Red Wing pottery has a rich and somewhat complicated history given the number of companies that have formed and merged over the 140 plus years of production. Two companies in particular are worth noting as they are the foundation of the Red Wing Stoneware & Pottery Company that exists today: the Red Wing Stoneware Company (manufacturing facility) and the Red Wing Pottery Company (storefront, in operation since the 1950s).
Map received from Library of Congress - https://www.loc.gov/resource/g4144rm.g043711884/?sp=1&r=-0.505,0.014,1.948,1.098,0
It all started in 1861 when a German immigrant by the name of John Paul made his first clay pots on a farm near Red Wing, Minnesota. He used the red clay found along the Mississippi river. After the civil war was over John Paul left the area and a man by the name of William M. Philleo continued the tradition, building on and improving the techniques of John Paul. From this moment, commercial pottery took off and different companies started popping up.
The Red Wing Stoneware Company was established in 1877 with two other competitors to follow, which resulted in a merger of two of them to form the Red Wing Union Stoneware Co. in 1906. With growing popularity the company started creating more everyday home products, such as dinnerware. This resulted in letting the production of stoneware go, which also resulted in a new company name, Red Wing Potteries Inc. in 1936.
The pottery industry fluctuated greatly over the years with a number of changes in the market, including the introduction of imported pottery from Japan, wide-use of glass and then plastic production for kitchenware, took the industry into a deep dive. This, in addition to turmoil with the production workers, resulted in Red Wing Potteries Inc. closing their doors.
In 1984, the Gillmer family held on to the Red Wing Pottery shop, but sold their right to the Red Wing Stoneware name to a potter by the name of John Falconer, who was able to start manufacturing in large quantities again. As mass production of pottery in large box stores started to emerge, the Gillmer family joined forces with Falconer to become the sole supplier of Red Wing pottery, which would bring exclusivity to Red Wing Stoneware.
Image found on Pinterest
Falconer sold the company in 1998 and from then on the Red Wing pottery market has continued to fluctuate. With new owners, first Tom Woodruff and then Bruce and Irene Johnson, and their sheer determination, the Red Wing Pottery Stoneware company remained afloat. In 2019, the original store location at 4909 Moundview Drive closed its doors and then reopened at 1920 Old West Main Street.
Red Wing Dinnerware in particular is popular to collect because of its history, connection to American making, and the number of patterns that exist, which is around 100.
Pepe by Red Wing can be purchased here in Found.
Additional reading / resources consulted for this post:
Red Wing Dinnerware: A Brief History. http://redwingdinnerware.com
Red Wing Pottery. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Wing_Pottery
Reviving a Red Wing tradition, one pot at a time. Nick Woltman. February 8, 2014. https://www.twincities.com/2014/02/08/reviving-a-red-wing-tradition-one-pot-at-a-time/
Red Wing Pottery Sales, Inc. History. Author Unknown. http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/red-wing-pottery-sales-inc-history/
Johnson, Frederick L., Goodhue County, Minnesota: A Narrative History, Red Wing: Goodhue County Historical Society Press, 2000, pp. 99-101, 295-96.
"Potteries Salesroom Is Sold to Remnicha," Red Wing Daily Republican Eagle, February 9, 1968.
Tefft, Gary, and Bonnie Tefft, Red Wing Potters & Their Wares, Menomonee Falls, Wis.: Locust Enterprises, 1996, 200 p.
Viel, Lyndon C., The Clay Giants, Des Moines: Wallace-Homestead Book Co., 1977, 128 p.
"What Is Red Wing Stoneware?," http://www.msr.net/gsrw/page2.html.
After 142 years in business, iconic Red Wing Stoneware shop to close. Madeline Deninger. August 29, 2019. https://bringmethenews.com/minnesota-news/after-142-years-in-business-iconic-red-wing-stoneware-shop-to-close
Red Wing's iconic stoneware factory will close this fall. Hannah Sayle. August 29, 2019. https://www.startribune.com/red-wing-s-iconic-stoneware-factory-will-close/558587601/?refresh=true
Red Wing Stoneware & Pottery. About us. https://www.redwingstoneware.com/our-history/our-history/