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Anna Van - The True Story
For many years there has been discussion and heated argument about the circumstances surrounding the "Anna" incision on the bottom of some Van Briggle pieces. Some Dryden Pottery folks claim that Van Briggle commissioned a line of pottery to be made at their plant in honor of the late Anne Van Briggle, wife and then widow of Artus VanBriggle, and that all "Anna" pottery was made at their pottery in Arkansas and later in Kansas. Some Van Briggle people claim that there is absolutely no truth to the Dryden story - that all "Anna" pottery was made at Van Briggle ~ after all, it is marked "Colorado Springs" right there on the bottom of every piece.
Here's what really happened.
by Fred Wills and Elizabeth Shonk
Ann Van Briggle died in 1929. The "Anna" line was produced from 1954 until 1968, so obviously Ann Van Briggle did not sign those pieces. The designation of "Anna" for this line happened more as an afterthought than anything. It was just a way of keeping a problematic line of clay and glaze that we bought from Dryden Pottery separate from the normal Van Briggle clays and glazes.
In 1954, Jesse Lewis - then the owner of Van Briggle - purchased a failing local pottery in Kansas, called Dryden Pottery. Dryden Pottery had a very good designer in owner James Dryden, and had developed popular high gloss glazes with a distinctive "volcanic" drip effect, but they were poorly located and not drawing the all-important tourist trade. Dryden's friend Mr. Lewis agreed to buy him out so he could relocate to Arkansas, where dryden Pottery is located to this day. The materials and molds remained at the Dryden plant until 1956. During those years, the Dryden plant continued to function as a wholely owned subsidiary of Van Briggle. The pieces that came from Dryden were labeled "Anna Van Briggle Colorado Spgs." but did not have the Van Briggle logo.
It is important to know that not all "Anna Van" pieces were made at Dryden in Kansas. In fact, most "Anna" pieces were made at the Van Briggle plant in Colorado.
In 1956, Clem Hull, Burl McKinney (Mr. Lewis' son-in-law), Kent Frazer, Mr. Lewis, and some of the other workers at Van Briggle drove out to the Dryden plant. I was having surgery and was not able to participate. Lucky Me! The temperatures were at 20 degrees below 0 as the Van Briggle people struggled to load the molds, clay and glazes and other into the truck.
After trucking the Dryden pottery equipment back to Colorado Springs, Van Briggle wanted to utilize the high gloss Dryden glazes with the Van Briggle clays and designs. But much to Mr. Lewis' disappointment, the Van Briggle clay would not accept the Dryden glazes, causing them to bubble in such a horrible way that they could not possibly be sold. And, although the Dryden clay would accept some of the Van Briggle glazes, they looked terrible because the Dryden clay was too dark.
Mr. Lewis had purchased the lot, and none of it worked together with his existing formulas. He was not a happy camper. Fortunately for Van Briggle, James Dryden's son-in-law, Joe Jezek, did not move to Arkansas with Dryden, but came to work for Van Briggle at about the same time.
The decision was made to continue to use the Dryden glazes with the Dryden clay until such time as a new clay formula could be created that would accept both the VB and the Dryden glazes. Until that formual was found, Van Briggle had two sets of clays and glazes. Pieces produced with the "Anna" formulas continued to carry the "Anna" mark, often with the addition of the traditional Van Briggle logo. Many Dryden designs were discontinued at the same time, as inconsistent with the Van Briggle line, although some were kept - such as as Moroccan Ewer.
In 1969, Joe Jezek and I finally came up with a clay that would accept both glazes. In 1968, the last white clay and the last "Anna" pieces were made. All pieces since that time have been made with the modified clay formula and carry the AA's. The "Anna" line went the way of history as did the white clay.