Hazel Oliver’s Umbrella Stand & Cook Brothers Pottery


Around seven years ago at the Etowah Historical Society, there was a big thunderstorm that soaked everyone for the May meeting. This placed Hazel Oliver in the mood to find the society a “historic” umbrella stand.

Hazel went home and looked around. She decided that since her old churn had served well as her home’s umbrella stand, it would be just the thing. Hazel said that a lady from Alabama City named Roth or Rother had given it to her 30 years ago. 

Hazel felt as though the stand needed a new home, so she brought it down to the historical society, where The Vagabond found a place for it by the door. 

The society held a board meeting a few days later, at which time Hazel showed everyone her new donation. John McFarland, who was an official at that time, asked Hazel why it was on the floor by the door. She said that she hoped we could use it to hold umbrellas.

John told her that the stand was far too nice to be at the door holding umbrellas.

As it happened, the churn that was serving as an umbrella stand was made in the famous Alabama Style. It has three handles on it, a loop and a lug below the rim and a loop at the bottom. It was finished in Bristol glaze on the outside with Albany slip glaze inside. It has small cobalt blue check mark on the side. The handles have no thumbprint.

It turned out that the churn was made by the Cook Brothers Pottery Company around 1910.

A “jug shop” appears on the Pope’s Map of Gadsden 1888 map of Gadsden, one of the state’s new industrial cities. The owner of this pottery is a mystery. It was located at the corner of 12th and Gardner streets. This is far too early to be Cook’s, but the jug could be from that location as well. Because this location is now a developed business area not far from downtown Gadsden, no evidence remains of the pottery company that was once there.

A clay mine was located on the side of Bellevue Mountain just below Paseur Park that supplied clay most likely to some pottery factory. Clay is very heavy and pottery mills try to stay as close as possible to their source of raw materials. However, the Cook Brothers from Ohio soon would open a factory in East Gadsden, which operated from about 1910 to 1920. 

The business was located on the old Jacksonville Road (now Elmwood Avenue) by the L&N Railroad. One of the brothers, Charles Cook, worked for the Champion Stoneware Company in Canton, Ohio, in the 1880s.

By 1910, he and his brother “Luie” (Louis) were situated in Gadsden and were boarded with William R. Dickens. The Cooks, who may have made decorative and utilitarian wares, were known as “Manufacturers of Stoneware and Flower pots.” The thin, cobalt, gallon-capacity numerals that were drawn under a clear Bristol-type glaze on their ware are distinctive.

Cook Brothers used molds to make more complicated objects such as jugs and churns.

Guy Daugherty was one well-traveled potter who worked for the Cook Brothers Pottery in 1920. Daugherty had worked in Texas and eventually moved to Bethune, S.C. Cook Brothers remained in operation until about 1924.

Visit the Etowah Historical Society and see Hazel Oliver’s Cook Brother Pottery. Many thanks for all you do, Hazel!

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