A Remarkable Vein of Clay
This is the video of a story about the end of big time pottery making in Red Wing. Discovered near Goodhue in the 1860s, a special vein of clay opened the door to 100 years of Red Wing Pottery business. This better adhering clay was immediately put to commercial use producing stoneware crocks, churns and jugs. Fires took many of the buildings, but they were built back up and eventually 3 different pottery companies merged in 1906 to become Red Wing Union Stoneware, which in 1936 became Red Wing Potteries Inc. For 100 years the Red Wing line of Stoneware and Pottery was synonymous with timeless beauty. Even the worst of this vein of clay was used to produce the strongest sewer pipe in the Midwest.
As times changed so did the clay products that these factories produced. By the 1930s the name “stoneware” had become the old fashioned way of storing food. The Red Wing Clay Industry shifted to creating pottery items like bowls, flower vases, lamps, pitchers, ashtrays and eventually their trademark dinnerware. By the 1960s, cheaper foreign pottery imports and the development of plastics had taken its toll on the clay manufacturing industry. There had been pottery strikes before, but in 1967 a strike by workers and nine months of failed negotiations closed production of Red Wing Potteries. The inventory of pottery goods was purchased and is still being sold in the community. Today pottery products continue to be produced in Red Wing by several different manufacturers. The 7000 member Red Wing Pottery Collectors Society gather each year in Red Wing to talk and trade pottery. This group and their foundation also support the Red Wing Pottery Museum.