William Henry Grueby & Grueby Pottery

Born in 1867 in Boston William Grueby was a businessman first and a potter second for many years. After forming the Grueby Faience Company in 1894, his love for American art pottery soon took center stage.

Before he was able to move on with the business of doing what he was passionate about, he had to secure financing for this new company. He’d found an ally of sorts in Allan Marquand, who was a professor of Art and Archeology as well as the director for the art museum on the Princeton University campus. He’d provided Marquand with an intricate model of what he wanted to do. If he was hoping to appeal to Marquand’s own passion for art pottery to link them, it worked; however, the proposal Grueby provided Marquand lacked specific information for really important aspects of establishing a new company in any sector, such as what the needs might be for heavy machinery or how many employees he might have needed to hire in the beginning. As Susan Montgomery writes in The Ceramics of William H. Grueby, “Grueby attached a typewritten resume, written in the third person, which summarized his technical achievements…” Despite the proposal’s shortcomings and the setbacks, Grueby was able to move forward and soon had two partners on board.

Two well-recognized companies contracted Grueby for inclusion in their various offerings. Tiffany Studios, known for its spectacular lamps, used Grueby’s art for more than a few of its lamp bases. Meanwhile, Gustav Stickley began using Grueby tiles in its tables, benches and even a few of its vases.

Soon, Grueby art pottery was winning awards and being recognized around the world at various exhibitions, including the Architectural League of New York, 1895, the Exposition Universalle in Paris- where he was awarded two medals in 1900, and the Buffalo Pan American Exhibition in 1901. All of the company’s submissions were hand thrown and surprisingly, many were decorated by art students within Boston’s art community.

To this day, Grueby remains most known for the lovely green glazes that many say put it on the map and ensured it would be remembered as one of the country’s most beloved art pottery makers.

The Talent Behind the Grueby Pottery Name

Most American art pottery companies, especially at the turn of the century and then again during the Great Depression were all too familiar with cultivating talent, only to lose that talent to the competition or because the talent was needed elsewhere – even if that “elsewhere” had little to do with the art pottery sector.

This week, we take a look at some of the best talent that at one time or another called Grueby Pottery their employer. We start with none other than William Henry Grueby.

Grueby hadn’t shown much of an infinity for tiles or other art pottery in his youth; instead, he had to find a job – any job – when he left school in 1882. That job would be a CA Wellington an Co., which specialized in decorative arts. Eight years later in 1890, Grueby and a friend he met while working at CA Wellington left to form their own company. That friend, of course, was Eugene Atwood and the company was aptly named Atwood and Grueby.

Eugene Atwood

Atwood remained with Atwood and Grueby until 1894. It was then he decided to strike out on his own. His company produced architectural faience and enameled bricks. Six years later, Atwood Faience found itself in reorganization and eventually new management took over. When that happened, it was renamed Hartford Faience.

There was also a third partner, though his name was never on the letterhead. William Hagerman Graves had graduated college more than a few times and continued to rack up degrees when he was approached to serve as treasure to Atwood & Grueby. As far as most historians believe, Graves had created a single piece of Grueby Art Pottery – a blue bowl that was inspired by Japanese influences. Eventually, he left the company and went to work for a tile company.

Karl Langenbeck

Langenbeck was a brilliant man who had received significant training in chemistry, which he put to use when he was approached in 1908 by Grueby Faience to work out “technical problems”. Langenbeck is one of those talents mentioned above – those who come and go. He’d already worked for Rookwood Pottery of Cincinnati in the role of a glaze expert in the late 1800s.

Finally, we take a look at one of those creative minds behind the Grueby name. Ruth Erickson created a beautiful fern handled vase. So unique was it that it was exhibited at the Newark Museum and then a year later, in 1911, the museum purchased it to have on permanent display. Erickson also was the talent behind several of the Grueby tobacco jars. If you have any, you might notice a marking of 1/21/01 – one not familiar with art pottery might wrongly assume the marking is indicative of 2001, which, of course, is not so. Most of those tobacco jars were made in 1901.

The talent and business minds who defined this art pottery company were many. Some were around for the long haul, while others made contributions and then moved on. Regardless, what we’re left with today is a versatile and beautiful line of American art pottery.

