Bob & Tom’s Excellent Adventures: Peoria pottery

Bob & Tom’s Excellent Adventures

PEORIA, Ill. — A lot of people know Peoria as a place that makes heavy machinery; Others know about Peoria because of all the distilleries which were here.

But there was another big industry locally that a lot of people may not know about.

Nathaniel sheets of Washington is a senior at Illinois State University and he makes pottery. Pottery that’s both artistic and practical.

Sheets is one of the latest in a long tradition of pottery in central Illinois. Native Americans started making pottery about 2,500 years ago.

By examining ancient pottery, archeologists can tell how people moved across the continent and when.

“It’s a fantastic tool,” Duane Esarey of the Dickson Mounds Museum said. “It’s like a wristwatch for us. And it gives us a look at society since it’s believed most pottery was made by women.”

In the early 1800s in Illinois, there were some 400 pottery businesses. Many were small, on farms. Industrial pottery comes to Peoria in 1859 when Christopher Fenton and Decius Clark arrived from Bennington, Vermont and start the American Pottery Company.

The company was located between Mary & Caroline Streets at Adams.

It came to an end in 1904, after an Indiana company purchased the Peoria pottery and closed its doors. By then, glassware and tin were easier and cheaper to manufacture.

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