In the late 19th century, Chicago was a hub of economic and social activity. Young intellectuals such as John Dewey, Oscar Lovell Triggs, and Thorstein Veblen embraced socialism and supported organizations such as Hull House, which was established in 1889 in the heart of Chicago’s poorest neighborhood. Its founder, Jane Addams, and her college classmate Ellen Gates Starr based the center on Toynbee Hall, the London settlement house where Ashbee founded the Guild of Handicraft. Hull House became a place for clubs and groups to meet; it also offered classes in cabinet making, pottery, cooking, metalworking, needlework, and more. The emphasis on craft and fine standards of work made Hull House the ideal place for the formation of the Chicago Arts and Crafts Society in 1897. Initially, Chicago’s architects and artisans closely followed the British Arts and Crafts model. Medievalist impulses with designs based on natural forms characterized the work of architect George Washington Maher, who used a unifying motif for each commission.
For the James A. Patten House in Evanston, Illinois, the architect chose a thistle pattern, perhaps reflective of Patten’s Scottish ancestry, to embellish the walls, furnishings, and a portière. However, just as Chicago’s artisans adopted British influences, they also transformed them. Founded by William Day Gates in 1899, Teco Pottery is known for its earthenware vessels fired with matte green glazes. Although the overall effect of the works is associated with nature, the company relied on mass production and standardization through casting and sprayed glazes.
Fritz Albert. Gates Potteries, a division of the American Terra Cotta and Ceramic Company (1887–c. 1930). Vase, c. 1905. Promised gift of Crab Tree Farm Foundation.