Thomas & Isaac in Kiln doorway
In 1934, Isaac and Tom were 61 and 70 years of age respectively, when they built the kiln, thus reviving the pottery. They operated it together for nine years in their own relaxed, Pennsylvania Dutch way. Tom died in December, 1942, and within a few months Isaac closed the pottery, mainly because World War II had restricted access to potting supplies. After the war, Isaac resumed operating the pottery until his death in 1950. The revived pottery operated on a small farm owned by Thomas in Powder Valley. In the winter of 1932 work began to transform the existing barn into a workroom, a clay processing area, and a storage room. In the spring of 1933, Isaac and Tom, along with their brother James, erected the round, wood-fueled kiln about twenty feet behind the barn. The first pieces were fired in the new kiln in 1934. In the revived pottery, the brothers combined their traditional nineteenth-century pottery techniques with improved glaze and firing techniques created by the Industrial Revolution. In addition, the Arts and Crafts Movement, which was established in England in the late nineteenth century as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, impacted heavily on America. The effects of this aesthetic movement improved the market for the Stahl's products.
Thomas and Isaac produced a variety of utilitarian and decorative redware ceramics, including ordinary pieces such as bowls and pitchers, and also filled special orders for bird baths, inkwells, and ash trays. The majority of pieces were carefully marked with the potter's name, the date, and sometimes the weather or a personalized message for a customer. Pieces were decorated with a variety of techniques: incising, colored glazes, slip, and sgraffito.
After drying for several weeks, the pieces were fired in the wood-fueled kiln. An all-day process, the kiln was stoked very early in the morning and left to burn the entire day. Proper control of the fires in the fire boxes proved as important as the turning of the pieces and the crucial alignment in loading the kiln prior to firing. Customers came to witness the firing event, as it was spectacular with colored flames shooting many feet into the air out of the vents on top of the kiln, and there was a peculiar smell of hot clay permeating the air. Family members often gathered for a picnic on this day, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows and sharing family camaraderie. The kiln had to cool for about a week before it could be unloaded. Again customers arrived on the day of unloading, especially if they had placed a special order.
Isaac & Thomas signing pottery pieces
In the thirty years between closing their father's pottery business and reviving their pottery, the brothers remained in the area although not always in Powder Valley. Each of the brothers raised families of eight children. Both Thomas and Isaac engaged in a variety of entrepreneurial activities.
Before returning to pottery making, Thomas' career included the following:
Before returning to pottery making, Isaac's career included the following activities:
Three events that occurred in the late 1920s and early 1930s served as the catalyst for the pottery revival, which resulted in the complex known today as Stahl's Pottery.
Stahl’s Pottery Preservation Society, Inc.
To contact us:
Stahl's Pottery Preservation Society
Mailing Address: PO Box 154, Hereford, PA 18056
Street Address: 6826 Corning Road, Zionsville, PA 18092