The Tunnel Kiln. Possibly the most important and revolutionary technological development in the ceramics industry during the early twentieth century. Technology that enabled mass-production not only in the ceramics industry, but also revolutionized the metal enameling industry as well as the steel industry.
Conrad Dressler in America
The American Experience – A Potter turns Entrepreneur
Published - Decorative Art Society Journal. Vol. 18. © Robert Prescott-Walker.
The introduction of the tunnel kiln, initially to the ceramics industry and subsequently to other businesses such as enamelling, steel and the car industry is of immense importance. John Adams, a former director of Carter’s architectural and tile company, a highly regarded authority and expert on the history of the ceramics industry, writing for the trade journal ‘The Pottery Gazette’, introduced one of his many articles with the following words.
“The ceramic litho process is said to have been introduced into England about 1890 by P. Rataud of Limoges. If the use of lithography [for decorative purposes] before 1900 was a portent of things to come, the invention of Dressler's tunnel kiln some years later was a sign of revolution so far as production was concerned. No single invention in the history of potting, except the introduction of steampower and the factory system in the 18th century has brought about such changes of factory planning and output.” (1)
Despite this however, Conrad Dressler was trapped in Brussels at the outbreak of War, and contemplating the end of his tunnel kiln business after only a few faltering steps of life. In 1914 he wrote from Earl’s Court. London. “This war has ruined all my prospects – there is now a real danger that I may lose the fruit of seven years or more of effort. My company is now penniless – all our orders were German, Russian, French and Belgian. Of course, no money is coming in from there and there is a danger of winding up which is bleak ruin. I am bracing myself for fresh efforts.” (2)
He made then a bold decision to turn to America, which although forced upon him by circumstance, was, as it turned out, very fortuitous. The significance and importance of engineers was becoming widely acknowledged by American businesses, along with a growing recognition of the need for and advantages of standardisation within industry. The benefits of mass-production to reduce unit costs were already apparent with the likes of Henry Ford & associates who established the Ford Company and had by 1913 developed the first moving assembly line. (3)
Accordingly, 1916 Dressler, overcome with joy as much as relief, was able to write. “At last the terrible suspense in which I have been so long is lifted – Mr. Kupfer has come over and completed the purchase of the American rights. The threats of my charming chairman and amicable board [of the English Dressler Tunnel Ovens company] to crush and fling me to the waste heap are now empty wind. The power to injure has been taken from them – they still have the appearance and the buzz of hornets, but their sting has been removed. Dear boy, what a relief. The thing was consummated on Friday.” (4)
It is Dressler’s work and experience in America that this article will explore. It is thanks to a wonderful frank correspondence between Conrad Dressler and his lifelong friend Reginald Hallward, (5) from about 1888 and continuing until Dressler’s death in 1940, (Hallward living for another eight years) that we are able to gain a better picture of the thoughts, events and circumstances of Dressler’s life. The correspondence, along with a wide range of works by Dressler, from numerous plaster studies and sketches, small marble heads and bronze works, through to some of his major works, is held at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. (6) I have chosen to extract from his often lengthy correspondence during the years he was in America, passages and quotes that say something of his business, his views of society and of his personal life. I could just as easily have concentrated purely on Dressler’s tunnel kiln business and the importance of the technical aspects that relate to the various industries that benefited. To have dwelt solely on the social aspects, the people he met, the places he visited and his recollections would also not have told a true story. It is the aim of this article to introduce the reader to Dressler, via these little known and unpublished letters, and to use them to illustrate in the first person, some of the aspects of the life of this late nineteenth century decorative artist, and early twentieth century industrial entrepreneur.
Born in Streatham on 22 July 1856, Conrad Gustave d’huc Dressler became head of his family at an early age. He lived with his mother and three sisters in Cedar House, Glebe Place, Chelsea, his father having apparently died young and his stepfather not part of the family in England. (7) Trained as a sculptor at the RCA under Lantéri and Boehm, Dressler initially gained something of a reputation for his very expressive portrait busts (8) and received many commissions, including, much later, from the Royal Family. Dressler, never one of the inner fraternity, struggled for many years and was often overlooked for positions and commissions which seemingly always went to the chosen few. He later effectively ended any chance he had of ever exhibiting or selling his work through galleries over his handling of what was initially a rejected work from a Royal Academy show of 1907, which was re-instated by a Command of the King. (9)
Dressler was a strong disciple and advocate of [[Media:William Morris]] and the principles of the British Arts and Crafts movement. As author of “The Curse of Machinery”, (10) he wrote an acclaimed and often recited and publicised paper condemning man and his machines. How Dressler came to develop such a revolutionary machine as the continuous firing tunnel oven, the very antithesis of all he had for long held dear, is a long and involved story.
Following his reverses in the field of bronze and marble sculpture, Dressler turned his attention to decorative ceramic sculpture, producing and exhibiting in 1893 several architectural plaques utilising the highly coloured Italian ‘Della Robbia’ style which was growing in popularity at the time. (11) These plaques led to him being asked to help establish the Della Robbia Pottery, Birkenhead, with the owner Harold S. Rathbone, and fellow sculptor and acquaintance, Carlo G.V. Manzoni, (12) who was also in need of a fresh start away from London for personal reasons. However, the clash of three artistic minds proved to be too much and Dressler fled to Marlow Common, with his wife Nita and son Philip, where in 1897 he established the Medmenham Pottery (13) under he patronage of R. W. Hudson of Hudson’s Soaps. While Dressler had some successful commissions for his ‘Della Robbia’-inspired architectural works, one of the finest being the Sunlight Cambers, Dublin; he found his sculptural work rewarding only in the sense of accomplishment, as financially it was a disaster. Finding it increasingly difficult to run the Medmenham Pottery at any level of profitability, and with all sculptural doors now finally closed to him, Dressler found himself forced into the commercial world of white tile production, which in turn led him to develop what became one of the most significant and revolutionary firing processes, the continuous firing car tunnel kiln. (14)
(June 1903. Marlow. England.) “My complaint – like all complaints, a miserable sign of weakness, which is alas my greatest trouble, arises from the fact, that the long pursuit of success in a direction which is necessarily outside my art, since my art cannot keep me, and wife and child. That this long effort has exhausted me – there was however, nothing else for me to do. I know for certain – my revived experience in Victoria Street (15) was a finial and chilling proof of it – that I could not make a living at sculpture. I determined to utilize a certain gift for invention – actual inventing is however not the trouble – it is the fight to see that the commercial side does not pull the blanket over to itself and not the inventor – that is exhausting – it is also the fact that I was tackling a very large problem, for which I had not been probably equipped that made the work difficult and exhausting. So you see I am reasonable and can see where my real enemies are. They are, like yours, in the times – these times are mechanical – the judgement of people has been warped.” (16)
In 1908 Dressler established the Northolt Tile Works Co, Hayes, Middlesex as a new venture (17) taking over from the Medmenham Tile business, to manufacture white tiles on a more commercial basis using a particular recipe that he had developed which had an appealing warm white effect, but more importantly a glaze recipe that could be produced repeatedly with a high consistency of colour and uniformity.
