Red Wing can still be considered a household name in the Upper Mid-West. These two simple words bring up memories of making sour-kraut with grandma, water coolers full of summer lemonade, and that special vase or set of dishes hidden away in the cupboard. But what is the story behind the name stamped on thousands of kitchen crocks and butter churns? It’s rather unique, actually, because there are six different names that make "Red Wing" what we know today.
The history begins long ago as European settlers came to what would be called the State of Minnesota. They were greeted by the chief of the Dakotah nation and as the friendship between the Dakotah and the settlers grew, the chief gave his name to their settlement: Red Wing.
Red Wing Stoneware Company, 1876-1894
German settler, John Paul, came to Red Wing, Minnesota and found rich clay deposits in the soil. Being a potter by trade, John Paul took advantage of the raw material and founded Red Wing Stoneware Company. His company designed and created kitchen and food storage vessels for the farming communities.
Union Stoneware Company, 1894-1906
Because of the richness of the clay in the area, several other stoneware companies were founded during the same time period as the Red Wind Stoneware Company. Through various economic reasons some businesses thrived while others did not. And as the market and demand for stoneware products changed, two companies decided to combine their efforts into one new company. In 1894 Red Wing Stoneware Company merged with the Minnesota Stoneware Company to create the Union Stoneware Company. With combined manufacturing and shipping efforts, the new Union thrived.
The Red Wing Union Stoneware Company, 1906-1936
In 1906 the Union Stoneware Company re-branded itself into the Red Wing Union Stoneware Company and the famous red wing stamp was officially adopted as the company’s trademark. Numerous other changes were made in the company to reflect the modernization of the times and the change in household needs. The consumer refrigerator was invented in 1913 and as it became a regular household item the need for crocks and other food storage vessels greatly decreased. This allowed the company to introduce vases and other art pottery into its regular product lines. Pieces were individually decorated and came in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Red Wing Potteries, Inc., 1936-1967
The 1930’s brought even more changes to household needs and the Red Wing Union Stoneware Company reflected this in their more diversified product lines. As the company continued to produce more decorative items the company changed its name to show it: Red Wing Potteries, Inc. was created. Along with an increase in the art pottery designs being offered, dinnerware was added to the regular manufacturing lines. During the following decades more than 80 patterns of Red Wing dinnerware were designed and sold.
Red Wing Pottery, 1967-2013
A labor strike would cause yet more change in the company. As closure was imminent, current Red Wing Potteries, Inc. president, R. Gilmer, purchased the liquidated shares and closed the manufacturing plants. He relaunched the company in 1967 as a strictly retail business under the name of Red Wing Pottery.
Red Wing Stoneware Company, 1984-Present
In 1984, J. Falconer acquired the technical records held by the previous Red Wing Potteries, Inc. and founded a new company based on its designs and techniques: the Red Wing Stoneware Company (RWSC) was reborn. In 2013 the Red Wing Pottery company was combined with the RWSC to reunite the manufacturing and retail aspects of the brand. Today, the RWSC continues to create high quality stoneware and pottery items along with commemorative pieces celebrating the company’s rich history.
At Past and Present Home Gallery we have numerous items manufactured by Red Wing in its various phases of history. We would love to hear any stories you have about how the Red Wing name has influenced your family. While you’re here you can check out this huge, 30 gallon stoneware crock with lid that dates back all the way to 1918. We also have three levels of treasures including the Man Cave, and the Diva Den.
We can’t wait to see you at Past and Present Home Gallery, the antique store with character!