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Lesson Plan: Pottery

For Teachers - An Introduction:
This lesson is designed to introduce your students to historical research with primary sources. They will be presented with a set of six primary sources relating to an occupation in Minnesota history. Students will be provided with source data, online activity questions to direct their study, and a worksheet designed to help them draw conclusions about the sources they have seen and about primary source research in general. The sections of this site are not intended to be complete histories of the people or events involved, but rather serve as examples of what students might find in their own research attempts.

What role did pottery play in Red Wing?
The clay pits in Goodhue County gave Red Wing a prime source of raw material for making stoneware that has become well-known around the world for its quality. The clay also provided employment opportunities for Red Wing citizens. Through a series of mergers and product developments, the local pottery companies expanded their product lines and maintained their businesses in the area for many years.

What You Will Need for This Lesson:

  • Access to a computer lab with Internet capability for at least one 40 minute class period.
  • Photocopies of the worksheet and a printed key (download both in the Student Materials section of the site).
  • If you have not already done so, we encourage you to explore the site for yourself ahead of time to become familiar with the navigation and features available to you and your students.

Skills Objectives:
The student will be able to:

  1. access primary sources online for research and study
  2. identify and summarize the different kinds of sources in the exercise
  3. identify advantages and disadvantages to using particular primary sources
  4. explain and synthesize source information to evaluate its usefulness and reliability

Using this Lesson in Your Classroom:
When the students are in the computer lab, lead them through the following sequence (you may wish to use an overhead projector screen):

  1. Go to the Communities web site.
  2. Click on Communities on the left hand side of the screen.
  3. Click on Red Wing.
  4. Click on Pottery.
  5. Read the introductory material on Pottery and click Enter.
  6. This will bring you to a screen with a photograph of a potter. This is the first primary source the students will encounter. Let them know that they can see a larger version of this photograph by clicking on the View button underneath the thumbnail image. Show students the Activity button and have them click on it to view questions and possible answers about each source.
  7. Once students have studied this photograph and read the appropriate questions about it in the Activity section direct them to the other sources that are accessible through the blue menu bar running across the top of the page. Each of these buttons will take them to another source to explore.
  8. Remind students to use the Activity button on each source to help direct their research.
  9. When the students have completed studying each source and reading the questions for each item, they should be able to complete the worksheet they were given (see below).

What Your Students Will See in This Lesson Online:
Below is a listing of each source provided on the Pottery section of the web site and a transcript of the activity questions for each source. (The questions are found on the site by clicking on the Activity button.)

Photo 1
Click on the Photo 1 button to open the primary source.
This is a photograph of a man making a stoneware pot.

    1.1) Much of the work done in the stoneware factories had to be done by hand. What tools is this man using to make this piece of stoneware?

    Possible Answer:He is using a pottery wheel to spin the clay and a flat object in his right hand to help mold the shape of the pot.

    1.2) What clothes is the man wearing for his job and why?

    Possible Answer:His sleeves are rolled up so they won't to get caught in the clay or the wheel, and he is wearing an apron to keep his clothing from being spattered with clay.

    1.3) What details in this picture would suggest to you that this man had made pots in other designs?

    Possible Answer:There are two pots on a table to his right that are shaped differently. Although we can't be sure, we could assume that he made those pots also.

Photo 2

Click on the Photo 2 button to open the primary source.
This photograph shows workers in the Red Wing clay pits.

    2.1) Why do you think workers in the clay pits chose the clothing they were wearing?

    Possible Answer:Hats would shield them from the sun and the jeans or overalls would help protect them from rocks and other things that they might bump against while they were working.

    2.2) What tools can you see for the workers to use?

    Possible Answer:The main tool that the workers have in this photograph is a shovel. They also have steel buckets in which to put the clay when they have retrieved it. These bucket loads would be hauled up to the surface by a steam-powered crane.

    2.3) What suggests to you that the workers might be working below ground level to get the clay?

    Possible Answer:There is a ladder leaning against the rocks near the center of the photograph, which would suggest to us that workers had to use the ladder to get to the clay pits.

    2.4) What information is provided in this photograph to give us an idea of where the clay pit is located?

    Possible Answer:There is a label at the bottom of the photograph that just says "Workers in the Clay Pit" but does not tell us where the clay pit is lcoated. This clay pit happens to be located in Clay Bank, Goodhue Township.

Ad 1
Click on the Ad 1 button to open the primary source.
This advertisement appeared in magazines to encourage sales of stoneware from Red Wing.