Purely by chance Dressler met a certain Achille Parvilée through the tile business. (18) It is quite likely that Parvilée, an engineer in Paris, was aware of the Faugeron tunnel kiln which was the first workable kiln of its type but without the addition of cars that travelled through the firing zones in the tunnel kiln. (19) It seems that Parvilée had an idea for an improved tunnel kiln but it was Dressler who set about putting his idea to practical use, with Parvilée becoming a shareholder in Dressler’s tunnel oven company.
(March 1907. Marlow. England.) “So I am now a business man – I am helping Parvilée to do business in England with his ovens, in exchange for which he is to give me a share of profits – then there is the Tile business. Altogether nothing has come out of all this yet – but I feel sure that some thing will soon – for business is delightfully simple and everybody understands money. The difference between a work of beauty and a daub is difficult to detect – but not so between a profit and a loss. I am out of all this now – Academy closed to me – New Gallery become proprietary – International ditto – all together the avenues are all closed to me – can you be surprised that I am now striding in another direction?” (20)
Dressler’s frustration with the authorities in Stoke-on-Trent, highlighted in several letters, was the complete antithesis of the reaction he was to receive in America. The pottery owners of Stoke-on-Trent, through the Pottery Manufacturers’ Federation, apparently not wanting to give credence to an ‘outsider,’ (21) tried their utmost to circumvent Dressler’s patents (22) for his tunnel oven, throwing up barriers at every opportunity and citing various faults, such as the considerable initial capital outlay and the rebuilding required because of its length, without citing the positives of cutting fuel costs, order times, costs per unit produced, reduced wastage and wages, and so on.
(January 1913. Marlow. England.) “My work in connection with the ovens is a miserable business. I am a mere slave, I have accepted the labour, for the sake of the pence, and I must go through with it. There is one side that I enjoy – i.e. the inventive side, of getting over physical difficulties by the exercise of ingenuity. But the opposition, which I meet from everyone save only Dr. Markel, (23) makes it a labour of sorrow and weariness. Why people insist on making my task as irksome and thorny as possible, I cannot conceive. They seem determined to kill me with cares. The extraordinary thing is that the oven is a stupendous success, the people who are using it are making a fortune by it, (24) you would think that all the potteries would rush in and have ovens of the same kind but that is not so. They are so cunning and wily that they are considering how they can get the advantage without paying for them (25) – so I am all among this sordid money greed, saddened and miserable and getting no further, the butt of every man, my own shareholders and the public. The most venomous people are the experts, these not being able to say that the thing is anything other than a success, prophesy an early failure – meanwhile the oven has been running continuously for 6 months and has turned out 2,000,000 tiles (two Million) not one of which was spoilt. Goodbye old chap. Pity your friend. Go to the dinner and have a merry time with Guthrie, (26) who is an excellent companion. Yours ever. Conrad Dressler.” (27)
It took until 1921 for Dressler’s kiln to gain any type of ‘official’ recognition or acceptance in the Potteries, as noted in this quote from a special report commissioned by the British Pottery Manufacturers’ Federation; “The majority of your Committee are of the opinion that no Kiln has yet been constructed that will treat with the usual type of Glost Firing in a more efficient or a more economical manner than this oven, [the Dressler Kiln] and we consider that the work of this committee will have been justified if it results solely in the benefits of this oven being no longer ignored by Manufacturers in general owing to a few accountable mishaps.” Further “that co-operation between your Committee and the Dressler Company would result in modifications in design that would further improve the efficiency of the oven…” (28) At least, the Federation were now starting to stamp their authority over a few unruly manufacturers.
From 1911 Dressler lectured to various professional ceramic bodies and had papers published, presenting his new kiln. He built several kilns each tailored to suit the demands of the company and their type of ware (29) and met with industry committees. When Dressler was in America it was left to others to take up the cause. Under a section entitled – ‘Advantages of Tunnel Oven Firing.’ Mr A.J. Fraser, a director of the Dressler Tunnel Ovens, Ltd., (30) said “that the first Dressler oven was installed in 1912 by Messrs J.H. Barratt and Co ltd., Stoke, whose percentage of best goods was not less than 98%; they having had no seconds for sale since its installation. It had given complete satisfaction, having been closed only twelve times during a working of 14½ years for very minor and inexpensive repairs to combustion chambers. Annual repairing costs averaged £110 against £1,000 - £1,200 yearly if they had continued firing in the muffle kilns. Their fuel saving was approximately 3,000 tons per annum. The Dressler worked continuously, and the longest continuous run achieved by that firm was 2 ½ years without a single hour’s stoppage. One of their ovens in America had worked four years without stopping. The technical director of Messrs. Barratt’s said in his hearing once; “if I had to go back to the old methods of firing tiles I should be inclined to give up potting. It would be like going back to tallow candles after having once got used to electric light.”” (31)
In February 1915 Dressler was still despairing of his situation, although hopeful of some potential prospects. “I must fight on with the oven as my only weapon. But I am again more hopeful, I have one or two prospects that will be settled this week, the one is for a porcelain oven for a firm of electric insulators, people who are very busy and prosperous because of the war – if this comes off I shall be saved once more – the usual miracle in which I believe as much as you do.” (32)
Only six months later after perhaps his second visit to America, Dressler was able to locate a highly skilled and sympathetic agent, Mr. Kupher, to act on behalf of the English Dressler Tunnel Ovens Company to establish a business in America. Everything began to change. Judging by his letters he seems almost overawed by the efficiency and scale of the establishment of the American side of the business.
(August 1915. New York. America.) “My dear Hallward. I am writing to you from Newcastle, 500 miles from New York. (33) The finishing touches are being given to the tunnel oven, which is being built here. My fortunes entirely depend upon its success. This splendid letter paper, our first offices in New York with three typewriters, half a dozen clerks and managers of departments – a cashier, with a big safe, a boardroom and a telephone switchboard with a dozen separate connections – all these things will vanish into thin air like an unsubstantial dream if the oven fails to do the wonderful thing which everybody has said it would do.” “…. A numerous and brilliant company have been convened to witness my triumph or discomfiture – fifty capitalists, mostly millionaires and some kings of the democratic sort (steel, tile and pork) will be present, to shake hands or deliver kicks to your old friend. In what condition shall I return to Europe – pity my suspense it is worse than the worst of known fates.” (34)
More than anything, Dressler seemed highly impressed by the manner and capabilities Mr. Kupfer, his new manager and his ability to get things done. Dressler was also no doubt somewhat bewildered, standing in the midst of all the flurry of activity and organisation and possibly having minimal input, other than on the technical side.
