North Dakota Clay
On this date in 1912, it was Dakota Day at the Northwest Products Show in Minneapolis. The show was held in conjunction with the Second Minnesota Conservation and Agricultural Development Congress. The Congress focused on the state of agriculture in Minnesota, but the Northwest Products Show highlighted products from a much broader area, and Dakota Day specifically spotlighted North and South Dakota. The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican noted that South Dakota was giving away potatoes, while forty young gals at the North Dakota booth handed out beautiful flowers.
Agricultural products were central to the North Dakota display. The newspaper reported that the display drew a great deal of attention and admiration. Some visitors were surprised to learn of North Dakota’s lignite coal, but an even bigger surprise was pottery clay.
An 1892 study had reported that North Dakota pottery clay was available in great quantities and was of very fine quality. The School of Mines began experimenting with and developing clays and glazes. UND officially established a ceramics department in 1910. From 1913 until 1963, pottery produced at UND bore a cobalt blue seal that identified where it came from. Pottery with the seal is a highly sought after collector’s item. Many talented potters came out of the program, which was led by talented potter Margaret Cable. Cable remained at UND for 39 years, and is recognized as a leader in the development of North Dakota pottery.
Pottery from North Dakota was also displayed at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. It was soon produced in many locations throughout the state – the Turtle Mountain School; the Dickinson Clay Products Company; Three Tribes Stoneware at the Fort Berthold Reservation; and the Wahpeton Pottery Company, which produced a type of pottery known as Rosemeade. North Dakota pottery products have become highly collectible, and pottery continues to be popular in the state.
The University of North Dakota is credited with pioneering the production, and it still has an active ceramics department. In February, 2015, the Fine Arts Club of Fargo donated a Margaret Cable vase to UND. The vase originally sold for $12. It is now valued at $20,000.
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher
Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. 18 November, 1912:
“North Dakota Exhibit”
“Dakota Day at the Big Exposition”
Hill, James J. “Minnesota’s Agriculture.” The Second Minnesota Conservation and Agricultural Development Congress, 1912.