    3.1) According to this advertisement, what factors make this company's stoneware "superior"?

    Possible Answer:The ad suggests that using the "latest machinery and methods," combined with the Red Wing clay itself, make its stoneware superior in quality.

    3.2) Since the ad mentions shipping stoneware by the carload, to whom do you think this ad might be directed?

    Possible Answer: Most individual buyers would not purchase a carload of stoneware pots, so it is likely that this ad appeared in a magazine for store owners. It could also suggest that this product was popular enought that buyers wanted to purchase large amounts of it.

    3.3) What is the purpose of the Perfection Filter that is advertised in the upper right-hand column of the ad?

    Possible Answer:This device was designed to keep drinking water fresh and clean. It was one of many products created with Red Wing clay.

    3.4) How were buyers charged for the pots they purchased?

    Possible Answer:Some of the pots were sold with one price per gallon (the number of gallons the pot would hold), and some were sold by the 100s or by the dozen and priced accordingly.

Data 1
Click on the Data 1 button to open the primary source.
This is a blueprint of the Red Wing Stoneware Company factory.

    4.1) The Main Building on the blueprint is where the workers would turn the pots on wheels as shown in Photo 1 in this unit. Since the workers were in the Main Building and the clay storage and mill were in another building, how do you think the workers were able to get more clay for the wheels without taking time to leave their work?

    Possible Answer:The factory built a track behind the workers and used a truck with wooden sides to transport the clay to the workers at their wheels. The truck had wires that separated sections of clay for each worker.

    4.2) Milk pans and flower pots were made on machines called "jollies" on the second floor of the Main Building. Since this was a state-of-the-art factory for this time period, how many pans or pots would you guess that a worker could make in one day?

    Possible Answer:Articles published at the time the factory was built stated that a worker would be able to make 1,200 pans or pots in one day when working on the "jollies."

    4.3) Since pottery needed to be heated and dried in a kiln, there was a high risk of fire in the factory. What things do you think the company might have included in the factory to prevent this?

    Possible Answer:The factory installed iron pipes throughout the building so that it could be flooded quickly in case of fire. Hydrants were also positioned outside that could reach any part of the buildings with water. The boiler room had walls lined with iron to keep any fire from spreading to other rooms or areas.

    4.4) Why do you think a blueprint like this would need to be made after the factory was built?

    Possible Answer:An insurance company from Milwaukee made this blueprint for their records. If the factory were to burn down, a blueprint would help them assess the damage and the cost of rebuilding the factory. It is also possible that the original blueprint for the factory had been misplaced and needed to be redone for insurance purposes.

Document 1
Click on the Document 1 button to open the primary source.
Red Wing Sewer Pipe Company manufactured sewer pipe for a number of years. This is from a promotional booklet they published.

    5.1) Why is the glaze on pipe important, according to this article?

    Possible Answer:The glaze keeps the pipe from leaking. The Red Wing company used a type of clay that bonded well with a glaze coating, which made their sewer pipes more reliable than others.

    5.2) Why do you think some Red Wing business leaders decided to start a new clay industry making sewer pipe?

    Possible Answer:High-grade clay was needed for household pottery, leaving tons of surplus lower grade clay available. Some Red Wing businessmen discovered the low-grade clay could be used for sewer pipes, chimney tops, and gutters.

    5.3) According to the title page of this booklet, how much pipe did this company produce per year?

    Possible Answer:The company produced 4,500 railroad cars of pipe per year from its two factories in Red Wing and Hopkins, Minnesota.

    5.4) Why would the title page of the book request that you "Address all Correspondence to Red Wing, Minn." if the company also had a factory in Hopkins?

    Possible Answer:The headquarters was in Red Wing, so this was where they had an office to handle mail and answer questions.

Document 2
Click on the Document 2 button to open the primary source.
Red Wing Stoneware set up an agreement with Louis Johnson to run a boarding house for its workers.

    6.1) In this agreement, what did Louis Johnson agree to do?

    Possible Answer:He agreed to run a boarding house with meals for the workers of the clay pits and furnish a team of horses and equipment for work at the clay pits.

    6.2) How much per week did each worker in the clay pits pay for room and board at Johnson's boarding house?

    Possible Answer:Each worker was charged $3 a week.

    6.3) How often was Johnson expected to pay the company for being able to run the boarding house?

    Possible Answer:The company requested that he pay $22 at the beginning of April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and November, with $24 being paid in December. That amounts to $200 in yearly fees.

