For nearly a century, East Liverpool dominated the United States pottery industry. Drawn to easily accessible clay deposits and ready river transportation, British-born potter James Bennett established the first commercial pottery here in 1841. His success drew other enterprising and innovative craftsmen, and by the Civil War era, the local industry was well established. During its peak production years (1865-1910), East Liverpool’s potteries produced and sold the majority of America’s crockery, with nearly the entire city’s population employed in the industry. Competition from imports and plastics, along with limited expansion space in the narrow Ohio valley, brought a decline in East Liverpool’s importance in the ceramics industry in the 20th century. Three large potteries continue the pottery tradition. The Ohio Historical Society’s Museum of Ceramics displays collections of early local ware.
Fawcettstown, later to become East Liverpool, marked the first Ohio community to be encountered by early river travelers as they headed toward new challenges and new lives in the expanding nation. Indian canoes, flatboats, and steamboats carried increasing traffic, both passenger and freight, along these Ohio “Gateway” shores. Many of these early craft were built locally and local residents served as crewmen. Products from farms and ceramics from this city’s pioneer potteries were shipped from this site. The wharf area also served as a landing place for many of the early English potters who came here to ply their trades and, in the process, create a defining industry. The river continues to play an important role in industrial and recreational capacities.