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Pottery Through History

Pottery Through History


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Pottery is the great survivor of history. Pottery vessels have rarely ever attracted tomb robbers and the material can not be reused like bronze or gold. Even if smashed to pieces, pots can be painstakingly put back together again and clay is impervious to damp, mould, insects or even time itself. And pottery is plentiful - rubbish dumps, wells, and tombs the world over are rich sources of this everyday material. Pottery can be used to date archaeological sites, reveals long-forgotten trade links, the decoration can show artistic evolution within cultures and it often reveals details of everyday life from clothing to religious rituals, from eating habits to now-lost versions of otherwise well-known myths. Finally, the finer pieces of pottery are artworks in themselves, revealing sophisticated firing techniques and exquisite painting skills.

In this collection, we look at the pottery of some of the most famous producers of wares in history such as the striking black figures on ancient Greek pottery, the three-dimensional models in clay beloved by the Etruscans and, perhaps the two finest examples of the ceramic arts ever produced, Celadon pottery from Korea and Ming dynasty porcelain.

The Marine style, perhaps, produced the most distinctive of all Minoan pottery with detailed, naturalistic depictions of octopuses, argonauts, starfish, triton shells, sponges, coral, rocks and seaweed. Further, the Minoans took full advantage of the fluidity of these sea creatures to fill and surround the curved surfaces of their pottery in a truly unique artistic style which effortlessly conveys the obvious love these island people had for the sea.


A Brief History of Metlox Pottery

The California company that eventually developed into Metlox Pottery was started around 1920 by the Prouty family who sold their wares as ProutyLine Products. Combining parts of the words "metal" and "oxide," the substance that gives the pottery its vibrant colors, eventually resulted in the Metlox moniker.

In the late 1920s and early '30s, looking for more ways to increase revenue during the difficult economy resulting from the Great Depression, Metlox began producing housewares that quickly grew in popularity. Prior to that time, the company focused on making large ceramic signs for theaters and other businesses.


Kinds, processes, and techniques

Clay, the basic material of pottery, has two distinctive characteristics: it is plastic (i.e., it can be molded and will retain the shape imposed upon it) and it hardens on firing to form a brittle but otherwise virtually indestructible material that is not attacked by any of the agents that corrode metals or organic materials. Firing also protects the clay body against the effects of water. If a sun-dried clay vessel is filled with water, it will eventually collapse, but, if it is heated, chemical changes that begin to take place at about 900 °F (500 °C) preclude a return to the plastic state no matter how much water is later in contact with it. Clay is a refractory substance it will vitrify only at temperatures of about 2,900 °F (1,600 °C). If it is mixed with a substance that will vitrify at a lower temperature (about 2,200 °F, or 1,200 °C) and the mixture is subjected to heat of this order, the clay will hold the object in shape while the other substance vitrifies. This forms a nonporous opaque body known as stoneware. When feldspar or soapstone (steatite) is added to the clay and exposed to a temperature of 2,000 to 2,650 °F (1,100 to 1,450 °C), the product becomes translucent and is known as porcelain. In this section, earthenware is used to denote all pottery substances that are not vitrified and are therefore slightly porous and coarser than vitrified materials.

The line of demarcation between the two classes of vitrified materials—stoneware and porcelain—is extremely vague. In the Western world, porcelain is usually defined as a translucent substance—when held to the light most porcelain does have this property—and stoneware is regarded as partially vitrified material that is not translucent. The Chinese, on the other hand, define porcelain as any ceramic material that will give a ringing tone when tapped. None of these definitions is completely satisfactory for instance, some thinly potted stonewares are slightly translucent if they have been fired at a high temperature, whereas some heavily potted porcelains are opaque. Therefore, the application of the terms is often a matter of personal preference and should be regarded as descriptive, not definitive.


