The Way It Was


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1957 Many companies once emblematic of Detroit are long gone, but one that has remained — for 112 years — is Pewabic Pottery. Founded by Mary Chase Perry and Horace J. Caulkins in 1903 (though the name Pewabic wasn’t used until 1904), Pewabic’s first location was in an old carriage barn on Alfred Street. John R. Perry was the artistic force behind the business, but Caulkins invented the Revelation Kiln (originally made for dental enamel) that also proved ideal for firing pottery. The two remained close friends until Caulkins’ death in 1923. As the company grew, it needed larger quarters, so architect William Buck Stratton was hired to design a Tudor Revival-style building on East Jefferson Avenue at Cadillac Boulevard, which today is still home to Pewabic Pottery. In 1918, Stratton and Perry were married at Caulkins’ home on Parker Avenue, just a stone’s throw away from the Pottery. Stratton died in 1938, but his wife forged ahead, working essentially to the end of her life. Here she is, age 90, at Pewabic Pottery as the company marked its 50th year at its East Jefferson location. According to Lillian Myers Pear’s 1976 book, The Pewabic Pottery: A History of Its Products and Its People, Stratton in her final years made her way to Pewabic in a wheelchair from her Cadillac Boulevard home, just doors away. Born in 1867 in the Upper Peninsula town of Hancock, Mich., Mary Chase Perry Stratton died at 94 in 1961. The name “Pewabic” stemmed from a Chippewa word for the copper mine in Stratton’s girlhood home of Hancock. At the close of her life, “Her mind was alert and her interest never faltered,” wrote Pear.

 

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