The Meyer Family Pottery.
As Early Texas Was Settled, There Was a Huge Demand for Food Storage Vessels. As Early As 1839, Taylor Brown Was Working in Rusk County. By 1850, Three More Potteries Were Established, And Soon After That, Twelve More. They Were Located In East Texas on The Wilcox Clay Formation, Which Extends Across Texas Through Bastrop and San Antonio Areas. These Potters Migrated Down from the Carolinas and Georgia. In 1885, German Immigrants Franz Shultz and William Meyer Landed at Indianola. They Were Trained in The Art of Pottery Making, But Meyer Wanted to Try His Hand at Farming. That Venture Failed, And Meyer Found Himself Once Again in The Company of Shultz When He Hired on With William Saenger Who Had Come to America in 1874, And Migrated Down Through New Jersey, Kansas, And Missouri. He Established His Pottery in St. Hedwig, And Later Moved to Elmendorf. In 1887, William Meyer Married Shultz's Daughter, And the Two Men Opened Their Own Pottery on Five Acres of Land Purchased in Atascosa for $25.00. By This Time, There Were Dozens More Pottery Operations in East Texas, Bastrop, And the San Antonio Areas. Vessels Are Formed by Hand on Potters Wheels from Balls of Highly Processed Clay. They Are Allowed to Dry Until They Can Be Handled. They Are Then Ready to Be Glazed to Seal the Body of Clay to Render It Suitable for Use for Food and Liquid Storage. Meyer Is Unusual in The Way He Attached His Jug Handles to the Shoulder Rather Than the Mouth Ring. Meyer Was Such a Skilled Master Potter That He Reportedly Could Throw One Hundred Ten Gallon Jars in One Day! Early Potters Used the Salt Glazing Technique. Albany Slip Glaze Was Developed Near Albany, New York. It Was Made from Local Clay and Was of Very High Quality and Dependable. This Type Glaze Was Used to Seal the Insides of the Vessels. The Wares Were Then Loaded into the Kiln with The Outside Surfaces Unglazed. Wood, Fuel Oil or Natural Gas Were Used as Fuel Sources to Heat the Kiln. Once The Kiln Reached Its Highest Temperatures, Rock Salt Was Thrown into the Kiln Where It Vaporizes, resulting in the Reaction of Sodium and Silica from the Sides of the Vessel, Creating A Hard, Shiny Glaze. This Is Where the Meyer Pottery Is the Most Unique! After The First Few Years of Using Salt, They Began to Use a Slip Glaze Inside and Out. And Not Your Typical Albany Slip Glaze! Meyer Had Found A Local Source of Unique Clay Located on the Leon Creek Near San Antonio Where Kelly Air Force Base Was Later Built. This Unique Clay Gives the Stoneware Color Variations Ranging from Brown to Mustard Yellow to Olive Green. Other Slip Glazes Commonly Used in Texas Were Made from Mixtures of Wood Ash, Glass, Salt, And Other Ingredients, And Are Very Different from the Salt and Slip Glazes. Most Utilitarian Texas Potteries Still in Operation By 1900 Ceased to Operate By 1915. Competition From the Eastern States Contributed to Their Decline by Producing Clean, White Glazed Wares from the Newly Developed White Bristol Glaze. Increased Mobility of the Populations Made It Possible for The Eastern Factories to Inundate Texas with Their Wares. These Factories Even Filled Special Orders for Texas Merchants. It Wasn't Long Afterward That Inexpensive Glass Wares Were Mass Produced and Even Given Out in Boxes of Oatmeal, Soap Powder, Etc., And Most Potteries Were Extinct by This Time. The Meyer Family Continued on with Their Business but Began to Turn Out Floral Wares and Souvenir Items. By 1944, Kelly Air Force Base Was Built at The Leon Creek Site, And the Meyers Could No Longer Obtain the Clay for Their Trademark Glaze. They Experimented with Lead Glazes and Developed a Line of Dinnerware Called Patio Pottery. But That Venture Was Not Successful. The Pottery Continued to Turn Out Unglazed Floral Ware and Souvenir Items Sold at Kress Stores, The Alamo, And Buckhorn Saloon, And Other Tourist Attractions. These Souvenir Items Were Painted with Bluebonnet or Desert Scenes or Swirled Colors. The Pottery Ceased to Operate In 1962, And the Equipment Was Sold Off In 1964. Meyer Pottery Is Truly Unique in Its Use of the Multi-Colored Leon Glaze, It's A-Typical and Difficult to Execute Shoulder Handle, It's Diverse Range of Articles Manufactured (Plates, Bowls, Pitchers, Animal Feeders, Floral Ware, Etc.), And Its Longevity of Production. It Is Highly Prized by Collectors, And Increasingly Difficult to Find! *Speech Given at the Hada Antiques Show *Sponsored by the Heritage Society, Houston *September 19, 2003