Sunday, August 2, 2015

"History is not the past,

but a map of the past drawn from a particular point of view to be useful to the modern traveler.
                                        ~Henry Glassie

I am always fascinated by the history behind the items that show up in the vintage/antique world and how they blend or echo the modern world.
Frankoma Pottery has an interesting story.   It was originally known as The Frank Potteries when John Frank opened shop in 1933. (and you thought only Trump named everything after himself!) Frank was a ceramics professor at the University of Oklahoma. The factory opened in Ada, Oklahoma, then moved to Sapulpa, Oklahoma in 1938.  Shortly after the move, the factory burned down (it is amazing how many factories go up in smoke!).  When Frank rebuilt, he renamed the company Frankoma using the last three letters from Oklahoma.
The clay in Ada was a light cream color, and it was used until 1953 when the company switched to a red burning clay from Sapulpa. The firm made dinnerware, utilitarian and decorative kitchenwares, figurines, flowerpots, and limited edition and commemorative pieces. Important dinnerware lines include Lazybones, Mayan-Aztec, Oklahoma Plainsman, Wagon Wheel, and Westwind.
The dinnerware made prior to 2000 contained lead, but after 2000 the US government banned leaded glazes in dinnerware (just USA made not imports).  The current Frankoma website states that the dinnerware is safe "as long as it is in good condition with no chips or crazing."
Frank operated the pottery with his wife until his death in 1973.  Their daughter inherited the business, but a fire in 1983 once again destroyed the factory.  It was rebuilt and operating by 1984. She attempted to maintain the pottery, but she was forced to sell it off in 1991 after declaring bankruptcy in 1990.  I am sure Chinese imports impacted that, and various owners actually tried to make it work for several years, but in 2011 a thousand pieces of pottery, showroom fixtures, and equipment were sold.

The 1800 original molds, the Frankoma name, and the real estate were not included in the sale.  In 2012 the factory was sold to a non-pottery manufacturer, and then the molds and trademark went to an LLC called FPC.  There is limited production of these mugs...
Their website indicates they will be internet based, and they are in the Tulsa area, but they are shipping out of Houston, Texas.  Former Frankoma employees are involved, and they are trying to expand, but for now they are offering mainly political mugs online or at selected antique malls in Oklahoma and Texas.

At least we have to give the owners credit for trying to stay in the USA!  But, when companies go out of business or change style, prices do change, and this anonymous quote fits well in the antique/vintage world:
          "Each time history repeats itself, the price goes up."

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