How Pottery Works

The oldest known body of pottery dates back 10,000 years, during the Neolithic revolution. Lifestyles in the Middle East and Africa were transitioning from nomadic hunters and gatherers to farmers who put down roots and planted crops. Baskets were useful handicrafts used for gathering, but they couldn't hold liquids. Mind you this was long before hoses or irrigation systems were in the picture, and farmers needed to be able to water their crops. Necessity dictated that it was essential to find a material that was readily available and inexpensive, pliable enough to shape and light enough to carry. Clay fit the bill and was an abundant resource in the region. Early pots were built by stacking rings of clay, which were then smoothed out and fired in a hole in the ground, under a bonfire. These pots were undecorated and expendable -- they were created simply as a means to transport liquids, and sometimes were only used once they were being disposed of.

The Greeks were credited with making pottery an art form, although at the time, potters were still known as craftsmen. Their pots and vases were utilitarian in nature and were mainly created for drinking and pouring, or storing wine and olive oil. But these craftsmen decorated their vessels with characters from Greek mythology and were the first to experiment with adding color by combining the clay with other naturally occurring ingredients, such as ochre and potash.

It's not known exactly when the potter's wheel arrived on the scene, but this was an important development in pottery making. At the beginning of the Bronze Age, around 3000 B.C., potters were using the slow wheel. This was simply a moveable platform that allowed them to turn the pot as they worked, instead of having to get up and walk around it. By the time the next century rolled around, most potters in Europe and Asia were using the fast wheel, which used a platform similar to the slow wheel, except the platform spun on an axle much like a toy top. The potters would start with a lump of clay sitting on the wheel, then gave the wheel a good spin or kick, which enabled them to draw the pot out of the clay through the spinning motion. The fast wheel was a big technological breakthrough, because it made it possible to work quickly and reproduce the same design. The invention of electricity brought us the motorized potter's wheel that we know today.

The next big breakthrough in pottery came about in 600 A.D. during the Han Dynasty in China, when potters began to make porcelain. These delicate and artful pieces, now known as fine china, were created from white kaolin clay combined with ground granite, which was fired at extremely high temperatures. It was very expensive to transport, so potters in West Asia invented lead glazes to mimic the look of porcelain. These glazes were important because not only did they add a decorative element to pottery making, they also made the porous earthenware waterproof. European potters soon followed suit, creating colorful glazes to use in their pottery. Throughout the centuries, pottery has continued to evolve as both a craft and an art.

Special thanks to Whitney Smith of Whitney Smith Pottery in Oakland, Calif., for her contributions to this article.­


The Wheel and Origins of This

One aspect of pottery that many people are familiar with, is the wheel. However, there isn’t an actual date as to when this showed up, but people usually attribute it to about 3000 BC. Now, you have two types of wheels, and they are the following:

Both of these played a huge role in the making of pottery in this era, but they have their own characteristics, and they are as follows:

  • The slow wheel is a movable platform that allowed it to turn
  • This prevented people from having to get up and walk around

The slow wheel was the popular wheel for the longest time, but the fast wheel is similar to what we use for pottery today. However, it has its own characteristics and they are the following:

  • It is a platform similar to a slow wheel
  • You spin the axle like a toy top
  • With a kick or spin, the potter will be able to draw the pot out of the clay via a spinning motion

This showed up in Western pottery more than anything, and it was a breakthrough technologically for the sheer reason of ease when working quickly and being able to reproduce clay with a similar design.

However, the fast wheel is similar to the push or kick the wheel that we know of today, and the invention of electricity is how we get the motorized wheels that we are familiar with in this day and age.


The Fiesta Line

Fiesta, a brightly colored line of dinnerware introduced in 1936, was Homer Laughlin China Company’s greatest success. Frederick Hurten Rhead, who descended from a family of highly regarded English ceramicists, had previously worked for both Weller Pottery and Roseville Pottery before joining Homer Laughlin in 1927. He went to work looking at new shapes and glazes as part of expanding Homer Laughlin’s lines, and designing Fiesta was one of his achievements.

Older Fiesta dinnerware is a perennial favorite among collectors. New Fiesta is still sold in department stores and other outlets today.


