Around 1905, an enthusiastic potter, Frank Ferrel, approached Sam Weller (of Weller Pottery) with the idea for a new line of pottery. That line was Pinecone. The idea was shot down, and Frank soon left Weller to pursue his craft elsewhere. He ended up at the Peters and Reed Company in Zanesville, Ohio, where he earned the position of company President and helped turn the company into an increasingly successful producer of art pottery.
In 1918, Frank Ferrel left Peters and Reed and joined Roseville to become their art director; a position he would retain for 36 years. Once again he pitched his pinecone line and once again he was rejected. It wasn’t until 1935when a travelling salesman discovered Frank’s old pinecone samples that the line was finally produced. Suddenly, a lifetime’s ambition was to become a reality. Under Frank’s direction, Roseville created a line of pinecone pottery that was instantly admired by the buying public, and was to become Roseville’s most popular line ever. It only took Frank 30 years to realize his ultimate artistic vision. In the meantime, he had been responsible for over 100 different lines of pottery for four major companies.
Obviously, those 30 years were not spent begrudging his former bosses. They were a time of paying dues and learning the ropes of a business. Always with a hand in the design process, Frank Ferrel took on the business aspects of John Peters and Adam Reed’s fledgling utilitarian ware pottery company in 1906 an helped them transform it into a major player in a very competitive art pottery market. John Peters and Adam Reed, also two former Weller employees, had begun their company for the same reason that Frank was now joining them. It all boiled down to vision. When Weller discontinued their red flower pot line in the late 1800s, an opportunity opened up and John and Adam seized it by opening their own factory in 1897. They believed Sam Weller was making a mistake they could capitalize on.
However, the focus of Peters and Reed changed radically when Frank took control of the company in 1906. His experience was with art pottery, not utilitarian ware such as flower pots. So it goes without saying that he began to reshape the production and marketing around more art pottery items, and began to push out the more functional production lines. His tinkering eventually let to the creation of the Moss Aztec line, a red clay pottery with green tints that had a rustic feel. Although Peters and Reed were skeptical about the line themselves, Frank didn’t waver and even priced the line beyond what Peters and Reed thought the market could bear. Frank, as he would do a number of times in his lifetime, proved his detractors dead wrong, and the Moss Aztec line became so popular in so short a time that prices for the line were raised after only a year. “Sanford’s Guide to Peters and Reed” says, with the 20/20 of hindsight, that “the popularity of Moss Aztec insured the success of the Peters and Reed Company.” Although, it might be argued that this statement places the cart before the horse. It was really Frank Ferrel who secured the future of Peters and Reed.
Interesting to note about Moss Aztec in that the shapes and stylization used in the line are in many respects the same as what Frank attempted to do in his pinecone line for Roseville. Many Roseville collectors are probably unaware that their pinecone pottery collections, even though not created until 1935, really had their origins 30 years earlier when Frank was experimenting at Peters and Reed. This is significant because while a Pinecone piece may fetch as much as a thousand dollars these days, there are Moss Aztec items on the market for a fifth that price. The reason for this is simple: Even though Moss Aztec was produced earlier and is harder to find, people on the whole find the Roseville Pinecone design more appealing. And, in the end, that’s what really determines collectable values. However, for pinecone pottery collectors interested in the history of their collections, it would seem necessary that they delve into Peters and Reed. And for investors interested in picking up some enormously undervalued pottery as it goes through the cycle that all collectables endure as styles and fashions change, Peters and Reed would also be worth a look. -Tim Regan
For more information on American Art Pottery and Frank Ferrel, check out the following antique reference books:
Sanford’s Guide to Peters and Reed: The
Zane Pottery Company by Martha and Steve Sanford
Collector’s Guide to Owens Pottery by Frank Hahn
Introducing Roseville Pottery by Bassett
Weller, Roseville and Related Zanesville Art Pottery and Tiles by Betty Ward and Nancy Schiffer
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