The McDade Pottery, which drew on deposits of superior-quality clay found near Marshy Branch four miles east of McDade in Bastrop County, was successor to a "jug shop" begun in 1853 in the vicinity of what is now Bastrop State Park. It was moved to McDade in the late 1870s, and Robert L. Williams, who was experienced in ceramic processes and recognized the potential for McDade clay, began acquiring an interest in it. The sculptor Elisabet Ney on occasion used McDade clay in her work. In 1890 Williams bought all outstanding interest in the business and began a complete renovation, building a new plant that covered three acres, complete with two brick beehive kilns, clay-grinding equipment, and a railroad siding. On January 26, 1893, he personally produced the first piece of ware in the new plant. He continued the potter's-wheel turning of specialty items and the production of food-storage vessels and housewares, but also added new products. Williams invented an extrusion press with assorted sizes of dies for the rapid production of flowerpots and other hollowware. A United States patent was issued to him on July 13, 1909. The pottery business sold to nurseries and florists throughout Texas and also in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Another invention, a portable furnace for burning fuel such as charcoal, expanded the business further. A patent for this innovation was issued to Williams on June 6, 1911. In the beginning it was necessary to accept produce in barter for the ceramics, and Williams began the McDade Mercantile Company to provide a market for bartered goods and to serve the McDade townspeople. Williams, in addition to his work as a manufacturer and merchant, served as a director with the McDade Guaranty State Bank. The advent of electric and gas-flame heating and of cast-plastic substitutes for heavy ceramics reduced the demand for pottery products. The greatest blow to the business was the loss of the aggressive management of Robert L. Williams, who died in 1923. The business was continued by his son, Albert Payne Williams, Sr., on a reduced scale until World War II, when it was closed. Throughout its history, the pottery had been a privately owned company.
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Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (McDade, Texas).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Tom Brooks Metcalfe,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 30, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
May 1, 1995
Most Recent Revision Date:
July 31, 2020