McMaster Pottery

The company which was to become McMaster Pottery was started by George Emery of Staffordshire, England. After a 14 year apprenticeship at the Wedgewood Pottery Company in England, Mr. Emery immigrated to Canada in 1912 and began work with Campbell & Son, Potters, and then later, the Canadian Porcelain Company Limited, both of Hamilton. The latter company produced electrical insulators and fixtures. Around 1935, George started his own pottery company called the Dundas Clay Products in one of the former Cotton Mills buildings, producing decorative ware. Albert Ross and James Orme were also involved with the company. This operation was purchased around 1938 by Harry Jay McMaster and it became the McMaster Pottery Company. McMaster, was a native of Pennsylvania who had immigrated to Canada and was initially involved with Sovereign Potters of Hamilton.  The company continued to produce decorative ware, initially using white clay imported from the USA, but they switched to local red clay in the 1950s.

In 1945, there was a fire at the mill and the firm moved to the site of an old axe factory on Hatt Street, near John Street. Harry McMaster died in 1948 and his son Robert came into the business in 1950 with his wife, Mary, who became the business manager and co-owner.

It was Mary McMaster who took up the reigns as co-owner, business manager, and secretary treasurer of the company. She guided every stage of the operation from the workshop to the showroom. McMaster Pottery produced a vast array of small sized ceramic items such as vases, planters, ash trays, and souvenirs. The works were created via a complex assembly line process by which each sculpture was painted and glazed by multiple artists. At the height of its production, the firm was comprised of thirty employees including designers, sculptors, painters, and other specialists. The small artworks filled the demand for Canadian-made souvenirs and made their way to shops across the country. The remarkable catalogue even included a special series of ceramic figures based on the characters of Walt Disney. It was Robert McMaster’s death in 1987 that finally led to the closing of the business. The old factory was demolished that same year. The astounding variety of the work made by McMaster Pottery has since rendered it highly collectable on the antique market.

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