John Frank founded Frankoma Pottery in 1933, when he was still an art professor at the University of Oklahoma. At first Frankoma produced vases and other types of art pottery, using a beige clay from the Arbuckle Mountains, which today is known among Frankoma collectors as Ada clay.

In 1936, Frank quit his position at the university and in 1938 he moved with his wife, Grace Lee, to Sapulpa, Oklahoma, on Route 66 just outside of Tulsa. For another 16 years they would transport Ada clay 150 miles to their pottery in Sapulpa, but in 1954 Frankoma switched to a local material, a reddish clay used by an area brick company.

Today, Frankoma pieces made from 1954-on are described as being made out of Sapulpa clay. Collectors often try to tell the difference between the two by rubbing a wet finger on the unglazed bottom of a Frankoma piece—the color of Ada pottery will remain unchanged while Sapulpa pieces will darken.

Prior to the change in the clay body, Frank was changing the types of products his pottery was producing. In particular, Frankoma was moving from art ware to dinnerware, most famously, in 1942, with introduction of a Southwestern line that featured a bas-relief wagon wheel as its central design motif. This Wagon Wheel Dinnerware featured plates, cups and saucers, pitchers, candlesticks, and, of course, salt-and-pepper shakers—the most popular early Wagon Wheel color was Prairie Green.

Another early line, from 1947, featured a Mayan-Aztec design—pieces in Peach Glow and Peacock Blue are among the most highly sought colors in this series, although pieces of any color with the original Frankoma “Pot & Puma” mark are most desired. The Plainsman dinnerware line followed in 1948. Again, green was a favorite color, but early sets in Woodland Moss, Turquoise, or Redbud command premium prices.

Other dinnerware lines included Lazybones (1953), whose salt-and-pepper shakers, in colors such as Desert Gold, were attached to each other—salt came out of the “S” dot pattern on the taller of the two shakers, pepper poured from the “P” dot pattern on the shorter shaker. The Westwind dinnerware line followed in 1962.

While Frankoma focused a good deal on dinnerware, it also produced miniature figurines of horses, elephants, swans, and objects such as cowboy boots. Hybrid figurines included salt-and-pepper shakers shaped like jugs, teepees, oil derricks, pumas, snails, cucumbers, and bulls...

A man of faith, Frank also produced Christmas cards—made of clay, of course—beginning in 1944, and Christmas plates beginning in 1965. For the most part, the cards were simply decorative, but some acknowledged major events (the U.S. moon landing in 1969) or changes in management at Frankoma (the card from 1972 features three vases on it, meant to symbolize the role of the Frank’s daughter, Joniece, in the company’s management; a year later, her father passed away and she was given the company’s reins).

Politics also played a role in the output of Frankoma. The company’s first foray into the political-pottery arena was a John Frank political campaign token in 1962. In 1968, Frankoma produced a White Sand colored elephant-shaped mug as a fundraiser for the National Republican Women’s Club. GOP Elephant mugs followed through the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, although Joniece kept things balanced by creating Democratic Donkey mugs from 1975-on. Both series ended in 2005, when the Frankoma factory finally closed its doors.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Gouda Design

Gouda Design

Stuart Lonsdale and Kim Lindley's excellent tribute to and reference on Gouda Dutch Art Pottery and Delftware. The … [read review or visit site]

Cowan Pottery Museum Associates

Cowan Pottery Museum Associates

Dedicated to raising awareness of the ceramic art work of R. Guy Cowan and his Cowan Pottery Studio in northeastern… [read review or visit site]

The Pottery Studio

The Pottery Studio

This 7,000-plus page site lives up to its self-billing as a 'knowledge base' with examples of work from all major a… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1940s Vintage Frankoma Pottery Mini Miniature Pitcher Ada Clay Turquoise GlazeVintage Club Trade Winds Tradewinds Frankoma Pottery ? Large Tiki Vase Rare Vtg Frankoma Pottery 114 Sitting Black Puma Cat Cougar Panther Figure Vintage Frankoma Pottery Mountain Lion~washington Park SouvenirFrankoma Prairie Green 6" Wind Chime - BeautifulVintage Frankoma Pottery 555 Small Thunderbird Creamer PitcherFrankoma Bull Salt And Pepper #166hFrankoma Small Indian Mask - #135 - Ada Clay - Pot And Puma MarkFrankoma Fish Bone Ashtray Blue And Brown2 Frankoma Pottery Corn Holders Rare Prairie Green! Vintage Frankoma Pottery *owl* Figurine. Animal. Brown 7" Tall Frankoma #29j Woodland Moss Bud Vase Decanter--blue, Grey, BrownFrankoma Christmas Card 50th AnniversaryVintage Frankoma Pottery Personal Creamer Sauce Server DishFrankoma Indian Chief #142. Sapulpa Clay.dark Green 8" TallFrankoma Pottery 12" Matte Brown Indian Maiden With Rabbit Signed W. StoneVintage Frankoma Pottery 7" Boot Vase / Wall Pocket #133 Green & BrownFrankoma "prairie Green" #31 "snail Bud Vase": Matched Pair, 1950s/'60s VintageFrankoma Fish Tray Trinket Nut Dish Tall Art Deco 13" Frankoma Pottery Vase V2 Jf2880 Teal Blue GlazeFrankoma Black Thunderbird Miniature Pitcher #555Frankoma..6.5" Prairie Green Wagon Wheel Round Candle Holder Ash Tray AdaFrankoma Prairie Green Soup Cups Set Of 3 #45cFrankoma Pottery MugsVintage Frankoma 456 Ash Tray Brown/desert Gold Frankoma Pottery Cowboy Boot Vase # 134 Burnt Orange.Frankoma Pottery MugsVintage Frankoma 803 Art Pottery Bee Hive Honey Pot Jar Rare White GlossFrankoma Pottery Prairie Green Westwind Cream Pitcher 6a & Sugar Dish 6bSet Of 2 Vintage Frankoma Dogwood Candle Holders In Woodland MossVintage Frankoma Art Pottery Snail Vase #31 Flame Red Orange 6.25"Vintage Antique Elegantly Simple Frankoma Pottery Planter Planting Pot Flower Frankoma Pottery Wagon Wheel Salt & Pepper Shakers, Prairie Green, #94h,Frankoma Pottery~plainsman Spoon Rest~desert Gold 4yBeautiful Frankoma Duck 208a, Rich Brown Glaze, Perfect For A Fall Arrangement!Frankoma Sapulpa Clay #835 24oz 8" Syrup Pitcher In Prairie Green Ca. 1960sFrankoma Pottery Aztec Mayan Orange Flame Glaze 9.75" Square Vase 7jh