Red Wing Potteries

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The earliest recorded pottery making in the Red Wing area is credited to a German immigrant named J. Pohl who in 1861 began fashioning crude crocks on his farm. He used the clay deposits on his own property and hand-turned his ware on a treadle wheel.

In 1868 W. M. Philleo began manufacturing flower vases in Red Wing using local clay. He manufactured unglazed terra cotta ware until his pottery works burned in 1870. He rebuilt his small factory but ran into financial difficulty and abandoned his business shortly thereafter. D. Hallem, who had worked with Philleo for a short time, continued to manufacture pottery in a small way in his home.

Red Wing Potteries, Inc. traces its beginnings to 1877 when a group of Red Wing citizens met to consider the subject of organizing a company for the manufacture of stoneware. Incorporated in 1877, the Red Wing Stoneware Company purchased the meager assets of Hallem and constructed larger, more efficient kilns. The company was a success from the start, digging its clay locally and producing quality stoneware crocks, jugs, and milk pans of various shapes and sizes.

The Red Wing Stoneware Company prospered over the years and the company's apparent success encouraged others to enter the field. In 1883 the Minnesota Stoneware Company was organized and began manufacturing across the street from the Red Wing Stoneware plant. Nine years later, in 1892, another company, the North Star Stoneware Company, was formed. The North Star owners built their works in the immediate vicinity of their two competitors.

To meet the competition of the newer and larger North Star plant, a partial merger was effected in 1894 between the Red Wing and Minnesota Stoneware companies, a joint selling agency called the Red Wing Union Stoneware Company. The joining of forces turned out to be a profitable move for the two older companies because the new rival, the North Star plant, ceased operation in 1897.

In February 1900, the Minnesota Stoneware plant burned to the ground, and nine months later, in November, the Red Wing Stoneware Company also burned. Both plants rebuilt immediately, continued to prosper, and, pleased by the success of their partial merger in 1894, chose to merge completely in 1906. They continued the name Red Wing Union Stoneware Company, and the city of Red Wing was left with only one pottery.

In the following two decades the Red Wing Union Stoneware Company enjoyed continued prosperity. Unfortunately, in the 1920s the market for stoneware began to dwindle. Thus the company was forced to diversify and open up new markets. Company officials chose to enter the dinnerware field.

Red Wing dinnerware caught on and began accounting for an increasing proportion of sales, with the stoneware products experiencing a proportionate decline. The officers felt that the name of the corporation, Red Wing Union Stoneware Company, did not logically reflect this changing product mix. The company was rapidly leaving the stoneware "jug and crock" field and entering the dinnerware or tableware field. Therefore, in January 1936, the shareholders voted to change the name from the "Red Wing Union Stoneware Company" to the "Red Wing Potteries, Inc."

While there are no financial records available prior to 1952, the 1930s and 1940s reportedly were prosperous years for Red Wing Potteries. By 1947 the company had discontinued all stoneware production and had assumed a leadership role in the dinnerware field.

Around 1950 a trend began that eventually was to be a factor in the demise of Red Wing Potteries. While in 1950 only ten percent of all dinnerware patterns displayed in department stores were of foreign origin, in 1967 nearly ninety percent were imports.

Beginning on June 1, 1967, a strike of the Local Union No. 6-430, Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union, AFL-CIO, lasted until August 24, when the president of the Pottery, R. A. Gillmer, announced that the stockholders had voted to liquidate the firm.

See Richard S. Gillmer, Death of a business: the Red Wing Potteries (Ross and Haines, 1968) for a more complete history of the company, and especially for details about the strike which brought on the liquidation in 1967.

From the guide to the Red Wing Potteries records., 1894-1978., (Minnesota Historical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Nelson, Marion J. Papers, 1960-2000. Winterthur Library
creatorOf Red Wing Potteries. Red Wing Potteries records, 1894-1978. Minnesota Historical Society Library
creatorOf Red Wing Potteries records., 1894-1978. Minnesota Historical Society
referencedIn Pamphlets relating to ceramics and pottery in Minnesota, 1926- Minnesota Historical Society Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Gillmer, R. A. person
associatedWith Gillmer, R. A. person
associatedWith Minnesota Stoneware Company (Red Wing, Minn.). corporateBody
associatedWith Nelson, Marion J. person
associatedWith Northwestern Terra Cotta Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers International Union. corporateBody
associatedWith Red Wing Advertising Company (Red Wing, Minn.). corporateBody
associatedWith Red Wing Stoneware Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Red Wing Stoneware Company (Red Wing, Minn.). corporateBody
associatedWith Red Wing Union Stoneware Co. corporateBody
associatedWith Red Wing Union Stoneware Company (Red Wing, Minn.). corporateBody
associatedWith Rehder, Ernest Henry, ca. 1881- person
associatedWith Warr, William G. person
associatedWith Warr, William G. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
North Dakota
Minnesota--Red Wing
Business enterprises
Business enterprises
Labor unions
Labor unions
Pottery, American
Pottery, American

Corporate Body

Active 1894

Active 1978



Ark ID: w6fj7dtr

SNAC ID: 76277354