After I wrote about Regina Berger, who founded Graeter's Ice Cream with her husband and transformed it into a thriving business after his death, I learned about another interesting woman in Cincinnati history, Maria Longworth Nichols Storer. Storer founded Rookwood Pottery in 1880, and the pottery made by her company is still treasured by collectors and pottery enthusiasts today.
The Longworth family was one of the wealthiest families in the city in the late 1800s, and it was common in that era for wealthy women like Maria to paint china as a hobby. Maria took her hobby much further, however, when she began experimenting with glazes and later oversaw the building of her own kiln due to her dissatisfaction with the temperature of her local kiln. From this kiln, Maria moved to opening her own shop, a first for a woman in Cincinnati at that time.
|The Rookwood Pottery building in 1904|
Maria hired excellent chemists and artists to work for her, and Rookwood's production and quality standards exceeded nearly every other American art pottery manufacturer of the era. Continuing Maria's initial interest in glazes, the Rookwood team created high-quality glazes of colors that at the time had never been seen on mass-produced pottery.
In the early 1900s, Rookwood began producing architectural pottery, and became known for flat pieces and tiles used in homes, hotels, and public buildings. Rookwood tiles can still be found in numerous locations, including the Vanderbilt Hotel and Grand Central Station in New York, and the Carew Tower and Union Terminal in Cincinnati.
Rookwood thrived for decades, until it was hit hard by the Great Depression of the 1930s. It never completely recovered, and eventually ceased production in 1967. In 2006, the Rookwood Pottery Company re-emerged in Cincinnati after acquiring hundreds of glaze recipes and molds from Storer's original company. The company opened a new production studio, and has released a limited number of pieces.
I admit I am totally clueless when it comes to pottery, but I can appreciate beautiful and well-made items, and I really admire the story of Maria Longworth Storer. I find it inspiring that she turned a hobby into such a respected and successful business, and that her products have stood the test of time. Since writing started out as a hobby for me and became a passion, I couldn't help but feel that I could understand how she must have felt about her glazes and her pottery pieces. I can only hope to attain even a sliver of the success with my passion that she achieved with hers.