Their unimaginably ingenious capacity for organization and innovation was matched only by their obsessively competitive blood-lust. The potteries that operated within the six towns of Stoke-on-Trent were preeminent suppliers of up-to-the-minute pottery fashion to the entire world. Silicon Valley meets Madison Avenue. About the only thing Henry Ford added to the picture over a century later was additional mechanization. In such a relatively small community as Stoke, one can imagine the subterfuge and turf battles.
On the other hand, no single factory was large enough to possibly handle the orders that rolled in. As such, everybody did piece work for everybody else. Shopping out orders while keeping innovations close to the chest must have been quite a delicate dance.
Yes, they were a colorful bunch.
But just so we’re clear about the topic, see the image below. This old post card photo of one of Stoke’s pottery towns was taken decades after their dominance had waned.
Imagine this scene 50 years earlier.
Master potters of the Industrial Revolution: the Turners of Lane End. Bevis Hillier. Cory, Adams, & McKay/London. 1965.
The Rise of the Staffordshire Potteries. John Thomas. Augustus Kelly Publishers/New York. 1971.