Rongchang Pottery

Sichuan Rongchang pottery mainly consists of commodities such as kettles, jars, pots, vases, and so on, with the most famous being the Rongchang pickle jar. The very popular pickle jar is suitable and useful for making pickles due to its shape, structure, and proportions all in harmony with each other, creating a beautiful appearance. There are 2 kinds of clay in Rongchang one is red and the other is white. Craftsmen delicately create various decorations on the pottery with both colors of clay. For example, a pottery body made with red clay can be decorated with white appliqué or a golden mixture of the 2 colors. The surface of the pottery can also be beautifully scratched and picked with smooth lines, most of which are single-lined patterns. The earthenware becomes a working model for the combination of function and beauty, with sharp visual contrasts and simple and natural ornamental patterns.

Over the past centuries, with its unique local craftsmanship and artistic style, Rongchang pottery has enjoyed reputations such as 𠇊s thin as paper, as bright as glass, and as resonant as chime stone.” To be certain, it has added an indispensable page to the histories of Chinese ceramics and Chinese arts and crafts.

Purchasing: Rongchang pottery is available in all major shops in Rongchang County and the city of Chengdu.


Greek Pottery / Terracotta Background

From around 1000 to 400 B.C.E., the ancient Greeks crafted pottery for a multitude of uses. Many pottery vessels were put to practical purpose they stored olive oil, wine, wheat, water, perfume, and more. Outside of its day-to-day importance, the renown of Greek pottery owes itself to the masterful paintings adorning the clay. The decorations often chronicled famous battles, breathed life into mythological tales, and displayed every-day scenes like the sowing of fields or the spinning of wool. Pottery from Greece is still put to use today, over two-thousand years later, by providing scholars and historians with an intimate look into ancient Greek civilization which less durable materials—such as textile and wood—have failed to represent adequately.

Pottery became a prolific stamp on Greek culture thanks to an abundance of clay found throughout the regions and city-states. Today, there are still well over 100,000 painted pieces spread across 24 countries. The craftsmanship of these vessels has also played a role in their durability over the centuries. The potter’s wheel was the primary tool used in the creation of Greek pottery. With larger vessels, the neck, the body, and the foot were thrown separately. Once the different sections reached a leather-like hardness, they would be luted together using wet slips. Next, the potter would stretch out lengths of clay to add handles. Before firing the new vessel in the kiln, decorative paintings and/or etchings were added.

Ancient Greek pottery can be placed into four main categories: Proto-geometric, Geometric, Black-figure, and Red-figure. Though building off one another, their time-periods tended to overlap.

Proto-geometric pottery owes much of its foundation to the vases of Mycenaean traditions, with slight variations. For one, a proto-Geometric Greek vase was better proportioned and had a larger center of gravity. These pieces were often adorned with simple designs: circles, wavy lines, triangles, etc. While abstract, the designs were meticulous. They were often displayed on the “belly” of a piece and around the shoulders and handles. The lower portion would either be left bare or painted black.


Taos art history

Since 1300 AD, Taos Pueblo residents have created art from the dirt (literally) found in this valley. Micaceous pottery is made of clay found in the Sangre de Cristo mountains that surround Taos and Picuris Pueblos. The sparkling flecks of mica embedded in the pottery are rumored to be the source of the Spanish conquistador’s belief that the Rio Grande Valley was home to “Cibola” – one of the cities of gold. Micaceous pottery continues to be used for cooking by Pueblo Indians and local chefs alike. The clay is also used to create fine art pieces available in Taos galleries and museum shops. Millicent Rogers Museum displays a collection of rare historic micaceous pottery from Taos as well as pottery from other northern New Mexico pueblos – the San Ildefonso Maria Martinez family black-on-black collection is the prize of the museum’s collection.

The need to produce wearable apparel in this rugged and isolated location spawned another traditional art form: weaving. Nomadic Navajo Indians migrated into northern New Mexico shortly before the Spanish arrived in 1540. They learned spinning and weaving skills from the Pueblo Indians, using portable vertical looms, and later adopted the use of wool from the Spanish. Like Navajo weavers, Spanish colonists living along the Rio Grande basin made beautiful and functional weaving’s. They wove striking blankets on a fixed treadle loom. This loom, of European heritage, produced long, narrow, lengths of cloth. Weavers commonly created two matching pieces of cloth which they sewed together to achieve the width they desired. Millicent Rogers Museum has an extensive display of historic Navajo and Rio Grande blankets from the mid-1800s through the present day. Several Taos galleries exhibit work by contemporary weavers. There are villages surrounding Taos that still raise sheep, spin wool, and weave textiles in much the same way their ancestors did.