    6.4) Aside from being able to run the boarding house, what else does Johnson get from this deal?

    Possible Answer:The company agrees to rent Johnson buildings and some land and to pay him $30 per month for the use of his team of horses.

Thought Questions for online Exploration:
During the online lesson, your students should complete the accompanying worksheet for this section. (Download from the student materials the pdf file containing the worksheet and key.) The questions for this worksheet are provided below. Since questions relating to specific sources are used during the online activity, the following worksheet questions are designed to help students synthesize and apply the material they have learned from the online activity and to analyze the kinds of information and the credibility of various types of primary sources when taken as a whole.

  1. One of the sources in this section is a promotional pamphlet produced by a Red Wing stoneware company. How can promotional pamphlets like this one be a good source for a historian? What problems can this kind of source create for the historian? What other information would prove these sources to be reliable or unreliable?

  2. Legal documents like the one that set up the boarding house in Red Wing can help us learn much about the needs and operations of a company or person at the time. What does this source teach us about the needs of workers? What can it teach us about the legal practices of the day?

  3. Blueprints provide us with a detailed picture of a building and often of its contents as well. What can a blueprint of a factory tell us about the work that was done in the factory? What can it tell us about the time in which the building was created?

  4. Photographs of workers in various industries can often give us an idea of the working conditions endured by laborers. How would you describe the working conditions of the workers in the clay pits as shown in the photograph on the site? How might photographs of workers today be different? How might they be the same? How do you think working conditions have changed over the past years and why?

After your students have completed these questions, you may either collect them to be graded and discussed later or go over them in class as a discussion outline. When you downloaded the file with these questions you also downloaded a teacher's key for your use.

Extending the Lesson: Historical Themes Pottery
You can also use the sources provided on this site to encourage higher-order thinking about a number of historical themes and issues that relate to the pottery industry in Minnesota. Below are possible activities and discussion starters to extend student application of the content material provided in the sources. The information provided in the sources about Pottery does not give us a comprehensive picture of these issues, but it can serve as an introduction to a theme or as supplementary material to enhance your work with a theme that is already part of your curriculum.

Possible Themes:
Business and Community
Using a Natural Resource

Theme One:
Business and Community

The student will be able to:

  1. describe and evaluate the role of a large business in a growing community.
Class Discussion:
In small groups, have students discuss the following questions. You may wish to provide these questions on an overhead transparency or supply a handout for student reference.

  • In what ways can a large industry help a community grow and prosper?

  • What things might make a large business a problem for a community?
Optional activities:
  • Invite a local business owner or industry executive to your class to discuss with students what is needed when starting a business in a community. How can they tell that the community will be a good place for their business? What kinds of research must they do ahead of time? How do they get the business started once the location has been chosen?

  • Ask students to research how businesses have had to change with new technology and new social ideas (e.g. computers, email, women in the workforce). What kinds of changes have made the companies more efficient and profitable? What disadvantages might also come with these changes (e.g. people who use email might not talk face to face as often)?

  • Have students study a community that has lost an important industry. What effect does that loss have on the community and its economy? Has another industry come in to replace it? How have those who worked for the industry had to adapt to the change or to a new job?

  • Have students create an ad campaign designed to encourage a business (of their choice) to move to their town. Students should promote the positive points of their town and explain why it would be a good location for this particular business.

Theme Two:
Using a Natural Resource

The student will be able to:

  1. Explain and examine the role, history, and use of a natural resource in our lives
Class Discussion:

  • What natural resources do we use every day in our lives?

  • How can we use them more efficiently and conservatively?

  • How do we use these resources differently now than we might have used them 100 years ago? Why might this be so?

  • What impact would a loss of those resources have on us?

Optional Activities:

  • In small groups, ask students to choose a natural resource and list on newsprint all of the products that can come from that natural resource. Share these with the class and add new items to the list as the class thinks of them.

  • Have students research alternative ways to do things that require natural resources to do now (e.g. transportation via car). Discuss the impact these actions can have on the availability of the natural resource.

  • Ask students to research the history of a natural resource in your community. How has that resource been used by your community over the years? How has the resource been preserved and threatened over the years? Students may wish to compare the ways we protect natural resources today with how they were or were not protected in the past.

  • You may wish to locate some information about earlier efforts to preserve natural resources in your area. This may require studying local historical materials about conservation in your area. Discuss what events or problems might have made people aware of the need for preserving their natural resources and how effective those early efforts were.

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