East Liverpool, Ohio

From Ohio History Central
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Originally named St. Clair after the township in which it was located, the community of East Liverpool was founded by Thomas Fawcett circa 1799. In its early years, it was commonly called Fawcettstown after its founder. The town changed its name to East Liverpool in 1830, when a post office was established for the first time, and then was officially incorporated in 1834. East Liverpool is located in Columbiana County.

East Liverpool's location along the Ohio River contributed to its growth over time, as did its local clay. Probably its most significant industry in the nineteenth century was pottery, originally made from nearby yellow clay. English immigrant James Bennett became the community's first successful pottery manufacturer in 1840, but it was not until the late 1800s that the town's reputation really emerged. Pottery manufacturing was a difficult operation originally. The entire product was constructed by hand, using primarily a potter's wheel. Once the potter completed a sufficient supply of pottery to sell, he would travel along the Ohio River or through the countryside selling or bartering his product to all interested parties. Due to an insufficient amount of currency during the early 1800s, most business transactions utilized the barter system. The potter would trade his wares for any items that he thought that he could sell to the townspeople in his home community. By the 1880s, East Liverpool claimed to have the largest pottery manufacturing facility in the world, Knowles, Taylor & Knowles Pottery. Ironically, by the late nineteenth century, the clay used in East Liverpool's pottery was brought in from other states, as white clay pottery had become more popular than the original yellow ware. Nevertheless, due to the large number of pottery establishments, East Liverpool became known as "Crockery City." During the early twentieth century, the Homer Laughlin China Company was the largest pottery manufacturer in the world. In 2003, pottery production remained as one of the most important industries in this community.

During the twentieth century, new businesses emerged in East Liverpool. Among the more important ones was National Drawn Steel. Prior to World War II, Crucible Steel purchased National Drawn Steel. East Liverpool proved to be an excellent site for a steel company due to the abundance of iron ore and coal in eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. During World War II, Crucible Steel made bullet casings for the United States military. In the first half of the twentieth century, numerous breweries existed in East Liverpool as well. Prohibition severely damaged these businesses, but many of them survived by switching from alcohol to soft drink production.

Perhaps the most famous resident of East Liverpool was gangster Pretty Boy Floyd. Beginning in the mid 1920s, Floyd worked for bootleggers in eastern Ohio. He based himself out of East Liverpool. During the late 1920s and early 1930s Floyd made a name for himself as a bank robber in Ohio. He also was affiliated with the mob, and he gunned down several law enforcement officials during his criminal escapades. At the height of his career, Floyd was the most sought after criminal in the United States, and the federal government offered a twenty-three thousand dollar reward for his capture. Floyd was shot and killed by East Liverpool police on October 22, 1934, after having robbed a bank three days before near Wellsville. Local police turned Floyd's body over to the Sturgis Funeral Home in East Liverpool. More than ten thousand people came to view the body in the three hours that it was on display. The funeral home returned Floyd's body to his mother, who lived in Oklahoma.

In 2000, East Liverpool remained a predominantly industrial community that still remained true to the pottery that made the town famous across the world. More than thirteen thousand people continued to call East Liverpool home in 2000, but like many of Ohio's industrial cities, East Liverpool had experienced a serious out-migration of residents. Between 1980 and 2000, the city's population declined by almost four thousand people.

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