The Spaniards brought their religious traditions to Taos valley and over the years these symbols and artistic techniques merged and melded with those of the Pueblo residents. One can experience the early Spanish Colonial times of Taos by a visit to the Martinez Hacienda, a uniquely preserved fortress occupied by Padre Martinez’s family in the 1800s. There are today strong traditional artistic movements within both the Spanish and Pueblo communities that continue to create retablos (santos painted on flat pieces of wood), bultos (santos carved out of wood and sometimes painted), as well as tin work, jewelry, and basketry. All these art forms are on view at Taos museums and available to purchase at galleries and at annual art fairs.

A pivotal moment in Taos art history happened on a sunny fall day in 1898. It happened with a broken wagon wheel. That wheel was on a horse-drawn carriage transporting two European-trained east coast artists to Mexico. Bert G. Phillips and Ernest L. Blumenschein stayed in the Taos area to have the wheel repaired, became enchanted with the light and the rich culture and stayed. Word spread in Paris, New York, and St Louis associates of the two artists began visiting Taos. In 1915, the first formal meeting of the Taos Society of Artists was held with six members present. Over the next few years the membership grew to twelve. Prime examples of the work created by these artists are on display at Harwood Museum of Art, Taos Art Museum at the Fechin House, Couse-Sharp Historic Site and Blumenschein Home and Museum.

Sometimes a few influential individuals can change the nature of a community. Two of these people, Mabel Dodge and Millicent Rogers, independently discovered Taos in the early 1900s, settled, and began inviting their circles of creative friends to visit. The likes of DH Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Ansel Adams came and created and invited more friends to visit. Many stayed and are part of the art history of Taos.

After World War II, yet another group of artists began relocating to Taos from New York and San Francisco. Many of this group became know as “Taos Moderns,” appreciating the magical light and the majestic landscape but translating these influences into abstraction. Harwood Museum of Art has a permanent display of works by Taos Moderns.

The summer of love in the late 1960s turned Taos life upside down and started yet another influx of creative beings, many from southern California. The hippie era of communes and free love was immortalized in Dennis Hopper‘s “Easy Rider” film. Hopper moved to Taos as did many of his artist friends. These artists were sculptors, photographers, installation artists as well as painters and many are still working in Taos today.

A stroll through the museums and galleries of Taos will expose the perceptive visitor to influences from all these eras of Taos art. One can find hints of the past in contemporary landscape paintings, sacred art objects, political commentary, the functional arts, photography, jewelry … a myriad of art forms. In Taos creativity is a tradition and a way of life. Print a copy of Historic Taos, a walking tour of 22 Taos landmarks (1.2MB PDF file).


The commercial production of clay products began in Red Wing, Minnesota in 1861 by a German potter by the name of John Paul. For the next 116 years, clay products were made commercially in the City of Red Wing by a number of companies and individuals, with a wide assortment of products from art pottery to water coolers and everything in between. The industry started with the basic products used everyday by people bowls, jugs, flower pots and ended when the last sewer pipe, drain tile and brick cap were produced for construction use.

In this 106 year period, the following companies produced utilitarian products and, later, art pottery as well.

Philleo and Williams Pottery
The Red Wing Terra Cotta Works
Minnesota Pottery
Red Wing Stoneware Company
Minnesota Stoneware Company
John H. Rich Sewer Pipe Company
North Star Stoneware Company (1892-1896)
Union Stoneware Company
Red Wing Sewer Piper Company
Red Wing Union Stoneware Company
Red Wing Potteries, Incorporated

These companies were major employers in the city of Red Wing and contributed greatly to the fabric and history of this unique town on the banks of the Mississippi. The accompanying sections of this web page provide a few examples of the wide variety of products produced by these companies.