(March 1916. Newcastle. America.) “I have now been here about a fortnight and I hope that the work done in this time is going to put us straight. Philip and I have been working pretty hard and as a consequence the results are beginning to show themselves. We hope to light up again in a fortnight. Very much depends upon this firing – I may say that if all goes as it should, we will be entirely out of the woods, whereas in the contrary case, we shall still be floundering and possibly America will become impossible. So you can imagine that we are leaving no stone unturned. There is an atmosphere of strenuous work here, which is not unpleasant, once you get accustomed to it. Mr. Kupfer is a fine fellow. In fact, he is the ideal, in my mind of what a businessman should be. He takes a very broad view of a situation – reckons chances and risks, with an eagle glance, takes decisions promptly and decisively, courageously takes the consequences, never reprises when losses occur, deals justly with men even in adversity (this business is going through terrible financial trouble), has a merry twinkle in his eye and a ready smile of good will all the time. Insists on knowing the worst, gives his lieutenants his complete trust and gains their devotion in an extraordinary degree – handles money lightly, as lightly as an artist, yet never losing sight of its value or his responsibility and above all keeps a clear head and a cool judgement. A businessman of this type if a hero and Kupfer is a hero. Both Phil and I look on with wonder and admiration as he deals successively with men, money and material difficulties. It is a new experience. It makes me see that there is a romance of business here that does not exist in England. There adventure has got killed and is replaced by sordid cares and motives. It is only a very strong man that can be so adventurous.” (35)
The war allowed American businesses to carry on and develop while Europe was engrossed in war. “Harrop and Dressler in America continued the work of development and American tunnel kiln practice reached a high stage of development being now a standard process for all except the very cheapest goods. We (in Britain) have not yet reached a similar stage of development in this country but no doubt we shall, and all our white ware will eventually be fired in tunnel kilns.”(36) It is worth pointing out that in the above quote, Mr. L. Bullin, technical director of Richards Tiles Ltd, one of the largest firms in the tile business in Britain, was referring to the first world war, yet when expressing his views of his current time was talking about 1950.
The difference in attitude towards business in Britain and America is apparent in many letters. Much, however, was riding on the construction of the first kilns in America and it was in the hard work and experience of Dressler and his son Philip in directing the building of the kilns that the fate of the company rested.
(May 1916. U.S.M.S. ‘Philadelphia.’) “I am otherwise coming back [to Britain] full of hope – The rather disastrous state of affairs in America has been remedied – the Newcastle oven is now working well – another oven at Zanesville Ohio (37) is a great success. My friend Kupfer remains staunch. I also now know him better than before – his strength and his weaknesses – have shown themselves over and over so that I have learnt to know him, as the Germans say…. …. But by means of a telescope I am able to follow his movements. Presently I find him venturing on grounds, which are familiar to me and find him less steady and sure footed than before. So that I am able to define his limits here and there until I may say that I have “learnt” to know him. He is coming to London in June for a week. He will of course be tremendously busy visiting the Potteries and attending meetings – but if I can manage it, I will arrange a meeting, for you will be very much interested in him. That week will be tensely important one and will affect all my future – for the American option will then be taken up or not. If it is taken up I think my fortunes will at once begin to mend – but if not I fear I shall once more be in the troubled waters in which I have somehow paddled all my life.” (38)
Dressler now had to make decisions about whether to move to America with his family, to sell his home, White Cottage, or not and what to do about Philip’s future, which would affect the English Tunnel Ovens business.(39) In the end Dressler moved his family to America and started to pack up his house in Marlow.
(August 1917. Marlow. England.) “But enough of all this. I am despondent today, I am writing in a half empty house – 24 cases in the big studio are gradually being filled with our belongings – books and papers have had to be sorted – some for America and some for London – it makes me feel as if I were two persons, so uncomfortable.” “For five more days I remain here in this muddle and then finally the goods go into a pantechnican in Maidenhead until ready to send to America – and we settle down in London.” (40)
With Philip ensconced at the American Tunnel Kiln business, Dressler’s role by 1920 was becoming one of support and advisor for Philip and Kupfer, attending important meetings or events. Dressler now had an annual stipend, which enabled him to live and to take up his sculpture once again.
(Undated. Probably late 1920. Cleveland. America.) “I am aiming at establishing myself here so firmly that the statues of Lincoln – the War Memorials – the public fountains, etc – will gravitate to me. Meanwhile, the editor of the local society paper, who is an Englishman – a Mr. Jervis, has taken me up and every week there is some article on art. I send you a cutting of an article on myself. How all this is preliminary to my hope of being able to make a little headway against industrialism and materialism, by means of art…. ….The women who wield such a tremendous power over here are a mixture. They have great qualities of work and energy, ambition and industry and efficiency, but they have the great defect of caring little or nothing for home or family life. Life has thus become more public than private – it is lived out of doors – there are few ties. The food is bad, miserably, because the women don’t care. The jazz band is to the front because there are no home counter attractions – all this is not very satisfactory – yet it may be a movement resulting in some good. I am trying to touch them with a sense of the need of beauty, not simply hit one in the eye, prettiness but deeper beauty. I think that some are open to this – they appreciate the best literature or say they do – I have been asked to lecture in a Lady’s school. Well, this letter has been too long. Philip is struggling along with the Tunnel Kilns – we have passed through a very bad period of Depression.” (41)
As was mentioned by Dressler in the above letter, business was not going as well as expected, not only due to competition from other kiln makers, but also to the state of American business in general. (42) Difficulties in business meant Dressler’s income had been cut off leaving him, as in Britain, struggling once again to make ends meet.
(September 1921. Cleveland. America.) “My dear Reggie. First let me tell you that I would not encourage you in the idea of sending over paintings. The duty here is very high indeed and pictures here don’t sell on merit – but on names…. …..I am in the midst of a fight myself - I have had a very serious crisis – the income I had from my ovens has been cut off, the business conditions and I have not been drawing anything for over a year – yet my rent of my apartment amounts to $360 per annum – yet I have to keep this up because that is the only way in which people judge me here. Besides this I have my studio rent and I have found my present studio so inadequate that I have been obliged to build one. How can all this be done without money? Well you know I am rather good in a crisis and I have every hope of turning the corner. I have had some work in connection with a large Tile Co (43) – Della Robbia ware – I have also sold a bust of Ruskin in bronze for $150. I am now going to make the bust of the bishop of Cleveland, the Rabbi and the Principal of the University – and hope that these will be bought by subscription – but this all means a lot of work….. In order to make myself known I am starting a large ideal statue of a Sower….. (44) Once my name is established I expect to do very well – but as no one can tell the difference between good, bad and indifferent it is entirely a question of establishing my name. I am in league with a lady writer on the press – she is what is called my press agent. Propaganda – you see is the only way here, she knows all the society of Cleveland and that is very helpful – it is through her that I sold my Ruskin – there is an art school and officials at the museum but as usual these are in opposition – officialdom always is. There is also a private gallery but I have not been able to do anything there, though they held an exhibition last November of my work. (45) I am now sending out an announcement that I have arrived! (the circus is in the City) opened a studio, (46) I am claiming to have studied among others under Rodin (whose name carries immense weight) the dear old gentleman once devoted 10 minutes to explain his methods to me! My plan is keep up my prices - I ask $1,000 for a bust – that alone inspires respect. I want $5,000 for a statue, of course I don’t get it yet but it at all events makes people think. ….Philip has a terrible burden on his back – we had 50 engineers at one time in the business but now we have barely a dozen so he has a lot of work and responsibility – He travels constantly – he was in Georgia 2,000 miles South 3 weeks ago – last week in New York. This week in Chicago, it is very wearing but he has so far stood up well against it.” (47)
Stress or depression again took its toll on Dressler and he found himself ordered to rest by his doctor. A visit to the Cumberland Mountains in Kentucky were prescribed probably by Dressler’s model-cum-secretary, Jacques, who took control.
