Written by Cassie Bratcher
I was cataloging a new book the other day, Clear as Mud: Early 20th century Kentucky Art Pottery, edited by Warren Payne. Curious about the contents I checked the index for the name Bauer. In 1992, Kentucky’s bicentennial year, The Filson was involved in a statewide newspaper project titled “Kentucky History Highlights from the Filson Club.” I was asked to write an article for the series and chose to do an article on Kentucky Potteries because I had already done some research on the Bauer potteries; and since then I tend to check new pottery books for the Bauer name.
John Bauer (1852-1901) was born in Indiana to Andrew and Julia Bauer who had immigrated from Bavaria Germany. He married Susan Shay in 1877, and founded the Preston Street Pottery in Louisville about 1879. The 1880 census for Louisville shows that John’s occupation was potter, and his brother Andrew was living in his household. John Bauer’s pottery had a long history. After John’s death in 1901, his wife Susan ran the company until it was sold to Sylvester O. Snyder in 1905. Snyder changed the name to Louisville Pottery Company, and remained in charge until he sold the company to his son-in-law John B. Taylor. John and Vivian Robertson purchased the company, which had moved to Brent Street, in 1971, and changed the name to Louisville Stoneware.
J. Andrew Bauer (1856-1923) apprenticed in his brother’s factory before moving to Paducah, Kentucky. In 1886 he purchased a small company and opened the Paducah Pottery Company. By the turn of the 20th century it was one of the largest potteries in Kentucky. Paducah Pottery had at least two warehouses, with an L-shaped factory in the middle, several kilns and about seventy-five employees, including travelling salesmen. In 1909 J. Andrew Bauer decided to move his family to Los Angeles, California and build a new pottery on the West Coast. The J. A. Bauer Pottery Company was built in Lincoln Heights, an area between Los Angeles and Pasadena, and ran successfully until it closed in 1962.