No content from our website, emails, or newsletters may be used without the prior written permission of the Executive Director of the RWCS.
When approved RWCS content is used, you must credit the Red Wing Collectors Society. V2


HistoryLink.org

Palouse is the second oldest town in Whitman County. It is located on the north fork of the Palouse River, about 15 miles north of Pullman and less than two miles from the Idaho state border. Founded in 1874 and incorporated in 1888, the town was once the lumber capital of Eastern Washington, thanks to the Potlatch Lumber Company and several railroad lines. A massive fire devastated Palouse in 1888, but over the next few decades, its Main Street was rebuilt and became one of the region's largest pioneer-era commercial districts. One of these buildings houses the Roy M. Chatters Newspaper and Printing Museum, a collection of printing-press machinery and newspaper archives spanning more than 125 years. There were fancy hotels, an opera house, banks, and a public library established in 1920 with 20 donated books. Palouse was the childhood home of inventor and industrialist Richard A. Hanson (1923-2009), who in 1942 built an automated self-leveling attachment for farm machines that revolutionized harvesting wheat on steep hillsides. Area farmers grow cereal grasses such as wheat and barley along with peas, lentils, and garbanzos. As of 2017, Palouse had 1,055 residents, many of whom worked or attended school at Washington State University in nearby Pullman.

The Founding of Palouse City

The first non-Native settler on the north fork of the Palouse River was said to be William Ewing, who arrived in 1869. Others followed, including Joseph Hammer and A. Towner and their families, and by 1873 a community had begun to form on land homesteaded by James A. "Modoc" Smith. The town of Palouse was founded in 1874, when William P. "Pap" Breeding (1819-1881) established a flour mill. Breeding hired a surveyor to plat the town the following year. The derivation of the word Palouse is unclear. One theory is that it was the name of a Native American tribe called Palus, Pelusha, or something similar. A second theory is that French-Canadian fur trappers, upon seeing the lush rolling hills, called the area "pelouse," meaning lawn or grass in French.

In 1875, William Powers opened a general store in Palouse, and a post office was established the next year. By 1877, the town was home to a "flour mill, three steam sawmills, a steam planing mill and sash factory, two general merchandise stores, a drug store, a millinery store, two blacksmith shops, two hotels, a saloon, a meat market, a livery stable, a barber shop and a boot and shoe shop" (Whitman, 216).

Soon, the little town outgrew its original borders and a new site was created about one-eighth of a mile away across the river. A duo called Wiley and Beach platted the new community around 1882, and it prospered thanks to nearby dense forests of pine and modest mineral deposits along the Palouse River. Three large lumber mills opened in town and three others were established about 10 miles away.

The Railroad Arrives

By the late 1880s, it became clear that better transportation options were needed if the town were to continue growing. The Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Company offered the closest railroad terminal in Almota, Whitman County, some 27 miles away. Timber and other goods from Palouse meant for rail shipment had to travel by wagon over rutted roads to Almota, while passengers and the mail went by stagecoach. It was not an efficient system.

In 1888, the Spokane and Palouse Railroad, part of the Northern Pacific Railroad, arrived. This line gave the locals greater access to manufactured goods and allowed businesses and farmers a faster and more cost-effective way of shipping their crops and lumber.

But the arrival of the Spokane and Palouse Railroad did not happen without a struggle. The first engineers sent out to survey the area advised a different route -- one would have cut Palouse out of it entirely. The railroad's chief engineer agreed. Luckily for the town, Anthony McCue Cannon (1839-1895), a prominent Palouse banker and former Spokane mayor, quickly made his way to New York, where he met with railroad executives and asked them to rethink their decision. He promised that a railroad line to Palouse City would be an economically sound business decision. Evidently, his argument was convincing: The Spokane and Palouse Railroad began service in 1888.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, five bridges spanned the Palouse River, including a new steel bridge later known as the F Street Bridge. "The new steel bridge was not only a source of pride for the community, but the choice of its placement also indicated the river crossing's importance to the local transportation and marketing network, particularly in terms of agriculture . Oldtimers in the community remember farmers in horse-drawn wheat wagons lined up across the bridge at harvest waiting their turn to unload grain at the Palouse Flour Mills, a practice which continued until the early 1920s" (Bruce).

