Fulper Pottery as an Aid to Education ...

The Prang Contract  

Beginning in 1913, Fulper Pottery Company began producing art pottery shapes for the Prang Company of New York.  Louis Prang was originally known for the color litho prints he produced during the nineteenth century.  He was a tireless leader in the advancement of art education, and the standards he set for art education tools during his lifetime were continued by the Prang Company after his death.  Prang’s specialty was providing all materials and supplies necessary for art education and instruction for all school levels.  

From 1913 through 1929, the Prang Company sold Fulper artware shapes for use as still-life models for students to sketch or draw.  Prang’s 1924 catalog blurb stated this of Fulper’s artware: “Most teachers have difficulty in securing drawing models that are inexpensive, yet beautiful in shape and attractive in color.  These Prang Pottery Models were especially designed to meet this need.  They offer variety and beauty in both shape and color and at the same time are inexpensive.  They have been widely used for many years and give universal satisfaction.  They are made expressly for us by one of the oldest and most famous Potteries in the United States.  In addition to being used as drawing models, their shape and color as well as their perfect glazing enables them to be used as flower vases or for school room decoration.  We offer five sets of these Pottery Models…  The shape and general character of each of the pieces in each of the sets is shown in the accompanying illustrations.  Each set is packed at the factory in a strong carton ready for shipment.  We do not break sets.” 

 
Prang 1924 catalog illustration showing Fulper Pottery artware.

The Fulper shapes produced for Prang during 1913 to 1916 were all clearly marked “PRANG” on the bottom.  After 1916, all pieces for Prang simply bore a "FULPER" trademark.  Even though Prang’s catalogs continued to show the original shapes first offered in 1913, the Prang assortments changed as older shapes were discontinued.  The actual pieces provided in each Prang assortment were determined by Fulper, so not all pieces shown in Prang’s catalogs were always available to Prang.  Because of this, the Prang Company added the following statement to the Fulper listing of the 1927 Prang catalog:  Assortments may vary – a uniform number of pieces – but DIFFERENT SHAPES in each set.”

     
A few examples of Fulper shapes produced for Prang during 1913-1916.  Left is the #32 Old Dutch Beer Pitcher glazed in Mustard Matte, center is the #75 Narrow Pitcher in Leopard Skin glaze, on the right is a #40 Coffee Pot in Cat's Eye Flambé.


An example of the "PRANG" backstamp.

 

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Fulper Pottery "Student Pieces"

Rutgers University's Brand New 
Ceramics Building in 1922.

To meet the burgeoning demand for ceramics experts to lead America's growing ceramics industries during the latter decades of the 19th century, American universities began adding ceramics engineering departments and courses to their curriculum.  The first was Ohio State University in 1894, chaired by the father of ceramic engineering, Edward Orton Jr.  The second was in 1900 when Charles F. Binns became the first faculty member and director of the New York State School of Clay Working and Ceramics at Alfred University.  In 1903, the third university ceramics engineering department in the United States was established at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, and chaired by Dr. Cullen W. Parmelee.  The Rutgers ceramics course served New Jersey's growing pottery, china, glass and terra cotta industries, and by the late 'teens has outgrown its original building, a former horse stable.  Rutgers brand new 29 room ceramics laboratory was dedicated on June 13, 1922. 

Because of Flemington’s relative close proximity to Rutgers University , the Fulper Pottery factory was often a field trip destination for students of Rutgers’ Clay Working and Ceramics department.  With the advent of improved automobiles and roadways following World War I, these field trips became quite commonplace during the 1920s.  While visiting at Fulper, students were guided through all aspects of production, and even offered the opportunity to create their own ceramic 'souvenir' of the trip.  They were provided with clay and glazes of their choice, and would hand-build an object that would then be fired and shipped back to Rutgers several days later.  These “student pieces”, as they have come to be called, are often crude and clunky, and usually inspired by Fulper artware shapes, which would have been on-hand at the pottery and used as models by the students.  If the “student pieces” lack artistic merit, it is primarily because the students were not art majors, but were working toward ceramics engineering and technical degrees.  Ceramic design and art were unfortunately considered to be of secondary importance to mechanization and industrial science.  In most instances, the Fulper field trip was the students’ very first “hands-on” experience in clay working.


Students at work in Rutgers University Ceramics Department.

One of these field trips to Fulper Pottery was chronicled in a notice published in The Ceramic Age in May 1927.

Students in the sophomore and junior classes at Rutgers University, enrolled in the ceramics division, recently visited the Fulper Pottery at Flemington, N.J.  The trip was made by automobile, under the direction of Messrs. Catlin and Henry, instructors in the department.

The Fulper Pottery, occupying a two-story frame building near the center of the town, is devoted to three distinct lines of manufacture, china, stoneware, and a low-fired ware called “Fayence.”  The plant uses New Jersey clays for the production of the two last noted, while foreign clays are employed for the manufacture of china.

The casting method is principally used at this plant, but some ware is jiggered.  The stoneware and china are both biscuited before the glaze is applied and then are fired to a high temperature so the glaze and the ware mature at the same temperature.  This is claimed to give a stronger product and lessen the chance of dunting.  The kilns are sealed as soon as the firing has been completed and are allowed to cool very slowly.

The “Fayence” ware is a low-fired body with a very strong glaze, also low-fired.  In this type of art pottery the colors are most perfectly developed because of the facility of control at the lower temperatures.  Most of the novelty ware is made of this type”.


A group of “student pieces” produced by Rutgers University students while visiting Fulper Pottery during the 1920s. 

 

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The "PRANG CONTRACT" and "FULPER STUDENT PIECES" text are excerpted from the book The Collectors Encyclopedia of Stangl Artware, Lamps & Birds, copyright 2005 Collector Books and Robert C. Runge Jr.  MAY NOT be copied without permission