Norse Pottery

     At the Edgerton Pottery Company foreclosure sale, July

10th, 1901, or shortly thereafter, Pauline Jacobus purchased

one of the original bottle kilns put up by Sargent in 1888.  With

no kiln maker nearby, she hired a local stone, or brick, mason,

and  watched  while he took  the kiln  apart, brick  by  brick.  

Measuring and numbering each piece as it came down, the two

then reconstructed the kiln on the grounds of "The Bogert".

 "I don't suppose that any potter ever watched with more

anxiety the output of that first burning. ...I hovered about the

thing while it was still too hot to touch, wondering how my precious jugs were going to come out  ...I was in a fever of excitement until I had made sure that everything was all right --- that my kiln could do as good work as the old one which had been built by a professional builder.  ...You see it meant a complete shattering of all hopes I had entertained for years of sometime owning a kiln again if things had not turned out too well."

 

    By July 1902, Pauline was back in business.  On July 11, she wrote Edwin Fifield of Hall, Sayles and Fifield, Janesville jewelers who also merchandised cut-glass, fine china and other items of artistic and decorative interest, "Write to announce the fact that I am about to again have a pottery. As the old kiln and building are to be abandoned, have purchased enough to enable me to run a small plant. Some of my friends have advanced money for ware thus helping me to go right on with the work if I am successful in getting enough. Hope to open in time to fill Christmas orders. Will make a line of specialties. Truly when complete the desire of my heart will be realized.  Would you like to be one of the number to help the good work along?  Faithfully, Pauline Jacobus.  Fifield replied, "...sent a check in advance..." and apparently contracted with Jacobus as the sole outlet for Pauline Pottery in Janesville.  Pauline's hope of having a "...line of specialties..." ready for the 1902 Christmas season was realized.  The December 19, 1902 Wisconsin Tobacco Reporter announced that "...a handsome collection will be on sale at Mrs. John P. Coon's residence..."

 

     Bertha Jacques, who saw Pauline's Pottery in 1906, described it. "...In the labyrinthine basement of the romantic old yellow brick home the potter's wheel and the modeling boards were in one room and opening from that in opposite directions were the stock and drying rooms.  Above ground...was a long low plaster and half-timber structure where the ware was decorated and place on exhibit."  Examining the art-pottery made here, another visitor noted "...the peacock colors where the deep blue blends with the dark green so imperceptibly that the transition can not be marked.  ...Some of the most esthetic colors are unexpected results of under, or over, firing and are called "freaks" but are none the less interesting...

 

     A small operation, the Pauline Pottery was operated almost as a side-line by Pauline Jacobus, who continued to hold the summer school of decorative arts, between 1902 and the final closing of the pottery, December 15, 1909.  During these latter years, Pauline designed, decorated and burned the clay into its final form, and apparently acted as her own sales representative, carrying examples of the pottery with her, and taking orders, when she traveled.  Two days after her sixty-ninth birthday, the pottery closed forever.

 

     In the meantime, the Thorwald Samson family, who had gone back to Denmark in 1899, made preparations to return again to Edgerton.  Thorwald, who had been pressed into military service almost upon arrival in Denmark, had completed service and realized that more opportunities were available to his family in America.  They decided to return to Edgerton.   Thorwald arrived Monday, September 16, 1902, but his wife and children were held in quarantine for a while, and did not arrive in Edgerton until January 1903.  Louis Ipson and wife had also returned from Denmark, and by July 1903 Ipson and Samson were back in the art pottery business.  Although starting out as a continuation of the Edgerton Art Clay Works, the new pottery was known by 1904 as the Norse Pottery Works, and a new kiln and studio had been built on Wray Watson's property in the point where Main and Swift St meet.  By May, the pottery was having photographs taken of the "...latest patterns of ware preparatory to the publishing of a catalog."

 

    A unique series of designs, based on ancient Scandinavian artifacts recently excavated, but largely unknown in this country, met with considerable success.  Arthur Wheelock, son of Janesville china merchant, Wadsworth G. Wheelock, and himself an importer and distributor of fine china, glassware, and art wares, in Rockford, Illinois, saw the Norse line and made arrangements with Samson and Ipson to carr the new pottery in his store.  Wheelock then persuaded Samson and Ipson to move the works to Rockford.  By January it was incorporated in Illinois and by early March 1905 the Norse Pottery was in business at 107 South Water street in the three story Gregory Building.  The pottery operated seven years in Rockford.  By 1913, Thorwald Samson, surrounded with growning sons and daughters, realized he would never make enough from pottery making to support his family.  The Samsons packed up and left Rockford, moving to the Crystal Springs Colony, a utopian commonunity, near Zephyrhills, Florida.

 

    Samson made a brief return to pottery making in 1932 when he created "...200 round plaques of the raised profile of President Franklin Roosevelt." These, along with several art-work plaques were given away to family and business acquaintances.  But, Samson never went back into the pottery making business after leaving Rockford in 1913.

 

    About the time the Norse Pottery was getting underway in Edgerton, Wilder Pickard realized that his china decorating studio was outgrowing the collection of rented carriage barns behind Oak and Whiting streets in Chicago.  Looking about for a suitable location, "...he purchased a tract in Ravenswood, a north central secition of Chicago.  Here he built a studio, designed in Renaissance style, ...surrounded by well-kept lawns, with thrifty shrubs, beautiful trees, and a flower border.  It opened in 1905 with a staff of fifty artists."  Here, Pickard would remain, until moving to Antioch, Illinois thirty-fives years later.  What had begun in 1893, with a few white china blanks handed to a china-painting artist, had by then become an internationally recognized manufacturer of fine china to a world-wide market, and the sole survivor from Edgerton's late nineteenth century fascination with hand decorated art pottery, china, and clay.

 

1. Edgerton's History in Clay by Maurice Montgomery

          Official Website of the City of Edgerton, 12 Albion St, Edgerton, Wisconsin 53534 (608) 884-3341 Rock & Dane County