Clashing Interests

The Potlatch Lumber Company, a subsidiary of Weyerhaeuser, had a huge influence on the town of Palouse during the early years of the twentieth century. Incorporated in 1903, the company bought out several mills and timber stock in the region, including the Palouse River Lumber Company. Determined to get direct access to the forest reserves in Idaho, the company broke ground for the 47-mile-long Washington, Idaho and Montana Railroad on May 10, 1905. The new rail line ran from Palouse to Purdue, Idaho. Capacity at the old mill nearly doubled, which generated an economic boom as well as a housing shortage. The Potlatch saw mill and dry kiln employed about 100 men and was the town's largest employer.

But the new sawmill owners' interests soon competed with the old Breeding flour mill. "The millers occasionally refused to open the dam for Potlatch logs destined for sawmills downstream. In 1905, Potlatch Lumber Company solved this conflict by buying the . flour mill and converting it to electricity. This action ended dependency on water to generate power for the grist mill, while concurrently assuring control of the river for the company's log drives" (Bruce).

In 1906, an electric interurban line called the Spokane and Inland Empire Railroad began in Spokane, passed through Palouse, and ended in Moscow, Idaho. "The town's many railroad and highway bridges were vital connecting threads in the fabric of the town's status as a regional transportation network" (Bruce). In Palouse in 2020, a lone pillar and cement retaining wall from an old railroad bridge stand as a historical marker with photos and signage recalling the town's early railroad history.

Fire and Water

A massive fire in 1888 dealt Palouse a heavy blow. Nearly all the principal businesses were destroyed and the region suffered more than $300,000 in damages. Financier Anthony Cannon, who helped broker the railroad deal, again came to the rescue, helping to finance the rebuilding of the town. But more disasters were right around the corner. In 1893, heavy rains prevented farmers from harvesting their crops, which led to several bad years for the community. Three banks failed and the principal lumber company, Palouse Mill, fell into receivership.

Despite these setbacks, the town bounced back and by the early 1900s, Palouse had 1,800 residents served by five doctors, three lawyers, two dentists, and an undertaker. There were also a candy store, four saloons and a brewery, bank, bakery, and two restaurants, among other businesses. A brick schoolhouse with eight classrooms was filled to capacity, and some students had to be taught in another building. Seven churches catered to the residents' spiritual needs.

Running water was available in the late 1880s but residents were told it would be turned off by the volunteer fire department whenever the fire alarm rang. Other ordinances from that period specified the marshal's salary ($45/month), the fine for driving a horse or mule on the sidewalk ($10), and the levying of a fine up to $50 (or jail time) for using vulgar language in a loud tone on public streets.

In 1903, land close to town cost about $50 an acre, while property 15 miles away was being sold for $5 an acre. Wheat was the main crop, along with oats and barley. Fruit cultivation, cattle ranching, dairy farming, and some mining also contributed to the local economy. Palouse Pottery Company, one of two pottery plants in the state, began commercial production in 1904.

Bars and Brothels

At the turn of the century, Palouse had a broad Main Street lined with brick buildings. (After the 1888 fire, local ordinances decreed that buildings had to be made of brick, stone, or corrugated iron.) But the town also had its share of houses of ill repute. Lonely railroad construction workers, loggers, and sawmill employees had five such houses to choose from, clustered on the south side of the Palouse River. Residents also enjoyed knocking back a few drinks. In 1901, Palouse supported a brewery and at least five saloons. As the Palouse Republic noted in 1904: "The police force has been busy the past week looking after drunken harvesters and hobos. Many will go to the harvest fields and work a week, then draw their wages and come to town to get drunk. Many have been driven out of town and others have been given time to reflect in the city Bastille" (National Register of Historic Places, 16).

In 1910, the Potlatch Company closed the big sawmill, ending Palouse's history of 35 years of lumber operations. The Breeding flour mill helped keep the community going, but times were tough. "In 1907, Palouse, Washington, giddily rode the crest of Potlatch's boom. The town grew people got work businesses opened. . Then Potlatch pulled out of town. . The town gradually shrank, but it did not disappear, finally stabilizing as a quiet agricultural center" ("In Historic Palouse . "). The construction of Route 95, Idaho's north-south route built around 1920, diverted more traffic and commerce from Palouse City.

