So I’ve told you all before that sometimes … just sometimes I have a hard time letting go of stuff that I find for the Vintage Eve’s store. Well, this was one of those items. If you have been following me for any length of time, you will also know that bowls are my weakness. I don’t get it either, but there it is. But let’s just take a minute to admire the beauty of the bowl below.
I know, right?!! It’s perfect and it’s now sitting on my kitchen table; 1930s, Universal Potteries, Inc. Morning Glory mixing bowl. Take a look at that pic collage, though. Do you see the pottery mark from the bottom of the bowl? It says, among other things, National Brotherhood of Operative Potters. Never heard of it? Me either until I purchased this bowl. So you know I had to find out who they were. Here is the story.
According to the Kent State Library, The National Brotherhood of Operative Potters (NBOP) is associated with the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL/CIO). The Brotherhood was founded in 1890 around East Liverpool, Ohio.
The NBOP were unhappy with the dominance of the eastern unionists in the Trenton, New Jersey area. During that time, the early 1900s, these potteries set up in areas rich in fuel, clay and water. The University Library states that there were 2 major areas of potteries and they were Trenton, NJ and East Liverpool, OH. The Trenton potters dominated the industry through the Civil War. The pottery workers had already started unionizing to protect their skilled positions “as early as 1862.” (Library Kent).
So in 1890 the first convention of the NBOP started a push towards developing an organization that would protect and benefit potters’ interests. It definitely helped Ohio’s potteries grow to be the producer of 25% of total production. New Jersey’s share of that production was slipping.
The NBOP was successful in gaining members and changing labor-management relationships during those early years.The University Library says that they formed 5 locals in those early years: “Local Union One in Toronto, Ohio; Local Union Two in New Cumberland, West Virginia; Local Union Three in Kittanning, Pennsylvania; Local Union Four in East Liverpool, Ohio; and Local Union Five in Findlay, Ohio.”
They eventually merged the Eastern and Western factions to form a truly national union. They managed to secure a uniform wage contract by 1911. Over the next 30 years they went through their ups and downs. During the time I’ve been writing this blog, we’ve read that many potteries went under due to cheap foreign imports, however during the Progressive and WWI years, foreign imports were greatly reduced in the U.S., thereby increasing demand for domestic wares.
Between that increase and the government’s leniency toward labor, the NBOP membership increased. They were able to change sanitary and wage agreements within the industry getting higher wages for their members and checking unskilled workers dangerously operating machinery. But as things happen, the country began to swing the other way after the war.
There were strikes in 1921 and 1922 that caused people to disaffiliate with the NBOP. Over the next few years, they elected James Duffy into office and he began to strengthen the organization. They continued to go through ups and downs but their membership grew, changing their name in 1951 to the International Brotherhood of Operative Potters (IBOP). So any pieces marked NBOP were before 1951.
Through the years it also became the International Brotherhood of Allied Workers including unskilled, semi-skilled and non-ceramic groups to increase membership. This happened in 1969. There is more information but for the purposes of this post, this is where I’ll leave off. For more information on the subject, please visit the Kent University Library website which also lists a book that goes more in depth.
It’s an interesting history to be sure. So although pieces carry the NBOP mark, the pottery where the piece was made was just a part of this organization. In the case of my bowl, it was made by Universal Potteries, Inc. which was part of the larger organization. When you are trying to identify a piece through the mark, look closely to figure out which pottery company actually made the piece.
As usual, I will be partying all week at the awesome blogs on the right. Check them out if you have a chance. Thanks for visiting and drop me a note to tell me about a piece you just love too much to give up! Have a great week!!