Lawton Gonder had an extensive career in the Tile and Art Pottery industry prior to becoming his own boss at Gonder Ceramic Arts. Much has been written about his career and the history of Gonder Ceramic Arts. The two reference guides on the market today have devoted entire sections to these topics and are very informative.
As to not repeat what has already been written in these guides, I will not attempt to write a complete history here. I am however providing a bullet point timeline so that new collectors may benefit from a brief timeline of the pottery.
- Gonder Ceramic Arts of South Zanesville, Ohio 1941-1957
- October 16, 1941 -- Fire destroys Florence Pottery in Mt. Gilead, Ohio where Lawton Gonder was working as general manager.
- December 8, 1941 -- Gonder signs the deed for facilities at the former Zane Pottery Company in South Zanesville, Ohio. Gonder announces his new company Gonder Ceramic Arts.
"New Pottery To Ship First Ware Soon" The Zanesville Signal -- Monday, January 12, 1942
- January 12, 1942 -- The Zanesville Signal reports that the first shipment of wares from the new pottery are expected in about two weeks. The article also reports that when at capacity, the factory will employ 150-200 persons.
- February 25, 1942 - The Zanesville Signal reports the first piece of ware produced at Gonder Ceramic Arts was presented to the Graham Weaver Realty Company. The ware, a fruit dish, was presented to Weaver by Lawton Gonder. The accompanying photo shows the fruit dish as the #500 Starfish Console Bowl.
- February 1943 -- Crockery and Glass Journal reports that Gonder severs remaining ties to a prominent art pottery organization for which it was engaged in specialized mould work. This information adds to the case that Gonder continued to make pieces for George Rumrill at his new Zanesville, Ohio facility. The new book RumRill Pottery the Ohio Years by Fisher explores this relationship in detail. Gonder collectors still have varied opinions on issue. RumRill pieces produced at Florence are often sought out by Gonder collectors.
- 1946 -- Gonder purchases additional facilities and incorporates Elgee Pottery. Production at Elgee was devoted to lamp bases. These high quality lamp bases were sold to several lamp distributors where they were assembled and marketed under the new brand. Bradley Manufacturing of Chicago, Illinois was a large customer of Elgee Pottery. Bradley lamps are often sought out by Gonder collectors.
- May 5, 1954 -- Fire destroys the Elgee Pottery. Gonder builds additional space at the Gonder facility in South Zanesville, and production is centralized at this location.
- 1955 -- Gonder begins to transition production to ceramic tile. Tile is marked and sold as Gonder.
- 1957 -- Gonder completes the sale of Gonder Ceramic Arts to Allied Tile Company.
Of particular interest are the two articles from The Zanesville Signal indicating the first date pieces were produced at Gonder. From these articles we can glean that Gonder was able to get the factory in production in under 90 days! Of course, Gonder brought many molds with him from the Florence Pottery. Also of interest is the information found in the Crockery and Glass journal indicating there was still a business relationship between Gonder and George Rumrill after Gonder started his business.