Featured Museum Piece
Rare, Valuable, and Highly Collectible Stangl Pieces
This month’s museum feature was especially fun to prepare, a selection of unique pottery pieces by Stangl Pottery. These pieces are quite rare, and are as much a slice of Americana as they are representative of the history of pottery in the United States. The pieces featured this month, which can be seen in aggregate and individually at the links below, include a collector’s plate, a cigarette box in the 3798 pattern, a child’s bowl from the Cat and the Fiddle pattern, a china goblet from the Garden Flower pattern, a china juicer from Town and Country-Blue, a dust pan from Town and Country-Brown, a milk pail from Town and Country-Green, a tureen ladle from Town and Country-Orange, a Gold ashtray, and an ashtray from Pink Elephant. The aggregate image of these pieces, which is seen here, displays a wonderful breadth of pattern, color, design, and shape and powerfully illustrates why Stangl pieces are considered not merely pottery, but great examples of excellence in applied art.
The origins of Stangl pottery are somewhat uncertain. Some sources date the opening of Stangl’s precursor, Hill Pottery, at 1805, others say 1814. Actually, the name “Stangl” was not used until several decades after the company’s opening, even though many pieces of pottery with the “Stangl” name are stamped with the 1805 date. Certainly, the company claimed 1805 as their founding. What is known is that a pottery producing firm was opened in the early 1800s under the ownership of Samuel Hill in Flemington, New Jersey. Samuel Hill had discovered rich deposits of high-quality clay ideal for pottery production in and around the Hunterdon County, New Jersey area. Using this clay, he manufactured a range of utilitarian pieces for farmers and homemakers until his death in 1858. Right before Samuel Hill’s death, another potter named Abraham Fulper began renting pottery manufacturing space from Hill. Soon after Hill’s death, Fulper purchased the Flemington, New Jersey factory. The company changed names several times during the following years until it became “Fulper Pottery” in 1899. The Fulper family oversaw a great deal of expansion at the Flemington factory, which was also credited with producing the “Fulper Germ Proof Filter.” These stoneware jars were used in public areas, like train depots, to provide clean and clear drinking water, and looked a lot like the water coolers that we are used to seeing in offices today.
In 1910, Fulper Pottery hired a new chemist and plant superintendent named Johann Martin Stangl. Stangl was born in Hof, Germany in 1888. He studied design and ceramic engineering at the Industrial School of Banzlau, Germany. Stangl left Fulper Pottery in 1914 to develop a line of ceramic wares for Haeger Potteries of Dundee, Illinois. In 1920, Stangl returned to Fulper as their general manager. Stangl’s return signaled the advent of significant change at the struggling pottery manufacturer. He quickly released a line of new colors called “Fulper Fayence.” The colors for pieces in this line went by such names as “Chinese Ivory,” “Colonial Blue,” “Silver Green,” and “Persian Yellow.” When the CEO of Fulper Pottery, William Fulper, died in 1928, Stangl assumed his role in the company. In 1929, the Flemington Plant met with tragedy when it burned to the ground. The flames were so intense that furniture from the Fulper Family home (which was located next door to the plant) had to be moved to a neighbor’s house. Although nothing was left of the Flemington Factory but the kiln, the Fulper Family home did not burn down. Johann Martin Stangl was undeterred by the fire and moved production to Trenton, New Jersey. At the time of the fire, Fulper Pottery was using an ice cream store in Flemington for clay storage. Stangl made the decision to convert the ice cream store site into a new factory and began expanding the building and adding kilns. Despite this expansion, Flemington soon became primarily a showroom and secondarily a factory, and most of the production work was moved to Trenton. In 1930, Johann Martin Stangl purchased Fulper Pottery outright.
It is uncertain when the company decided to rename all of its products “Stangl.” Throughout the 1930’s the company used both names, “Fulper Pottery” and “Stangl Pottery.” By the beginning of World War II, Stangl was the most commonly used name. In 1940, the company introduced a line of collectible bird figurines. Today, these birds remain immensely popular and highly collectible.
Stangl Pottery would continue to be a successful American institution for many decades. In 1966, faulty wiring caused about half of the Trenton factory to burn down. The offices, storage facilities, and the decorating department were destroyed but the kilns remained unharmed. The company rebuilt and continued selling its highly sought-after artware lines. In 1972, Johann Martin Stangl died of complications from a heart attack he had suffered a year earlier. His estate ran the factory until it was purchased by Frank Wheaton, Jr. Wheaton eventually sold Stangl Pottery to Pfaltzgraff, who used Stangl Pottery’s real estate for Pfaltzgraff manufacturing. Today, the original Flemington Factory is used a Pfaltzgraff store.
While the Stangl museum pieces featured here are not offered for sale, we do have a wonderful selection of patterns by Stangl that are available for sale. Come visit us and see these amazing Stangl pieces. Leave with your arms full of beautiful Stangl pottery to take back to your home. Our Showroom and Museum are open from 9:00am to 7:00pm ET, 7 days a week (except holidays); free tours are available from 10:00am to 6:00pm ET, 7 days a week. The Showroom and Museum are conveniently located between Greensboro and Burlington, NC, at exit 132 off Interstate 85/40. Make plans to visit us soon!
Click here to view our Featured Museum Pieces Archive!