(November 1921. Manchester County. America.) “Well I must tell you that I have a model, a splendid aesthetic fellow – half Indian half French Canadian… He helps in my studio and calls himself my secretary….
We walked two days South through Cincinnati and here we have been since Tuesday morning in a little Inn which they call a Hotel. The country is gloriously beautiful. It is the South. Traces of the old Southern life remain – old niggers were born slaves – all niggers are polite and well in hand, not as in the north – tobacco, sugar cane and indian corn grow on the slopes and in the valleys. There are no roads only were tracks which are like the beds of streams. The sky is deep blue, the sun glorious, the colouring of the woods in the fall so wonderful that you would gasp….
But that is not what I want to tell you – my secretary has taken me in hand – I have to rise at 6. and we take a brisk walk ‘til 7. Breakfast (my poor little Mary would not function but never mind) – then we ride everybody rides – we ride for miles. In the afternoon we fell trees – at first it made me feel sick so terribly hard was the work. I have now felled three trees in one morning – 12” in diameter. I hate it but I do it and wonder of wonders, instead of killing me I am getting my nerve back. We are out riding walking wading rivers or climbing mountains all day long. I even am made to race this cowboy on an untrained horse, with my heart in my mouth – on the local race course. Can you imagine such a life – I don’t think I rode since Elsenham days (48)– where I only had a tame horse. Well the cream of the situation is that Kentucky has the wildest population in the state. Every man carries a gun or rides a horse. There are many in the village who have killed men – we had dinner the day before yesterday with one Ulyses Lewis who showed us his pardon for a murder committed in 1903. He served 14 years. Now the extraordinary thing is that these people are the most loveable, simple, kindly and hospitable people in the world. They have whiskey stills in the mountains and the government does not dare to send excise officers after them because they all get shot and no one can be brought as a witness.” (49)
The stirring American country life having restored him to full health, Dressler continued with his sculpture, “I came here after finishing the model in clay of a statue, which I call “Flaming Muse” – and casting the mould. It was pretty hard work and I wanted to get a rest before casting it and finishing it in plaster – you know how nature helps me.” (50) He also continued in his letters with his acute observation of American life.
(February 1923. Cleveland. America.) “I have found a French bronze founder stranded in Cleveland. He is a fine workman, as good as any I have known but Cleveland, a city richer than Paris, has no use for him – so we are helping one another. Life here is hectic – people don’t live, they rush. Women are inconceivably stupid – they abandon their home life to go on committees – they drive their own motors from committee to committee and in these committees they order everything about – they organise, they interfere, they cry out, they Americanise, they lose sight of husband and children completely – they spend their husbands wealth on purposes by which they can swell themselves out with pride – finally they go mad and get divorced for incompatibility. It is independence of every one and interference in everybody else’s business pushed to folly. Goodbye old chap.” (51)
One theme that Dressler often alludes to during his time in America is his loneliness, both socially and artistically; he seems starved of any stimulation. The cultural differences between America and Europe were beginning to become unbearable for Dressler and his solution was that it was up to him to correct things. One of the many cultural differences Dressler could not come to terms with was the forthright and independent attitude of women. Women who had and wanted serious occupations, political careers and women of ambition were alien to him.
(Undated. About June 1923. Burton. America.) “I am in a place called Burton – among the providential things that happen to me is the discovery of just the nicest places that are available in a neighbourhood- it is pure accident. Burton is a charming village – it is the oldest in Ohio – and the highest in point of altitude. …. I am in the Burton Hotel – it might be Mrs. Markell cooking the dinners and making the beds, the hotel is only a wooden inn. On my table is a bible presented by the Bible Society – but I want to tell you about my health and try to reassure you and myself. One of my hellish puzzles during these nights – is: what am I doing here? I am not wanted - I have no affinity with these people – I am nothing to them and they are nothing to me. But Philip needs me – and Nita claims me? Am I their victim or their saviour? What a puzzle – I cannot see clear. I want to get away, I beat against the bars of the cage. I know that things are hardly or no better in Europe – if I went to France I would witness a noble nation being vulgarised and Americanised, in Italy I should be fleeced – that is nothing – but I should….. Perhaps after all, my job is here – perhaps the providential accident that sends me to the right places, sent me to Cleveland for a purpose. I am vice president of their Society of Sculptors – this society is a farce – perhaps it is my destiny to turn it into a society. But if that is your intention Providence you must give me the strength – no dyspeptic invalid can handle such a task. I know the work of the world has to be done by invalids but as a rule these invalids started as strong men. Well, I shall try – the opening meeting is this October…. Nita came on Sunday for the day and looked bonny – she gets on best when I am out of the way – I worry her.” (52)
Dressler still seems to be worried and ill at ease, unhappy with the path fate had laid out for him. He yearned to be surrounded by culture and art, to be in Paris, yet he was caught up with the American business machine. The irony was that it was in Cleveland in about 1922 that Dressler started to work on what was to be his final and perhaps greatest work ‘The Dead Bury Their Dead,’ which he referred to as ‘his big group’ and which was to become one of the sensations of the 1931 Paris exhibition. (53)
(November 1926. Paris.) “My dear Reggie. I was very glad to receive your letter. Did I owe you one! I thought it was you who were neglecting me! Well I was only sorry that you were now unable to come on to Paris. I am now at work on my big group. It is rather a formidable piece of work but as I know alas, the limits of my strength – my last illness plainly told me that – I am taking every precaution to succeed without succumbing (that is rich) – my subject, as you know is endless. …. The news from America is satisfactory in a sense but not altogether. I would gladly see Philip freer and more spread out. He is becoming too much a prisoner of the American point of view of success first. I am working at a scheme to give him interests in Europe, so that he may come over on his business, often enough, to broaden out his [outlook] of life. I don’t know whether I shall succeed. I don’t see any chance of going over to England just now. The rise of the Franc and my expenses on my big model are beginning to tell strongly on my resources and I have to be very economical.” (54)
(June 1928. Cleveland. America.) “An Italian lady, who had lived many years in America, having returned from Italy with a mandoline by playing which she made her living – hearing Americans boast of their happiness – Happy? Said she you don’t know what happiness is, for you take seriously neither life or death, neither honour or love – and that is true, for in no country is life so cheap and death so hideous and honour so rare and love so vulgar. Alas I don’t like this country and am already wishing myself back to Paris – However, I am glad I have come, for it has been at a crucial moment in Philips fortunes, where I believe any experience can be useful to him. Since the death of Mr. Kupfer, the management of the American company has been in poor hands and it becomes necessary for Phil to put up a fight or things will go to pieces. Fortunately he is on terms of great friendship with the only other man in the organization who has brains and experience – and these two are fighting shoulder to shoulder. They may have to go through a bad time, but my belief is that they will come out winners. They are fighting greed, stupidity and prejudice – a formidable triple alliance but in the end stern facts are bound to tell and these are on their side. The whole point is in selecting the right time to start the battle and I believe the moment is at hand. I am writing this in the offices of the Co. I am bored to extinction, a salesman has just been telling me about his experiences in the field. How far all this is now from anything that interests me – my little income sufficient for my needs, my little room of my studio, I want nothing more provided I am left alone and peace.” (55)
Dressler was now jaded by business, he wanted to retreat to his studio. Later in 1928 Nita died, having suffered from various illnesses for much of her life. (56) Dressler moved to France where he remarried in early 1930, and where he had a new life surrounded by poets and artists. His second wife, Hélène was an art critic and poet with whom he had two children. He died at St. Brevin L’Ocean in 1940, his life once again being disrupted by war. Yet Dressler had still been able to help his son Philip in America on some of his infrequent visits and the kiln business gradually became more and more International.
