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    

Rare Frankoma Frank Potteries Black Carved Jar Excellent! Nr!Frankoma Gardener Boy & Girl Ada Clay 701 & 702 Excellent! Nr!Vintage 1940's Frankoma Black Footed Vase, Rare Or Experimental Glaze!! Nr!!2 Frankoma Gardener Girl Figurines Ada Clay & Sapula Excellent! Nr!Frankoma 5 Pottery Cactus Southwestern Prairie Green Brown Planter VintageVintage Frankoma Art Deco Candle Stick Holder 300 Prairie GreenVintage Frankoma Cultured Pearl Club Tiki T-3s War God Mug Desert GoldVintage Frankoma 501 Small 2 3/4" Tall Vase-ada ClayFrankoma Dancing Commanche Indian Chief-unusual GlazeVintage Frankoma Cultured Pearl Club Tiki T-4s Widow Maker Mug Desert GoldFrankoma Pottery # 42a Sugar Bowl 1934 - 1942 Excellent Condition Silver SageFrankoma #402 ~ Sleeping Cocker Spanial Bowl Ash Tray ~ Excellent ConditionFrankoma Pottery Owl Toothbrush Holder / Flower Frog Figure ~ Desert GoldFrankoma Pottery - Tall Round Vase #78 In Praire Green Glaze (chipped)Circa 1942-52 Frankoma Kids Gardener Girl No 700 Ada Clay Blond Prairie Green 1Frankoma Pottery Angel Figurine With Halo And PrayingLot Of 2 Frankoma Mini Cowboy Boot Wall Pockets-3 1/4"-desert Gold-nice Cond.Unmarked Frankoma Pencil Holder Or Flower Frog Cross Excellent ConditionFrankoma Prairie Green Bottle Vase 837Frankoma Willard Stone SquirrelFrankoma Elephant Bank 4 1/4" By 6".Two Frankoma Pottery 1-7/8" Snail Pepper Shakers ~ Prairie Green ~ Exlnt CondFrankoma Mini Pitcher & Bowl Blue/brown 40a & 40b MintFrankoma Bank "moms Old Train" In A New Frankoma Color Osage GreenVintage Frankoma Westwind Candle Vase Flame 21 DamOld Frankoma 1962 Christmas Card, The Franks, Christmas, 1962, Excellent CondtnMid Century Frankoma Drapery Vase 1960s Free Form Bowl Brown Planter Pot Vintage Frankoma Art Pottery Desert Gold Honey Bee Pot 803~ada ClayFrankoma Praire Green Chip & Dip DishVintage Frankoma 819 Egg Plate Brown Platter Holds 16 Deviled Eggs Excellent!!Frankoma #35 Mint Bowl W/ Sticker Red Clay Prairie Green Great Condition NrFrankoma No. 39 Autumn Gold PlanterFrankoma 1969 Christmas Card The Moon LandingVintage Frankoma Gn Collection Green Pottery Serving Bowl Vintage Double Holder Frankoma Candlestick Deco Prairie N/rFrankoma Christmas Ornament "noel" Niroga, Glorieta N.m. By Grace Lee SmithFrankoma 1969 Christmas Pottery Card1985 Frankoma Elephant Gop Republican Party Mug Cup-reagan / BushFrankoma Pottery Desert Gold 5tr "good Luck" TrivetRetro Frankoma Miniature Bowl Pitcher Set 40a 40b Oklahoma Clay PotteryVtg. Frankoma Pottery 504 Ada Clay Sugar Bowl Dish Prarie GreenVintage Hard To Find 1978 Frankoma Republican Political MugFrankoma Brown Teardrop Shaped 231 BowlVintage Frankoma Gp Collection Green Tan Pottery Platter Stoneware Tray Old Vintage Frankoma 5ns Collection Prarie Green Pottery Square Serving Bowl TrayNeat Vintage 10" Blue Frankoma Pottery 2 Handled BowlFrankoma Horseshoe Trivet Good Luck 94trhFrankoma Pottery Ranch Brands Blue 4 Napkin Rings Bevo Longhorn Bull Or CowExquisite Early Frankoma Prairie Green 5xl Bowl Mint As MadeFrankoma 1979 Grace Lee And Milton Smith Christmas Card Year Of The ChildFrankoma Desert Gold 10 Inche Planter Log***tall Frankoma Green Water Pitcher, # 80 -- Sold As Is***Vintage Tea Pot/creamer Frankoma Western Wagon Wheel In Prairie Green Frankoma Pottery Double Spouted Gravy Sauce Boat Vintage1981 Frankoma Christmas Card With Saturn And Stars