The Top 10 Pottery Searches for August, 2009

Newcomb_College

Below are the top ten most searched pottery collections for August, 2009.  The searches reveal consistency with few changes.  Clearly, the trends for Roseville are still strong, as it dominates four of the ten spots.

Roseville Pottery- Patterns A-E – Some of the patterns in this group include the incredibly sought-after Roseville Apple Blossom, the delicate Roseville Azurean and the ambitious designs in Roseville Capri.

Roseville Pottery – Patterns F-L – This group includes the Roseville Juvenile and the Roseville Laurel.

Weller Pottery – Beautiful and deep coloring with lean lines define Weller Pottery.  A perfect example that defines the Weller Pottery themes is the Camelot Vase.

Roseville Pottery – Patterns S-Z – Look for the Roseville Savona with its rich gold coloring and the vivid reds that define the Roseville Silhouette.

Roseville Pottery – Patterns M-R – This group has the unique shaped Roseville Pottery Magnolia Brown Cider Pitcher.

Rookwood Pottery – If you've not seen the Rookwood Faience Pottery Pears on a Branch Tile, now's the time.  This exquisite tile measures 10" in height and is 6 ¾" wide. 

Van Briggle Pottery – Known for its many markings, this collection has something for everyone.

McCoy Pottery – Look for any of the McCoy Pottery Vases.  Each is beautiful in its own right.

Newcomb Pottery – The blues and greens set this collection apart.

Fulper Pottery – Elegant and refined are commonly used to describe Fulper Pottery.

Despite the foothold Roseville Pottery maintains, Grueby's arts and crafts style, and the contemporary styles of Ephraim and Door Pottery just missed the Top 10.

Donna McGill

Fake Grueby Trademark on McCoy Pottery Vase

We were recently contacted by a fellow art pottery collector who was trying to find out about the history and value of her Grueby pottery vase.Mccoy_with_grueby_stamp  When the collector emailed us photos of her vase, I recognized the piece as being a 1930s McCoy matte glaze vase.  At first I thought the collector had simply mixed up the photos and sent me images of her McCoy pottery vase instead of the piece of Grueby.

However, after a closer look at the photo of the bottom I noticed it was stamped with a fake mark which included words Grueby Pottery, Boston and the lotus flower trademark.  Fake_grueby_stamp_3

Thankfully the mark is not at all close to authentic Grueby pottery trademarks and would likely not fool anyone other than the most novice pottery collectors. Since it was a fake Grueby trademark I had not seen previously I thought readers might find it interesting to see photos of the vase and stamp.

Greg Myroth – Selling Authenic McCoy and Grueby Pottery

Grueby Pottery Marks

Yesterday I received an email from a potential Grueby Pottery customer who was told by an alleged "pottery expert" that the impressed Grueby stamp mark was not authentic and was a mark that was used on "fake Grueby Pottery". 

I recognize that fakes and reproductions of Grueby, Roseville, Weller, Van Briggle and many other art pottery makers are becoming more and more of a concern to pottery collectors.  As such, I thought it might be helpful to provide some visual ads of original Grueby pottery marks. 

1.  Circular Grueby Boston USA Stamp

Below is an example of the circular Grueby stamp mark. Dsc6717  This is the most commonly seen Grueby pottery mark and is present on probably 70% of the pieces.  In addition to the circular Grueby stamp, the second photo also has the original Grueby Pottery paper label which is not commonly seen.  Dsc6721

2.  Impressed GRUEBY BOSTON. MASS mark

Another somewhat common Grueby mark is the impressed stamp mark.  I believe the impressed Grueby Boston. Mass as shown below is a later mark used by the company.  Dsc04134 Dsc9742

3.  Other authentic Grueby Pottery marks

Grueby pottery also used a few variations of the stamp mark including: 

  • GRUEBY
  • ATWOOD & GRUEBY
  • GRUEBY POTTERY BOSTON USA

While I don’t have visual examples of these particular stamp marks, they are documented in The Ceramics of William H. Grueby by Susan Montgomery.

4.  Unmarked examples of Grueby Pottery

It is important to note that not all Grueby was marked so it is not uncommon to find unmarked examples of Grueby. 

Greg Myroth – Buying and Selling Grueby Pottery!