(December 1928. Paris.) “Philip is getting on very well. I was able to render him great service by making friends the new proprietor of the American Dressler Tunnel Kilns a man called Casey and making him see things in their real light. Thanks to these influences he has now obtained the position, which his industry and his intelligence and his courage entitle him to. He has been elected President of the A. D. T. K. – which at 35 years is a position of great power and influence. He is at the head of a large staff or engineers and clerks and virtually the head and advisor of all the various companies in the world where some 200 ovens already exist – these ovens aggregate 20 miles of railway. He is consulted by the British Company, the German, the French, the Japanese and the Australian. The ovens that he has built himself in the States are almost one half of those that exist and are used in 24 different industries from steel and iron to pottery and glass. He meets directly with the U.S. Steel Corporation, with Henry Ford – with Schwab of the Bethlehem works, with Harrison Walker of Pittsburgh who are the largest refractory people in the world, and meets these people on equal terms. So that if ambition was his aim it has been very amply satisfied.… I have taken a little apartment not far from my studio, it is not ready yet but I hope to move in, in about a month or 6 weeks….. I am not working on my group but on a praying figure for Nita’s tomb. I can honestly say that I am putting into this devotion and love. For death is so great and powerful that all little differences and little squabbles disappear and are lost in its beauty…. Ambition is not my aim. I have a tiny income, which belongs to me and makes me independent. I spend this the way I please. I also take on responsibilities but not beyond my power to meet them. I love to give reality to dreams. I have dreamed and this is not always very easy or wise.” (57)
Dressler, at one time overawed by the dynamism, fastidiousness and rush of American business, which carried his company and himself to unimagined success, had grown weary of the harshness and artificial attitude of what he saw as the Americans stance on life, the arts and materialism. He was now content to leave Philip at the head of the company he had started. Dressler, while obviously proud of his son’s achievements and abilities, was also concerned that Philip was being consumed by them. By 1928 most of the important early patents taken out by Dressler related to the tunnel kiln were due for renewal which inevitably led to changes. In the same year the English side of the business was taken over by Gibbons Brothers, Ltd, Dudley, “…. it is over 30 years since they were absorbed into the Dudley concern.” (58) Not long after this, in 1930, the American business was taken over by the Swindell Corporation, forming the Swindell-Dressler Corporation. There were then other transformations and mergers for the company but today the original form of the Swindell-Dressler Corporation has re-emerged and is a thriving business with a long history on which to reflect.
Dressler’s letters reveal a highly observant and descriptive narrator of life. His frankness with Hallward reveals much about his own often depressive state of mind and his misogynistic and self-centred attitudes. Whether by his art or use of invention, Dressler was determined to survive and prosper. It has been the aim of this article to introduce the reader to Dressler, via these little known and unpublished letters, and to use then to illustrate in the first person, some of the aspects of the life of this late nineteenth century decorative artist, and early twentieth century industrial entrepreneur.
Footnotes. 1. Pottery Gazette. December 1949. ‘Potters’ Parade. The seventh in a series of articles on recent ceramic history’. John Adams. p.33. Between 1910 and 1960, the trade journals of the pottery industry, The Pottery Gazette, The Pottery and Glass Trades Record, The Builder and various authoritive specialist journals such as The Ceramic Society Transactions, made up of the refractories and buildings side of the business, were advocating the use and benefits of the tunnel kiln, in one form or another.
2. Dressler Letters. W.A.G. 16 August 1914. 22 Trebovir Road, Earl’s Court, S.W. The Dressler Letters from Conrad Dressler to Reginald Hallward are far from complete and some years, especially early on, appear to missing. At times Dressler’s English is suspect and at other times my transcribing might be suspect, due to Dressler’s script. There are often letters without dates and some without a beginning, middle or end.
3. Sinclair. A. A Concise History of the United States. 1967. Revised 1999. Sutton Publishing. p.134. President Woodrow Wilson, amongst his many economic reforms, tried to regulate industry riding rough shod over its employees – “in 1913 alone there were 1,000,000 accidents and 25,000 deaths caused by machines.” Elementary safety regulations enabled American factories to reduce accidents, leading to “increased efficiency and profits led to a rise in wages and improved conditions of work… Better conditions became good business, and good business was the creed of the United States.”
4. Dressler Letters. Walker Art Gallery. 3 July 1916. Dressler Tunnel Ovens Ltd. Cremone Wharf. 22 Lots Road, Chelsea, London. S.W.
5. Reginald Hallward (1858-1948) was a painter, stained glass artist, illustrator, designer and author. He attended the Slade and the Royal College of Art, where he meet Dressler. He executed numerous War Memorials in France, Belgium, England, Canada and Bagdad. (Dressler Letters. W.A.G. 9 Dec 1939. “I cannot resist the desire to give the name of the artist who designed the plaque. He is an old friend of my husband, Reginald Hallward, painter and designer, author also of the noble frescoes and stained glass windows which decorate the chapel of the American cemetery at Beauvais.”) See also War Graves Commission. 2 Marlow Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire. SL6 7DX. Hallward had his own private press, The Woodland Press, through which he published works by himself and of his wife, Adelaide. He has been described as a “visionary” painter, and for a time influenced by the work and ideals of James Gutherie, with whom he carried on a lengthy correspondence from 1899 through to 1942, and his Pear Tree Press. His paintings, stained glass and works in gesso can still be found in a number of churches. ‘Reginald Hallward. 1858-1948.’ Christopher Wood Gallery. 15 Motcomb Street, London. Exhibition catalogue. 10th May-14th May, 1984.
