High Tank Toilet Set: TEPECO Porcelain Toilet Set (wood lid and porcelain bowl)
White porcelain toilet bowl (marked TEPECO (maker), York (line) and Wolff (distributor)) with wood lid, painted white, with plastic attachment pieces.
The first documented water closet was used in 1736. A water closet is essentially a private bathroom with a toilet. In the 1870s water closets or indoor rooms with toilets, became popular in wealthy residences and luxury hotels. By 1890, public awareness about the connection between human waste and disease led homeowners at large to demand water closets of their own. In the 1890s, bathrooms for bathing and water closets with toilets generally remained separate. In the 1900s, American builders began merging bathrooms and toilets into one room.
The Nineteenth Century
For more than 100 years, Trenton, New Jersey was one of the two major pottery centers in the United States, the other being located at East Liverpool, Ohio. In 1850, the only pottery in Trenton was a small redware pottery operated by the McCully family. The development of a major industry in Trenton started with the opening of two potteries in 1853. Taylor and Speeler began production of a line of Rockingham in May 1853. It was followed shortly thereafter by William Young & Co. William Young, together with his sons and Richard Millington and John Astbury were associated in this endeavor for about six years. These two companies formed the nucleus of a rapidly expanding industry. Within ten years, there were ten potteries in Trenton. This number grew to fifteen by 1870 and reached 23 in 1883. At its zenith in the 1920’s, Trenton had more than fifty potteries operating throughout the City. Since 1850, more than 150 companies have operated in Trenton.
There has never been a comprehensive history of Trenton potteries largely because of the massive scale of the industry. It is ironic that Trenton’s success as a pottery center has made it difficult to chronicle this history. As a pottery center, Trenton made innumerable contributions to the development of the pottery industry in America. Trenton is responsible for the introduction of wide scale production of white graniteware. This product enabled American potters to compete successfully with foreign producers, particularly the English. The production of sanitary ware originated in Trenton and greatly assisted the growth of the American pottery industry. Trenton also pioneered the development of art porcelain through the introduction in 1882 of “Belleek” china. Using techniques developed at the Irish Belleek works, Trenton became the base for high quality art porcelains.
The Potteries of Trenton Society has made the teaching guide, From Teacups to Toilets: A Century of Industrial Pottery In Trenton, Circa 1850 to 1940 available on its website. It is an excellent introduction to the history of the nineteenth and twentieth century pottery industry in Trenton. The guide was written and produced by Hunter Research and Wilson Creative Marketing for the Department of Transportation. Below is an excerpt from Teacups to Toilets:
Important Early Trenton Potteries:
Taylor and Speeler – James Taylor previously had been associated with Harker & Taylor in East Liverpool. His firm was the first to start Trenton operations in May 1853. It concentrated initially on Rockingham (Brownware) products. It also followed Young’s lead in the development of white ware. From 1855 to 1859, it operated under the name of Speeler, Taylor & Bloor. The three partners separated in 1859 and 1860. The pottery continued to be operated as the Trenton Pottery Company by Taylor until he retired in 1875. Isaac Davis became the senior member of the firm in 1875 and continued operations until 1888. The company was known for a variety of household pottery products including decorative art ware. It was a major exhibitor at the 1876 Centennial in Philadelphia.
http://ellarslie.org/collection/pottery/ 11/13/18, cont.
Coxon & Thompson Pottery (Trenton Potteries Co.) – In 1863, Charles Coxon, one of the important designers and modelers of the nineteenth century, opened his own pottery in partnership with John F. Thompson. Coxon died in 1868. The family continued to operated the pottery until its was acquired by Alpaugh & McGowan in 1883. The pottery continued as the Empire Pottery. In 1892, it joined with five other potteries (Crescent, Delaware, Empire, Ideal and Equitable) to create the Trenton Potteries Company conglomerate. The combined companies concentrated on sanitary ware but also marketed a line of decorative vases and figures.
woodlandvaseIn 1904, an invitation came from St. Louis to create something special for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, Trenton Potteries answered the call, creating four ornamental vases, each standing four feet seven inches tall, with the express purpose of showing off the heights America had reached in pottery and to highlight Trenton’s pottery industry in particular. Read more about the Trenton Museum Society’s purchase of one of the four – the long-missing Woodland Vase.
One of the six companies that became the Trenton Potteries Company was the Enterprise Pottery founded in 1880 in a factory built along the Delaware and Raritan canal, part of which is still standing. It is the only Trenton Potteries factory building to survive. Read more about the pottery in a report on a NJ Department of Transportation funded archeological dig conducted by Hunter Research when an exit ramp from US 1 was built next to the factory site.
The Enterprise Pottery and the Coalport rail yards circa 1910
The Enterprise Pottery and the Coalport rail yards circa 1910
The Trenton Potteries Company was acquired by the Crane Company in the 1920’s but continued operation under its own name until 1969 when the Trenton operations were closed.
Wolff (L.) Manufacturing Co.
L. WOLFF MANUFACTURING CO., 1912
Ludwig Wolff emigrated with his family from Germany to Chicago in 1854, when he was 18 years old. The following year, he started a small plumbing business with Torrence McGuire that specialized in making copper and brass plumbing devices for candy and alcohol manufacturers, even making its own alcohol for a time. By 1876, Wolff had a large plumbing supply factory, and his company took the name L. Wolff Manufacturing Co. Wolff built a large new Chicago plant at Carroll and Fulton Streets in 1887; this facility soon employed about 1,000 men and produced $1.5 million worth of goods a year. As indoor plumbing became more common by the late nineteenth century, Wolff began producing a wider array of plumbing items for homes, hospitals, businesses, and schools. By 1910, the company had about 3,500 workers at two Chicago-area plants and sales and service operations in about 10 other cities. Wolff's operations shrank during the Great Depression, when it employed only about 450 people at its Fullerton Avenue site. The company stopped operating shortly after World War II.
This entry is part of the Encyclopedia's Dictionary of Leading Chicago Businesses (1820-2000) that was prepared by Mark R. Wilson, with additional contributions from Stephen R. Porter and Janice L. Reiff.
The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago © 2005 Chicago Historical Society.
The Encyclopedia of Chicago © 2004 The Newberry Library. All Rights Reserved. Portions are copyrighted by other institutions and individuals. Additional information on copyright and permissions.
L. Wolff Manufacturing Co. Plumbing Equipment Catalog, 1912, By the early twentieth century, Chicago enterprises such as L. Wolff Manufacturing Company, manufactured and marketed plumbing goods of every description. With factory offices on the Near West Side and showrooms in the Loop, the Wolff Company offered builders bathroom fixtures including baths, water closets, and more.
Creator: L. Wolff Manufacturing Co.
Source: Chicago Historical Society (ICHi-37288)
This item was found in the collection at Grant-Humphreys Mansion with no number. It was then assigned an FIC number around 2003. It came out of the GHM basement. Tag attached notes it was from the GHM. It was reviewed by Alisa DiGiacomo (HC Senior curator in 2018 and kept as an example of an original High Tank Toilet set). It may not have been original to GH.95.305.2.1 and .2.2 but it is a representative period piece that would have likely been used with pieces similar to 2.1 and 2.2.
NOTE: based on the condition photo in this record, the tank found with this bowl and lid was porcelain in the GHM basement water closet. The original tank in this set was not located. Again, this set is a married set being kept as a representative example of water closets and their modifications over time. i.e. the lid for the tank was not original and changed when damaged, similar to today.
L. Wolff Manufacturing Co Chicago
The Trenton Potteries Company Trenton, N.J. U.S.A.
Trade Mark ???
Pat'd Nov. 4, 19??