Plastic is the MVP of the modern household, especially when it comes to storage and carrying. Plastic totes, plastic bags, plastic food containers.
Before plastic we had glass bottles and refrigerator sets for storing food and we used paper bags to carry stuff home from the grocery store, but those are still largely twentieth century inustrialized conviences.
Before the first world war, it was baskets for carrying and stoneware for the kitchen.
Stoneware is just clay, fired at a high temperture, until it is rock hard. It was the Tupperware of or ancestors.
If you lived in central Texas, chances are your stoneware came from the Meyer Pottery, located in Atascosa, South of San Antonio.
Founded by Franz Schultz and his son-in-law, William Meyer in 1887, the company produced just about every utilitarian form imaginable: crocks, jugs, churns, bowls, pitchers, cake molds, chicken waterers...the list goes on.
Stoneware is typically glazed. This makes it easier to keep clean and also fills in slight imperfections in the body of the piece. Some of the earliest glazing was done by throwing wood ash or salt into the kiln during firing.
The Meyer's used what is known as a 'slip glaze'. This is done by putting clay in a barrel and mixing in water until it has the consistancy of a cream soup. The completed pot is dipped in the mixture and then fired.
What makes Meyer pottery interesting is the clay they used for their slip. It was from a secret deposit on the banks of Leon Creek, and hence known as the Leon Slip glaze.
That special clay, combined with kiln conditions, produced some beautiful effects. Pots fired on dry summer days range from a maple sugar brown to mustard yellow. Those fired on wet winter or spring days run from greenish yellow to an almost apple green. Those nearest the fire box came out glossy, while the ones closer to the door of the kiln were left with a matte finish.
Today's collectors go nuts for them.
Change came slower to Texas than other regions and the Meyers were able to hang on making untilitarian stoneware up to the eve of WWII. Once Kelly Air Field was built, that speacial clay deposit was off limits. No more Leon slip.
The Meyer Pottery switched gears and began making small vases, jugs and other trinkets to be sold at tourist attraction like the Alamo and Buckhorn Saloon. These little pieces, featuring swirl glaze in a rainbow of colors or painted with bluebonnet landscapes, allowed the Meyer boys to hold out into the '60s.