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Norse Pottery Company

The history of the Norse Pottery Company started in 1903 in Edgerton, Wisconsin when Thorwald P. A. Samson and Louis Ipson, two Danish immigrants founded the pottery. The two were former employees of the Pauline Pottery Company, also located in Edgerton. Among Norse Pottery customers was Arthur W. Wheelock owner of a large retail and wholesale crockery house established in Rockford in 1888. He also owned stores in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Des Moines Iowa. It was some of the finest pottery Wheelock had ever encountered and in 1904 he purchased the business.

When Wheelcock became financially interested in the pottery which was in operation on a small scale he decided to move the plant to Rockford if the proper clay could be secured. Four miles north of the city, the clay was found on the west bank of the Rock River and was hauled into Rockford. Some clay was also imported from foreign countries. The pottery was moved along with the two founders, who continued to design its ware, after a lease was signed for the entire three floors of the Gregory Building located at 111 South Water Street. The business office was located at Wheelock's retail crockery store at 107 - 109 South Main Street.

In the Gregory Building there was the clay room, the modeling, decorating, shipping and stock rooms. Originally two large coal burning kilns were erected on the south side of the pottery in a new brick building with a third kiln added in 1906 to meet the increased demand for the Norse line. Five persons were employed at the pottery in 1904 but increased with the opening and operation of the kilns. There were also several traveling salesmen in their employ and the goods shipped throughout the country.

 

The company chose for its trademark and old style initial "N" with an arched top enclosing the letters forming the rest of the word Norse, with the "orse" set within the initial, reading downwards. Each design had a number and each boxed item came with a card giving design information. The patterns formerly used by the company in Edgerton were brought to Rockford and used at the Rockford facility, enlarging the number of pieces turned out by the factory. Sampson and Ipson were experts in their work and produced a kind of pottery never before made in the United States. All of the skilled workmen were trained in the potteries of Copenhagen.

The Norse Pottery line was well received while on exhibit at the Saint Louis World’s Fair in 1904 and in 1906 The Smithsonian Institute accepted three pieces of Norse Pottery for its collection. Among the items produced by the company were vases and urns of the medieval and ancient patterns, jardinières, fern stands, and vases of later styles, rose jars, ash receiver’s electric lamp bases and other articles. Some of the decorations were in deep etching, others in low relief, the latter including oak leaves, grapes and various forms which befit pottery products.

According to newspaper accounts Sampson and another employee of the Norse Pottery left Rockford in 1912 and although the pottery was extremely successful Norse was no longer listed in the Rockford City Directory in 1913. There is no account of why the pottery suddenly closed and although it is rumored that all of the Norse patterns and molds were sold to Hager Pottery of West Dundee, Illinois it was never confirmed. Norse Pottery is highly distinctive, highly sought after and relatively scarce. In 1917 Wheelock sold his retail crockery store and bought the Forest City Wholesale Grocery Company.

A couple more examles of Norse Pottery pieces shown above and below.

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