6. Walker Art Gallery. Liverpool. – ‘Lupercalia.’ (Dressler Letters. W.A.G. 24 January 1913. 22 Trebovir Road, Earl’s Court, S.W. Telephone: 5199 Western. And: White Cottage, Marlow. Bucks. “I was glad to hear that you were once more afloat. My Liverpool sale has also eased my own finances. Don’t you remember my statue of Lupercalia? I had it at the New Gallery in plaster.”) The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, has the largest collection of works by Dressler along with an ever growing paper archive. The range of holdings are quite extensive with numerous early plaster and small marble studies, ceramic, terracotta busts, studies and full scale large bronze pieces. The Victoria & Albert Museum, London, also has several works by Dressler, one fascinating relatively recent acquisition being a painted terracotta portrait of Conrad Dressler’s wife, Nita. (Apollo. January 1996. ‘Acquisition in Focus.’ by Marjorie Trusted.) This piece can be seen in a contemporary photograph of the artist’s studio in the Medmenham pottery along with other works including the large garden sculpture of the four winds, the latter seen illustrated in the Medmenham Pottery Catalogue, c.1900, architectural supplement, p.8. (See illustrations.)
7. Census Returns. 1891. Chelsea. London. Mother - Philippine Henriette Suzanne d’Huc de Monsegou. b. 1831. d. 1927. (born – Marseille.) (died – G.B.) Sisters - Clotilde Dressler. b. 1862. d. 1957/8. London. (born – Streatham. Surrey.) Alice Dressler. (Mimi.) b. ? 1853. d. early March 1938. (born – Streatham. Surrey.) Ada Dressler. b. 1860. d. 1951/2. (born – Streatham. Surrey. Dressler’s father John Pierre Gustave(us) Dressler appears to have died early. Dressler mentions a stepfather of Oriental/Slavianion extraction in a letter. W.A.G. June 4th 1938.
8. Graves. A. ‘A Dictionary of Artists who have exhibited works in the principal London Exhibitions. 1760-1893.’ p.84. Graves. A. ‘Royal Academy Exhibitors 1769-1904.’ Volume 1. p.368.
9. Dressler Letters. W.A.G. 26 April 1907. “I have had a curious experience. The day before yesterday a messenger from the R.A. came down in a motor, with a request that I should at once give up the bust of the Queen of S. Not having it he asked for a letter to Halls’ – I wrote this and sealed it – but said in it – don’t give it up. If you prefer to keep it so the messenger went back disappointed. Then the secretaries’ head clerk went round himself to the New [Gallery]. However, they went for it that day. At last Eaton wrote a letter in which they unmasked their position. They had a command from the King – Lindsay sent me Eatons letter. By jove, I thought, I will make’m sit up now – so I put on my best clothes, went to the R.A. and asked if the council were sitting – Yes – could I see them - No – most impertinent underling. Very well, I said – I have come to see the council about giving the bust of the B. of S. but if they refuse to see me, as I have something particular to say – I will leave the bust where it is and where it is extremely well placed. This brought the underling to his senses – after a deal I was taken upstairs, in the secretaries sanctum. J W Eaton – who tried to bully me they are all bullies and uncivil dogs there, you cannot, said he, resist a command from the King –I have not had a command said I. It is you who have had one. You have had a chance of placing the bust and have sent it away, now you are in a dilemma and want to make a convenience of me. The bust is very well placed where it is – what I want is an assurance that it will be well placed in the A. [Academy]. To make a long story short, the great man assured me it would be well placed (not for the sake of the bust but for that of the King) Nerve! That is immaterial quite, I said, give me a piece of paper and I will write you an order. Which he did – now I said you can send for it. I never enjoyed myself so much in my life – of course they will all hate me the more than ever.”
10. The Liverpool Ruskin Society. ‘The Curse of Machinery.’ Conrad Dressler. 1896. As stated on the frontispiece “This paper was also read before the Quarto Club, London, 1891; before the Ancoats Brotherhoood, Manchester, 1894; at the Rotunda, Liverpool, 29th November, 1894; at the Birkenhead literary and Scientific Society, January, 1895; before the Liverpool Ruskin Society, 22nd April, 1895.” Dressler Letters. W.A.G. 34 Hamilton Sq. Birkenhead. 8 April 1894. “I had an interesting experience lately, I have been asked to read my paper on machinery at the New Islington Hall Manchester to a body of cotton spinners – I went down and created quite a disturbance – it was violently attacked and defended – I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
11. Walker Art Gallery Exhibition catalogue. Autumn. 1893. pp.77-9.
12. Giovanni Carlo Valentino Manzoni (1857 -1910) had a studio directly opposite the Dressler residence in Glebe Place, living nearby at 247 Kings Road.
13. DAS Journal. No.18. 1994. ‘Conrad Dressler and the Medmenham Pottery.’ Robert Prescott-Walker. pp.50-60.
14. Intermittent firing in bottle kilns was generally used as the traditional method of firing ceramic wares on a commercial basis until the mid nineteenth century. The landscape of the five towns of Stoke-on-Trent, the centre of pottery production in Britain, was outlined with brick-built bottle shaped kilns flanked by tall narrow chimneys for the exhaust gases. Each kiln had to be filled with wares, housed in large clay saggars (containers) of uniform size for stacking. Once the kiln was full the fire was started. It took days to reach the correct temperature and fire the ware and then several days to allow the kiln and contents to cool slowly before the ware could be taken out. This was the first firing of the raw basic biscuit ware. The ware would then be decorated and the whole process repeated again. Some wares, due to the complexity of decoration, might need more firings. The main problems of this method were the massive heat loss and cost in kiln firings, including labour, lost ware through irregular largely unpredictable temperature control and the time taken to complete the firing. The tunnel kiln with movable cars is today the most widely used type of kiln. The firing source is stationary while the ware moved through it. The kilns can vary enormously in length depending on the type of ware (utility earthenware to refractory bricks) and firing temperature required, with cars or trolleys some six foot long, stacked with ware. Each trolley is slowly pushed into and through the tunnel kiln using a mechanically driven push rod. The advantages are far better control of the heat with little loss and reuse of spent heat in pre-heating ware or heating adjacent buildings; firing time of wares reduced to eight days, (time taken for a kiln car to travel the length of the kiln); huge reduction in lost wares; reduced costs of wares with continuous production, reduced wage bills and heat costs.
