It Began With a Voyage

Johann George Pfaltzgraff was born in Germany in the early 1800's. He learned the potter's trade, but because of a restrictive guild situation he had trouble establishing himself. So he and his new bride Elenora decided to emigrate to Pennsylvania, perhaps on the urging of a relative named George Falsgraff who had been a potter there since 1811. Johann and Elenora boarded the Brig Charles Ferdinand in Germany in May 1833 and arrived in Baltimore, Maryland almost four months later. By 1835 they had established themselves in George Falsgraff's home township of Conewago in York County. Look at the two tax entries on the left. They are almost identical, detailing both men as potters living on 21 acres in Conewago Township, and owning one cow, presumably not the same one!

Johann George Pfaltzgraff was aware of the needs of the farmer (a main occupation at the time) as well as the general community. He created products such as pitchers, plates and mugs to meet domestic needs, as well as utilitarian storage vessels like crocks, jugs and jars, which were necessary for food preservation. He fashioned these simple wares out of the locally abundant red clay. His family grew, and he taught his craft to his sons John, Henry, George, Cornelius and Isaac. These first three would make names for themselves as highly skilled potters.

In 1839 Johann George decided to grow his family business by moving to Freystown, a small community that is now incorporated into the east side of the City of York. The family remained there until 1848 when they moved back to a more rural location north and west of town. Johann George's nephew Henry Miller eventually purchased the Freystown Pottery. Four pieces of redware attributed to Miller have survived. However, as part of a research project into the history of The Pfaltzgraff Co., an archeological dig unearthed pottery shards that could date back to Johann George, and confirmed the exact location of the historic site.

Click here for more on the quest to find the Freystown Pottery.

It Began With a Voyage
Above: York County, Pennsylvania, tax entries for George Falsgraff in 1819, and George (Johann George) Faltzgraff in 1837.
Redware pitcher made at the Freystown Pottery.
Redware pitcher made at the Freystown Pottery.
Potter's Wheel
Hand-throwing on a potter's wheel similar to this was the primary method of manufacture through the end of the 19th century.