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    

Art Deco Frankoma Swirled Clouds Sky Prairie Green Copperdust Ada Clay Vase No70Vintage Frankoma Pottery Blue Bull Salt & Pepper Set Bottom Marked No DamageFrankoma Pottery Prairie Green Large Barrell Pitcher 7" X 9 1/2" # T -12White Frankoma Mini Spiral Pitcher 557 Ada Clay Block Letter MarkEarly Frankoma Ada Vase Rare Sequoyah Cherokee Art Pottery Early Vtg Frankoma Ada Clay Black Base Rose Bowl Ball Vase #55 - Red Bud GlazeVintage Frankoma Bee Hive Honey Pot Prairie Green 803 No SpoonFrankoma Prairie Green TumblersVintage Frankoma Wagon Wheel Pitcher €Vtg Frankoma Trivet Fleur De Lis Embossed Desert Gold Red Clay Hot Plate 3tr UsaFrankoma Coaster Pottery Wagon Wheel 3.5" Green Glaze 265p McmFrankoma Console Bowl And Candle Holders In Praire GreenFrankoma Pottery Girl, Ponytail Girl, #106, Nude, Hard To Find ColorFrankoma Barrel Mug 97mVtg Frankoma Pottery Tulsa Oklahoma Oil Capitol Of The World Prairie Green MugFrankoma 1958 Christmas Card - No ReserveFrankoma 555 Mini Thunder Bird Eagle Pitcher - Prairie Green5 (five) Frankoma Prairie Green Wagon Wheel 10" Plates -- No Reserve2 Vintage C3 Frankoma Pottery Red Orange Coffee MugVintage Frankoma Acorn Wall Pocket Hanging Pottery Green Brown 6" Long Good ShapVintage Prairie Green Frankoma 50th Anniversary Pitcher And Base "rare"Frankoma Barrel Mug 97mRare! Frankoma Large Mug "schmidt - The Brew That Grew With The Great Northwest"Old Prairi Green Thunderbird Canteen, Impressed Frankoma Mark, Ada ClayRare White Frankoma Pottery Angel With Lamb Figurine, #147. Exc. Cond.2 Vintage Mid Century Frankoma Minature Art Pottery Vases Frankoma Desert Gold 7x7 Decorative Footed Seashell #473Frankoma Pottery Stoneware SpoonrestCute Pottery Elephant, Mini Planter Or VaseIndian Collectable Ceramic Trivet Plate FrankomaFrankoma Limited Black & Terra Cotta Vase V-13 #325 Signed Joniecs Frank 13"h Frankoma Vintage Westwind Autumn Yellow Creamer And Sugar Bowl W/ Lid # 6a & 6bFrankoma Bicentennial Uncle Sam Mugs Set Of 3 Very Hard To Find-rare Dated 1976 Vintage Frankoma 37 Golden Yellow Small Planter Frankoma Pottery Mallard Duck 208 ARare Frankoma 91s Buffet Server In White Sand GlazeFrankoma Terra Cotta #14 PlanterSet Of 2 Frankoma Bicentennial Plates - 1975 & 1976 --signed/stamped By Artist!Excellent Frankoma Political Elephant Gop Mug: 1975 Autumn Yellow GlazeSet Of Two Frankoma Wall Plaques, Trivet Salvation Army And Easter 1972Antique: Original Creation By Frankoma # 838 PitcherVintage Frankoma 831 Pottery Jar With Cork Glazed Art Clay