15. The Studio. Vol.37. 1906. p.59. Dressler Letters. W.A.G. 10 August 1905. Marlow.
16. Dressler Letters. W.A.G. 21 June 1903. White Cottage. Marlow. Bucks.
17. Public Records Office. Kew. Companies Register and Titles. BT31 18335/96526. BT31 23559/146105. The Northolt Tile Works Ltd. Registered 20th Jan 1908. No of Certificate: 96526. “The Vendor (Dressler) is the inventor and patentee of certain special processes and the owner of certain secret recipes and methods of manufacturing white and other tiles and the enamel used for coating the same and whereas the Co to be called The Northolt Tile Works Ltd is about to be formed under the Companies Act 1862 to 1907 having for its objects among other things the acquisition and working of said patent and special processes, secret recipes and methods...... The sole and exclusive benefit of all special secret processes recipes and methods used by the vendor in connection with the manufacture of white and other tiles and bricks or in connection with the said enamel and Not included in any of the above mentioned patents excepting the so called Medmenham Tiles now being made under agreement with the vendor by Messrs Barratt & Co of Stoke on Trent..... The vendor shall deposit with the Directors of the Co a sealed packet containing full particulars of all the secret processes recipes and methods used by him in the manuf. of white and other tiles with such full and detailed instructions for the proper and efficient manuf. in accordance with such secret processes, recipes and methods of such. Thus as any intelligent person may or can understand and be able to carry out ... such particulars before being sealed up shall be examined by a person nominated by the Directors to see that they contain such instructions as aforesaid. After the packet has been sealed up it shall only be opened in the event of the death of the vendor or of his becoming mentally or physically incapable.... From time to time similar packets are to be deposited with the Directors on the same manner as before of any improvements....”
18. Public Records Office. Kew. Ibid. “Shares - Dressler, C. D'Huc. White Cottage. Sculptor. Prefered Ordinary. 1. Defered Ordinary. 9807….. Parvilée, Achille. 67 Rue d'Amsterdam, Paris. Engineer. Defered Ordinary. 100….. Summary of Shares & Capital of the Northolt Tile Works 23rd April 1908. Presented for filing by:- H. J. Rushton. Northolt Tile Works Ltd, Hayes End, Middlesex.” Dressler Letters. W.A.G. 30 July 1908. 3 Bramerton Street, Chelsea. S.W. “I don’t think there is any chance that I shall be able to join you in Wales. Parvilée is coming over next week for the tiles.”
19. The Faugeron tunnel kiln dating form 1900 was the “first workable tunnel kiln, solving some of the problems of heat distribution which is the main difficulty, especially in the preheating zone. That the tunnel car kiln did not develop more rapidly from then on was due to the difficulties experienced in making refractories which would withstand the high temperatures; difficulties in obtaining uniform preheating over the kiln load and difficulties in finding a satisfactory method of propelling the goods through the kiln.” Ceramics. January 1951. ‘Tunnel Kiln Costs.’ Bullin. L. p.585.
20. Dressler Letters. W.A.G. 18 March 1907. White Cottage, Marlow.
21. British Pottery Manufacturers’ Federation: Minutes of meetings. Vol 1. Oct 30th 1918 - Dec 31st 1920. 10th June 1919 meeting. p.260. Mr. J. H. Marlow elected onto the Oven, Kiln and Saggar Committee. Next he invited the committee to inspect his Tunnel kiln, which was arranged for the following day. Ibid. 10th September 1919 meeting. “Mr. Marlow explained the position of the action between himself and the Dressler Co., submitted copies of his specification and pointed out the differences between his Oven and that of the Dressler Co. Resolved – That Mr. Marlow make a proposition in writing for the consideration of this committee after he had finally settled the action with the Dressler Co.” Ibid. 28th July 1920. p.278. Mr. J.H. Marlow laid before the meeting a proposal for the taking over by the Federation of a controlling interest in the patent rights connected with his tunnel oven, and then retired form the meeting to enable the committee to discuss the matter. Resolved – That Mr. Marlow be informed that at the present time this committee cannot see its way to recommend the Federation to take proprietory rights in any type of oven or kiln.” Further evidence of Dressler banging his head against a brick wall can be seen in; Transactions English Ceramic Society. xi. ‘New Tunnel Oven.’ Ibid, xiv, ‘Development of the Dressler Tunnel Oven since 1911.’ Ibid, xvi, ‘The Dressler Tunnel Oven and its Application to the Heat Treatment of Steel.’ p.175.
22. Patents Office Library. Southampton Buildings. Dressler started taking out patents in 1884, initially for cans, pocket books, and gate fastenings. The first tile-related patent, to create the “smooth finish of glaze on tiles in more efficient manner than previously obtained …” was taken out on 20th October 1902. Patent No: 22,840. The important kiln related patents were taken out in 1910, with improvements and additions over the next few years. Foreign patents were also taken out from 1912.
23. Public Records Office. Kew. Ibid. Dr. Markel was a chemistry consultant to the Northholt Tile Co. He was also a shareholder.
24. The Pottery and Glass Record. ‘Safeguarding of China.’ March 1927. p.80.
25. British Pottery Manufacturers’ Federation: Minutes of meetings. Ibid.
26. National Library of Scotland. James Guthrie Letters. Acc. 8833. Corresponded with Reginald Hallward and later his daughter, Patty, between 1899-1950.
27. Conrad Dressler Letter. W.A.G. 24 January 1913. 22 Trebovir Road, Earl’s Court, S.W. And: White Cottage. Marlow, Bucks.
28. British Pottery Manufacturers’ Federation. Minutes of meetings. Vol II. 1921–24. 13th April 1921. pp.291-8. Special report. p.293.
29. The Pottery and Glass Record. ‘Safeguarding of China.’ March 1927. p.80. Some of the firms using Dressler kilns in the first few years were – Wood and Sons, Burslem, Ridgways, Ltd., Stoke, Sampson Bridgewood and Son, Longton; and one firm Messrs. S. Fielding and Co Ltd, Stoke, for decorated ware. Messrs. Bridgewood’s were the first to use it for bone china. Pearson & Co (Chesterfield) had a kiln installed, 1913 and another two years later. “In 1913 the first Dressler continuous gas-fired tunnel kiln had been installed at the White Works, Hamworthy, for firing white and cream-glazed tiles. Carter & Co were the second tile works in England to install a Dressler kiln….” Hawkins. J. The Poole Potteries. 1980. Barrie & Jenkins. Chapter 3. p.45. and p.146. A second kiln was built in 1927 and a third in 1937.
30. Public Records Office. Kew. Ibid.
31. The Pottery and Glass Record. ‘Safeguarding of China.” Ibid.
32. Dressler Letters. W.A.G. 16 Feb 1915.
33. The Ceramic Society Transactions. Vol. 28. Session 1928-29. The American Tour p. li-lii. “A portion of the party proceeded to the Shenago Pottery Company at New Castle. Next the plant of the Universal Sanitary Manufacturing Company was visited. This factory is of more than usual interest because of its contributions to the progress of manufacture of vitreous china sanitary ware. The Company were pioneers in the United States of casting, tunnel-firing and humidity-drying for sanitary ware. In 1915 the first Dressier tunnel kiln built in the United States was built at this works. This original kiln was seen, also the newest type of Dressier tunnel kiln which was built in 1927.” This exhaustively lengthy yet fascinating account (over 100 pages in length) of the Refractorary Materials and Building Materials Ceramic Society trip to America, includes numerous references to tunnel kilns, many of them of Dressler’s design.