Revolutionizing Hillside Farming

Raymond A. Hanson (1923-2009) was born in Potlatch, Idaho, but grew up on a family farm near Palouse and studied mechanical engineering at the University of Idaho. When he was 19, he got the idea for an automated self-leveling attachment that could be affixed to a harvesting machine. This would not only increase crop yields but also would make the harvesting process less hazardous by safeguarding against tipping or rolling over. Spokesman-Review reporter Mike Prager wrote that Hanson was so convinced that his invention would work that, according to his stepson Eric Redman, "in his early years Hanson hooked up a trailer and went from farm to farm, offering to install his leveling device for a free trial and to remove it if the farmer declined to buy. He never removed one" (Prager). Hanson's invention was produced exclusively for John Deere combines until 1995.

In 1946, Hanson founded R. A. Hanson Inc. (known as RAHCO), which moved to Spokane County in 1968. He obtained more than 100 U.S. patents and sold his equipment in more than 50 countries. Over the years, he branched out to design excavating and land-reclamation machines for large projects such as dams and aqueducts. And the ideas just kept coming: "In 1986, he proposed a garbage sorting, composting and fuel production process as a competitive idea for the garbage incinerator that was eventually built by the city and county [Spokane]" (Prager).

In 2008, his combine-leveling system was awarded an historical agricultural engineering landmark designation from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. His inventions were said to have "brought more than $150 million worth of business back to the Northwest and the Inland Empire" (Jones).

Another Palouse native who excelled in his chosen profession was Darrel "Mouse" Davis (b. 1932), professional football coach and player. Davis was born in Palouse on September 6, 1932, but moved with his family to Oregon when he was a boy. His claim to fame was popularizing the run-and-shoot offense which revolutionized football in the 1960s and 1970s. Early in his career, Davis coached high school and college teams in Hawaii and Oregon, including Portland State University. He was head coach of several professional football teams in now-defunct leagues such as the U.S. Football League and World League of American Football, and was assistant coach with the NFL's Detroit Lions (1988-1990) and Atlanta Falcons (1994-1995).

The Xenodican Club

In the early part of the twentieth century, Palouse was home to a social society called the Xenodican Club. In 1920, the group of about 20 women wanted to be of service to the community and voted to establish a library. "This was a large undertaking as the club had neither money nor books. The Episcopal Guild members offered the club about 20 books . and also a room in which to start the library. . Then the women went door to door asking people to give books. The response was generous" ("History of the Palouse Branch . ").

After several months, the library was given space in city hall. To transfer the collection, adults carried books by the armloads and children used their wagons, pulling them down the street. At first, Xenodican Club members took turns staffing the library which was open only one afternoon a week, but the idea proved so popular that in 1925 city officials appropriated an annual budget of $100 for the library. They also agreed to pay the librarian's salary.

Throughout the decades, the community continued to support its library, raising funds not only for books but also for window coverings, reading tables, desks, and landscaping. By 1947, with a collection of 3,000 books, the library joined the Whitman County Rural Library District and later the Whitman County Library system. The Palouse librarian remains a member of the Xenodican Club, which continues to support civic life as of 2020.

Newspaper and Printing Museum

In 1986, a four-block area of downtown Palouse composed of 23 buildings constructed between 1880 and 1920 was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Some of these structures included the Security State Bank (built in 1892 as the first office of the Potlatch Timber Company), Palouse Grain Growers (1916), Fussy Building (1890, home of city hall), Ice House (ca. 1914), and the Oasis Café (established in 1915 as Jess' Confectionary and later renamed the Oasis). In 2016, those buildings were occupied by an art gallery, tearoom, and car dealership.

The Roy M. Chatters Newspaper and Printing Museum, which opened September 18, 1976, is located in the former Collard Building, constructed circa 1915, a long single-story brick building with a large plate-glass storefront and transom windows. Some of its artifacts date back to the 1890s, including a 2.5-ton flat-bed printing press, Linotype and strip casting machines. The museum, managed by the Whitman County Historical Society, is open most Saturdays for visitors former pressmen serve as tour guides.

