheduled to close this month, “Made from Mud: Iowa’s Potters and Potteries, 1830-1930” opened in September 2008 and will be on display through Sept. 7, 2009. The State Historical Museum is at 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines. Hours are 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and Noon-4:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free and open to the public.

 “This exhibit covers the history of potters and pottery in Iowa from 1830 to 1930, and the response from the public has been overwhelmingly positive,” Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Cyndi Pederson said. “We have had visitors from across the state and all over the country come to see it and we’re looking forward to having it open another six months for more people to enjoy.”

 Unlike the wares of the eastern United States, which are well-researched, the ceramics of Iowa have been largely ignored by historians of the decorative arts.

 “The presence of potters in Iowa can be documented as early as 1836,” State Historical Museum Chief Curator Michael Smith said. “We found that during the period from 1830 to 1930, more than 300 individuals were actively engaged in the production of Iowa ceramics. Without a doubt, more have yet to be identified. The marks of about 80 potters have been located on pieces for inclusion in the exhibit.”

 During the 19th century, the discovery of superior clay deposits in conjunction with the state’s rich coal seams gave birth to a thriving ceramics industry, especially in Boone, Mahaska, Muscatine, Polk, Van Buren, Wapello, Warren and Webster counties.

 Lead-glazed earthenware, so-called because of the clay body and firing technique, was produced in Iowa in small quantities. By the 1850s, more durable high-fired salt-glazed stoneware was being produced.

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

 Visit www.iowahistory.org for more information.


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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