34. Dressler Letters. W.A.G. 14 Aug, 1915. (Printed letterhead). Walter S. Kupfer, Pres. Charles J. Kirk, Treas. American Dressler Tunnel Kilns, Inc. 171 Madison Ave. New York. Cable Address – “Tunnelkilns”.
35. Dressler Letters. W.A.G. 6 March 1916. Newcastle. PA. C/o Universal Sanitary Manuf.
36. Ceramics. January 1951. ‘Tunnel Kiln Costs.’ Bullin. L. Technical Director, Richards Tiles Ltd. p.585. A summary of a lecture given at the Imperial College of Science and Technology, 28 September. 1950.
37. The Ceramic Society Transactions. Vol. 28. Session 1928-29. The American Tour. p.lxvii. “The next morning the first call was at the American Encaustic Tiling Company’s Zanesville Plant which was established in 1893.” “They also had the first Harrop kiln the year it was built, and the first Dressler in America.”
38. Dressler Letters. W.A.G. 26 May 1916. (Flag logo). U.S.M.S. “Philadelphia.”
39. Public Records Office, Kew. “Another change of situation etc, etc, to:- Cremorne Wharf, 27 Lots Road, Chelsea, London. 25th April 1913.”
40. Dressler Letters. W.A.G. 25 Aug 1917. Marlow.
41. Dressler Letters. W.A.G. Undated. Probably early in 1920.
42. Sinclair. A. A Concise History of the United States. 1967. Revised 1999. Sutton Publishing. p.150. “Automobiles had become the leading American industry by the end of the decade; they employed 4,000,000 men directly and indirectly. Electrical appliances, chemicals, radios, aeroplanes, the cinema, advertising, and the building trades also boomed as businesses, while only the old fashioned industries such as shipping and textiles and coal/mining fell back. Yet despite the falling incomes of the farmers and workers in declining industries, real wages in America continued their usual rise since the beginning of the century, until the average income of an American in 1929 was $681 a year. El Dorado seemed to have become democratic; the average American was by far the richest everyman in any nation. Wealth, Bacon once pointed out, like muck should be well spread. Unfortunately, the vast riches of America in the 1920s were not. Too much of America's earnings was going into the hands of the few for speculation on the stock market, too little into the hands of the many to buy the goods America was producing. The average industrial share rose two/thirds in value between 1923 and 1927, then increased threefold in value by 1929. The stock market discounted not only the present and the hereafter, but also eternity, for company earnings could never keep pace with the catastrophic annual rise in share prices. A loss of confidence would cause a panic.”
43. Pottery Gazette. April. 1923. ‘Tiles Historic Modern’. F. A. Rhead. pp.437-9. “The American Encaustic Tiling Company ltd, also a Zanesville firm… The company has a fine staff of modellers and designers, amongst whom are Leon Solon, the oldest representative of a famous family of ceramicists; Conrad Dressler, the well known sculptor, F. H. Rhead, the technical director of the firm and the talented modeller, R.W. Bock. A fine wall panel of a praying Angel, by Dressler deserves particular notice. It has much of the simple and direct feeling of both Donatello and Della Robbia. Mr. Dressler has also executed some remarkable statuary vases for gardens, conservatories, for the firm, who by the way, also make chemical porcelain.” This ‘Praying Angel’ panel is, in fact, an old design of Dresslers’ and can be seen illustrated in the Medmenham Pottery catalogue. c.1900. Architectural Section. p.7, as well as illustrated in ‘The Studio’, Volume 37. 1906. p.54.
44. Cleveland Museum of Art. Ingalls Library. May Show database 1919-93. Conrad Dressler exhibited some twenty-five works in the annual exhibition of work by Cleveland artists and craftsmen, held during the month of May between 1921 and 1926. Amongst the numerous busts, medallions and masks of local dignitaries, are: La France Victorieuse (1921) second prize; The Sower (1922); The Dead Bury their Dead (1923); Children Playing Instruments (1923); Flaming June (1924); Grief (1924); Fountain (1926) and Age of Steel (1926).
45. Dressler clippings file. The Cleveland Museum of Art. Exhibition pamphlet. November 15 – December 4. 1920. The Gage Gallery. 2258 Euclid Avenue. Cleveland. 42 pieces exhibited, including portrait busts, medals and medallions, faience, ideal works or studies and plaques carved in gypsum.
46. Ibid. Brochure. 10915 Cedar Avenue. Cleveland. Ohio. October 1921.
47. Dressler Letters. W.A.G. 21 Sept 1921. 1537 E. Boulevard, Cleveland, OH.
48. Elsenham, referred to in several of Dressler’s letters, was a frequent haunt of Dressler and Hallward, Mrs. Markell’s Inn being used as a base for long walks in the country.
49. WAG (November 1921), Manchester County. America.
50. Dressler Letter. W.A.G. Undated. Probably 1923. From Burton Hotel, Burton, Ohio. The ‘Flaming Muse’ was exhibited in the annual May Show, Cleveland Museum of Art. 1924. Ibid. Ingalls Library. Dressler clippings file. The Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland Topics. 6th October 1923. Illustration of this work.
51. Dressler Letters. W.A.G. 9 Feb 1923. 1543 East Boulevard. Cleveland.
52. Dressler Letters. W.A.G. Undated. About June 1923. Burton. America.
53. Cleveland Town Tidings. 1st August 1931. Cleveland Museum of Art. Clipping file. “It was the misfortune of Cleveland not to be able to keep Conrad Dressler as a permanent resident, but the force of circumstances took him back to Paris, where he built himself a studio in a court leading from the rue d’Alleray and there he set to work on the development of a great and intrepid idea which has perpetuated itself inn the magnificent marble group, “The Dead Burying their Dead,” which is proving one of the sensations of the 1931 Paris Salon.” This is one of several reviews of the 1931 Paris Salon all of which illustrate the group as well as mentioning an accompanying poem by Madame Hélène Dressler.
54. Dressler Letters. W.A.G. 5 Nov 1926.
55. Dressler Letters. W.A.G. 28 June 1928. 1740 East 10th Street. Cleveland. Ohio
56. Knollwood Cemetery. 1678. S.O.M. Center Road, Mayfield Heights, Ohio. The Nita Dressler Monument. Bronze seated female figure her head covered in a hood. Foundry mark, Meron and Radice, Paris, France. Inscription: Nita Dressler. “Her Restless Spirit, Her Yearning Heart, Are Now Gone Home. September 14th 1928.”
57. Dressler Letters. W.A.G. 7 December 1928. Paris. Unfortunately, it was in this letter that Conrad was rather too open to his friend and confidant concerning his true feelings with regard to his wife Nita. As a consequence the communication between them stopped for several years.
58. Pottery Gazette and Glass Trades Review. July 1958. p.872. “A booklet just published by Gibbons Brothers, Ltd., Dudley, reminds the users of tunnel kilns that it is now 50 years since the firm’s predecessors, the Dressler Tunnel Oven Co., Ltd., started to build kilns for the ceramic industry…. It is over 30 years since they were absorbed into the Dudley concern.”