Overbeck Sisters

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The Overbeck Sisters were four women potters and artists of the Arts and Crafts Movement who worked in Cambridge City, Indiana, from 1911 until 1955.

The four sisters who became involved in pottery making were Margaret (July 3, 1863 – August 13, 1911), Hannah Borger (March 14, 1870 – August 28, 1931), Elizabeth Gray (October 21, 1875 – December 1, 1936), and Mary Frances (January 28, 1878 – March 20, 1955). Their eldest sister, Ida Alice (born September 22, 1861), was the only one to marry. She established a photography studio in Cambridge City around 1980, and married Martin Funk in 1893. Harriet Jane (born January 17, 1872) trained as a musician and became a housekeeper for her sisters. Their youngest sibling and only brother, Charles (February 1, 1881 – 1913), was a graduate of Purdue University and became an engineer.[1] The family spelled their name "Overpeck" until 1911.

Their parents, John Arehart Overpeck (1828–1904) and Sarah Ann (Borger) Overpeck (1840–1906), moved to Jackson Township, Wayne County, Indiana, in 1868 from Overpeck, Butler County, Ohio. In 1883 the family relocated to a home on the east side of present-day Cambridge City. John Overpeck, a farmer and cabinetmaker, was of German ancestry; Sarah Ann Overpeck, a homemaker, was of Austrian and German ancestry.[2] The Overpeck children grew up in Cambridge City, Indiana, where they attended local elementary school and high school. At home the family was involved in creative arts, such as music, woodworking, textile arts, painting, and eventually ceramics.[3]

The sisters were known initially for their Arts and Crafts-style pottery, watercolors and distinctive matte pottery glazes. Margaret and Mary Frances studied with the influential designer Arthur Wesley Dow. In later years, the sisters produced pieces of more modern styles with shiny glazes and small grotesque figural pieces of people and animals. A number of Overbeck oil paintings, mostly of birds, are also known to exist. A number of their early designs were published in Keramic Studio, a china-painting magazine.

Overbeck pottery is widely collected and the Indianapolis Museum of Art mounted an exhibition of Overbeck work in 2007. Significant collections of Overbeck work is found at the Richmond Art Museum and in the Cambridge City Public Library, whose core collection was a gift of Overbeck scholar Kathleen Postle. The Midwest Museum of Art in Elkhart, Indiana has a room devoted to Overbeck pottery. In addition, outstanding pieces are found in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and other museums and private collections. A collection of Overbeck pottery was featured on the 2006 episode of the Antiques Roadshow from Houston, Texas.


  1. ^ Postle, pp. 13–14, 22, 25.
  2. ^ Kathleen R. Postle (1978). The Chronicle of the Overbeck Pottery. Indianapolis, Indiana: Indiana Historical Society. pp. 13, 16.  Reprinted in 1998, Western Wayne Heritage, Inc., Cambridge City, Indiana.
  3. ^ Postle, p. 16.


  • Bowman, Leslie Greene. (1990) American Arts and Crafts-Virtue in Design: A Catalogue of the Palevsky Collection and Related Works in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Boston: Bullfinch Press/Little, Brown and Company.
  • Postle, Kathleen R. (1978). The Chronicle of the Overbeck Pottery. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society.  Reprinted in 1998, Western Wayne Heritage, Inc., Cambridge City, Indiana.
  • Newton, Judith Vale and Carol Ann Weiss. (2004) Skirting the Issue: Stories of Indiana's Historical Women Artists. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society Press. ISBN 0-87195-177-0

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