Explore Iowa potters and potteries in "Made From Mud"
New State Historical Museum exhibit on display Sept. 13-April 12

For immediate release August 28, 2008


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

(DES MOINES) – A major exhibition of more than 300 pieces of Iowa stoneware spanning the period 1830 to 1930 will go on display next month at the State Historical Museum.

“Made from Mud: Iowa’s Potters and Potteries, 1830-1930” will be on display Sept. 13, 2008-April 12, 2009. The State Historical Museum is at 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines’ Historic East Village. 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.

“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,” State Historical Museum Chief Curator Michael Smith said. “We believe this exhibit will help bring more recognition to and understanding of Iowa potters and pottery.”

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.

Although machine techniques were increasingly adopted beginning about 1870, the exhibition 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 presence of potters in Iowa can be documented as early as 1836,” Smith said. “We found that during the period from 1830 to 1930, more than 300 identified 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 exhibition.”

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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