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    

Frankoma #44 Barrel 2" Jade Green Salt & Pepper Shakers 1936-1938 No ReserveFrankoma #15 Lazy Bones Prairie Green Large 12" Vase 1953 Only 1 Year No ReserveFrankoma Prairie Green Billiken 7" Charm Doll Planter Muskogee Court No. 992 Frankoma #430 Irish Setter 6 5/8" Bookends Prairie Green 1942-1960 No Reserve2 Rare Frankoma #434 Mallard Duck 4 7/8" Bookends Prairie Green 1955-1958Frankoma Signed Donna & Joniece "it's Over" Valkyrie 5 1/2" Blue Singer FigurineRare Frankoma T11 Trade Winds Club Tiki Large 18 1/2" Palm Leaf Platter 1962-67Art Deco Frankoma Miniature Trojan Horse Green Black Ada Clay PotteryFrankoma Gracetone Cinnamon 3 5/8" Tri-circle Design Christmas Card Tray 1960Blue Frankoma Vase Thunderbird PatternRare Vtg. Frankoma Pottery Elephant Ashtray 1952 Ada Clay Desert Gold HtfVintage Rare Frankoma Pottery Beehive Wind Chime Prairie Green GlazeFrankoma #472 The Franks Christmas Card 3 1/2" Brown Clam Shell Pin Tray 1962Frankoma - "tulsarama" Ashtray, Oklahoma's 50th Anniversary Golden Jubilee, DeseFrankoma Pottery " Dancing Indian Chief " Prairie Green Ada Clay MintFrankoma Pottery Native American Maiden Figurine (stone)Frankoma Brown Tree Bark 3 3/4" The Franks Christmas Card Tray 1958 No ReserveFrankoma Brown #480 Star 3 7/8" The Franks Christmas Card Tray 1965 No ReserveFrankoma Pottery English Setter Dog #163 Prairie Green 1942-54 Ada Clay ExcFrankoma Pottery Prairie Green Deviled Egg Plate #819Frankoma - Water JugFrankoma V-6 Signed Limited Edition Celadon Green Large 13 1/4" Bottle Vase 1974Frankoma Prairie Green Tree Bark Half Branch 3 3/4" Class Of 39 Tray No ReserveVintage Prairie Green Frankoma Swan Art Pottery Planter Figurine. Mint! Vintage Frankoma Pottery HorseshoeVintage Frankoma Wide Lip Or Oblong Lip Desert Gold Vase Marked 74Frankoma Pottery €Frankoma Prairie Green Soup Bowl Lazybones - 4sc 3 Rare.frankoma Prairie Green Plainsman 5.5" Cereal BowlsVintage 'the Franks Christmas 1965' 'frankoma 480' Star BrownFrankoma Dancing Commanche Indian ChiefVintage Frankoma Pottery Native American Indian Bowl Maker #123 Vintage Frankoma Pottery Plainsman-white Sand 16 Oz. Pitcher And Bowl 30a 30bFrankoma Pottery, Green/brown # 5e Plate-5.75", #5xl-bowl-6"Vtg Frankoma Bowl Vase 504 Black Mini Collectible Art Pottery Ceramic Usa MadeVintage Frankoma Pottery Plainsman Praire Green Salad Luncheon Plate~ada Clay~8"Frankoma Desert Sand Mallard VaseFrankoma Trivet 5tr Good Luck Ceramic 3 Horseshoe Brown Glaze Estate CollectionFrankoma Pottery Desert Gold Wagon Wheel Creamer Ada ClayFrankoma "arrowhead" Ashtray-ex!Frankoma U.s.a. # 80 Robin Blue Stoneware Pottery Pitcher Fantastic Condition Beautiful Frankoma 1930's Art Deco #35 BowlGreat Unmarked Frankoma Pottery Bowl, Has Original Sticker1983 Frankoma Gop Republican Elephant Mug Gop Lavender PurpleFrankoma 1970 Christmas Card A Prayer For Peace Vintage Frankoma Pottery Canteen12 Frankoma Mayan-aztec Desert Gold 7fl 10" Dinner Plates-light Marks-no Chips! Vintage Frankoma Pottery Red Orange 15" Tray - # 5qFrankoma Ceramic Coffee Mug Featuring Oklahoma's Scissor Tailed FlycatcherVtg Desert Gold Frankoma Trivet Good Luck Horseshoes Pottery Hot Plate 94trh Frankoma Prairie Green 6 1/2" Freeform Vase, Votive Candle HolderFrankoma Wagon Wheel Desert Gold Creamer Cream & Sugar Bowl Western RanchFrankoma No 6p PlatterVintage Black Glossy Frankoma Nice Dish/serving Bowl #226 Set On 7 Little LegsFrankoma Christmas Plate 1965 Good Will Towards Men John Frank 1st Issue Vintage Frankoma Pottery Prairie Green Scalloped Rim Planter #37-excFrankoma Pottery Sunflower Yellow C13 Pedestal Coffee Tea Mug Cup Footed2 Rare Frankoma Mallard Duck 4 7/8" Bookends Prairie Green No Reserve