Roy M. Chatters (1908-1994), a retired nuclear engineer from Washington State University, came from a family with a history in the printing industry. When he retired from WSU, he began to collect antique printing equipment. Over the years, he also started to collect old newspapers with a focus on Whitman County. Today, the museum's newspaper collection dates back to the 1880s and includes nearly every issue from papers covering the small Washington towns of Endicott, Lacrosse, Garfield, Tekoa, Rosalia, St. John, and Palouse. This extensive archive is available for researchers and historians.

In February 1996, the swollen Palouse River overflowed its banks in the worst flooding incident in more than 30 years. The town saw widespread damage and there was extensive flooding in the museum, where wooden floors were submerged under two feet of water. Volunteers helped move some items to upper floors while other objects were stored at the Bank of Whitman. It took years to raise funds for the restoration, which included replacing the rotten wooden floors with radiant-heat concrete. The museum reopened in 2003 with a new local history section that acknowledged the outpouring of community support for the project.

Saving the St. Elmo

One of the town's most historically significant properties is the St. Elmo Hotel, the city's only three-story building. The brick hotel, constructed in 1888 during the railroad's heyday, sports a mansard roof with decorative metal shingles, pressed metal ceiling, and its original 1888 elevator built by the J. W. Reedy Company, said to be one of the first electric elevators in the state. The hotel was partially financed by Anthony Cannon, who located his Bank of Palouse City there in 1888.

After years of disuse, Justin and Lindsay Brown purchased the old hotel in 2018. They hoped to remodel it for apartment and event rentals, but the project was just too big and too expensive. The city also tried to save the building, but several pressing safety issues meant costly repairs. In 2020, a group of community members met to stave off demolition. At the time, the building's asking price was $275,000 with renovations estimated to cost an additional $1.2 million. The Browns agreed to wait a year before taking any additional action as long as the building did not deteriorate further.

Palouse Today

In 2017, Palouse had 1,055 residents, making it the third largest city in Whitman County after Pullman and Colfax. Many of its residents work or attend school at Washington State University in Pullman. Others commute to jobs in retail stores and businesses in Moscow and Pullman. It has its own police and fire departments as well as a health center, and is served by privately owned Schoepflin Airport. Favorite outdoor activities include paddling on the Palouse River or exploring the 208-mile Palouse Scenic Byway which meanders through the small towns of the region, including Palouse City. Each fall, the city sponsors Palouse Days, a local community festival with a fun run, parade, and car show.

In 2019, Palouse adopted a city flag designed by local farmer Moses Boone. The design features a knotted rope in blue (representing the Palouse River) and gold (representing wheat) against a field of green, signifying the town's rural setting. At a city council meeting on August 27, 2019, Boone and his wife Amberly offered to pay for the cost of creating several flags for city use.

Association of Washington Cities

Palouse, February 27, 2003

Photo by Robert Ashworth (CC BY 2.0)

Second Palouse Flour Mill, Palouse, 1889

Courtesy Whitman County Library (WCLPA017)

Musicians, Palouse, ca. 1900

Courtesy Washington State Historical Society (2018.2.39)

Potlatch Lumber Company mill, Palouse, ca. 1906

Courtesy Whitman County Library (WCLPA008)

Palouse Flour Mill, ca. 1908

Courtesy Washington State Historical Society (2006.122.1)

Main Street, Palouse, ca. 1908

Courtesy Washington State Historical Society (2006.122.2)

Aftermath of flooding, Main Street, Palouse, February 1996

Photo by Colleen E. O'Connor

St. Elmo Hotel after flooding, Palouse, February 1996

Photo by Colleen E. O'Connor

Main Street looking east (Chatters Museum, City Hall, and St. Elmo Hotel on left), Palouse, April 7, 2006

HistoryLink.org Photo by Kit Oldham

Early railroad history display, Palouse, July 6, 2014

Photo by Janet Barstow, Courtesy Washington State Historical Society (2014.4.20.1)

Former Palouse Opera House (1893), right, and Palouse Community Center (2012), Palouse, June 14, 2015


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