In the early 20th century, Boston was home to one of the only schools in the country that taught the craft of pottery making. What started as a social service undertaking in the North End by a group called the Saturday Evening Girls, lead to a successful Pottery business in Boston. The Saturday Evening Girls met at the North End Library for educational purposes every Saturday night from 7:00 – 9:00 pm. At this time, the North End Library was located inside of the North Bennet Street School, an institution that was committed to teaching crafts to immigrants in hopes of them better assimilating.
In July of 1908, the leader of the Saturday Evening Girls, Edith Guerrier sought to make this pottery skill into a summer occupation for girls who went to school throughout the year. For many girls who had dropped out of school, it offered a safe and healthy work environment to help them assimilate and earn a livable wage. To expand this hobby into a business, Helen Osborne Storrow, a Boston philanthropist and board member of the North Bennet Street School purchased and renovated a building on Hull Street. Once their headquarters was established with their workshop being amidst the Old North Church, they chose to name the business Paul Revere Pottery. With business rapidly growing, the group soon outgrew their North End workshop and in 1915, they headed to Brighton for more space.
By 1926, they had established themselves as a world-class pottery company, making pitchers, mugs, bowls, plates, and more. Visitors frequently came to watch the clay being molded, and often wanted to know where the clay came from. Much to their surprise, most of the red clay came from Cambridge and the Brighton area, but for specific orders they would use an upscale type of clay which came from either New Jersey, England, or Germany. Over their first 18 years in business with sales both nationwide and abroad, they expanded their art into a school of pottery making at the North Bennet Street School. In these classes, students were to be taught how to pour slip, mix plaster, wedge the clay, throw the clay, and fire the kiln.
Over the years, the North Bennet Street School offered classes in pottery, printing, sewing, sheet metal work and watch repair, as well as the carpentry, cabinet making, and jewelry making, many of these classes are still taught today.
Video below: North Bennet Street School president Miguel Gómez Ibáñez talks about Boston’s Saturday Evening Girls pottery. North Bennet Street School was featured in the Process episode.
We kindly acknowledge the significant historical research shared by the late, Anne M. Pistorio that assisted in producing this article.
Armstrong, Irene. “A School of Pottery.” Our Boston Sept. 1928: 17-20. Print.