The Saturday Evening Girls: Makers of Paul Revere Pottery

The Saturday Evening Girls: Makers of Paul Revere Pottery

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Saturday Evening Girl Fannie Levine painted this bright yellow child’s pottery set. A nursery rhyme is lettered around the rim of each piece.

Saturday Evening Girls pottery is highly collectible. Not only does it have an interesting, important story, but it is beautiful. These handmade pieces are emblematic of the Arts and Crafts aesthetic and were produced in Boston from 1906 until 1942.

Boston’s North End

At the turn of the century, life for immigrants in Boston’s North End was tough. They lived in packed tenement buildings, and conditions were often squalid. As a result, the North End led the city in diphtheria, typhoid, pneumonia, and meningitis deaths. It also had the most homicides of any Boston neighborhood.

In this atmosphere, Edith Gurrier, a college student, chose to work. She took a job first in the nursery and then in the reading room at the North Bennet Street Industrial School (NBSIS). The school provided social services and job training to Irish, Jewish, and Italian immigrants. It’s a landmark institution that still exists today.

The Saturday Evening Girls Club

In 1899, Gurrier started a club for the girls who came into her reading room. Soon, they met regularly and studied literature, music, and dance. The girls selected and voted on their club’s name. Gurrier also helped them write and publish a newsletter.

Even before they started making pottery, the Saturday Evening Girls Club was unique. It was one of the few immigrant social clubs in which different ethnic groups mixed. As a result, the girls, mostly Italian and Jewish, became friends. Many of their relationships lasted throughout their lifetimes.

The Beginnings of Paul Revere Pottery

Helen Osborne Storrow was a wealthy Boston philanthropist and member of the board of the NBSIS. She was an enthusiastic supporter of the Saturday Evening Girls. To enhance their lives, she bought a property in West Gloucester where the girls could take vacations, a luxury that would typically be beyond their reach. However, the girls still needed to save money for these trips, and Gurrier wanted to help them.

Edith Brown, Gurrier’s longtime partner, was an artist who taught drawing at the NBSIS. She and Gurrier were inspired by “charming peasant ware” in pottery workshops they saw on a trip through Europe. When they came home, the two got very serious about learning to make pottery, and Storrow funded them. They found a group of local artisans to teach them various techniques. They even paid a pottery chemist for his formulas, only to find them printed in a library book. (Gurrier recounted this setback in her autobiography with her characteristic good humor.)

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Pieces made by the Saturday Evening Girls after 1923, like this vase, are marked Paul Revere Pottery.

The Hull Street Shop

In 1908, Storrow purchased 18 Hull Street, a brownstone in the North End, for the club and its growing pottery activities. The house was so close to the Old North Church that they decided to call their new venture Paul Revere Pottery.

They had a large, heavy kiln installed in the basement. There was space on the upper floors for meetings, living, and assembling pottery. The top floor was an apartment where Brown and Gurrier lived, and on the roof was a garden.

The pottery workspace was warm, well-lit, and well-ventilated. While the girls worked, they listened to music and readings of literature. Fresh flowers decorated the space. Gurrier, Brown, and Storrow were committed to providing a wholesome, enriching, stimulating environment for these girls, toward whom they felt a great sense of responsibility.

The Brighton Shop

In 1915, Storrow bought the Saturday Evening Girls a tract of land on a tree-covered hill in Brighton. They moved their entire operation to the new spot, which allowed them more space.

In the North End, most of the girls had worked part-time, but here they worked full-time. By now, these women were highly skilled craftspersons. Edith Brown continued as director of the pottery workshop and later the ceramics school it fostered. Together, she and Gurrier worked to make a success of Paul Revere Pottery. Though it was a triumph in many ways, the pottery business could not sustain itself financially and required constant subsidizing from Storrow.

In 1932, Brown died. Gurrier operated Paul Revere Pottery on her own until 1942. She continued to live there until she died in 1958.

Work Conditions in the Pottery Shop

The Saturday Evening Girls enjoyed better working conditions than average, especially for young immigrant women of their time. Full-timers worked 8-hour days rather than the usual 10. They were paid better wages than average and received two weeks of paid vacation each year. Most workers at the time had a six-day workweek, but Paul Revere Pottery employees worked five and a half days. They were fed a hot lunch each workday. 

Characteristics of Saturday Evening Girls Club Pieces

Over the 36-year period that Paul Revere Pottery operated, it produced a full array of pieces for household use. These included:

There were children’s dish sets, sometimes personalized with a child’s name. Other kids’ sets bore rhymes or simple phrases. The company also made desk sets that included inkwells and stamp boxes. Small collectible pieces are often available. You’ll also find tile art, such as trivets, paperweights, and medallions, with this pottery shop’s signature style.

Paul Revere Pottery often features vibrant blues, greens, and yellows. Its whimsical designs were sometimes painted and sometimes etched into the clay. A favorite motif was animals, including waddling ducks and long-eared rabbits. Some pieces depict peaceful homes surrounded by trees. Flowers were another frequent theme.

Identifying Paul Revere Pottery 

Each piece of this pottery is inscribed, stamped, or otherwise marked on the bottom. On the base, you’ll also see the initials of the decorator and the year it was made.

Initially, the girls etched the initials S.E.G. into the base of each piece they produced. Then, in 1923, they started branding their works “Paul Revere Pottery,” though that had always been the company’s name. They sometimes used die-cut stamps, black ink stamps, or paper cards to identify their work.

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This bowl was made by Sara Galner, perhaps the most well-known of the Saturday Evening Girls.

Since the pieces bear their creator’s initials, you might be able to spot an item made by a famous Saturday Evening Girl. One was Sara Galner, who emigrated to the U.S. from Austria-Hungary. She made pottery for at least ten years. Other prolific S.E.G artists were Fannie Levine and Lili Shapiro.

When Gurrier, Brown, and Storrow came to the North End, they did not set out to create the Paul Revere Pottery business. Instead, they were humanitarians and compassionate people who sought to improve young immigrants’ lives. The collaboration between these many different women is a body of artistic work that is treasured by both collectors and historians.

Lyn Burke has been writing and editing for over 15 years, and she particularly enjoys creating history and science content. When she’s not writing, she spends time antiquing with her family and walking her two dogs. Lyn is also a hobbyist wool processor who spins wool from her own pampered angora rabbits. 

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