Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Caulkins, Horace J.

Horace James Caulkins was born in Ontario, Canada July 25th, 1850, and he remained there throughout his entire childhood. In 1871, he came to Detroit as a worker in the dry goods business, and in 1877 he began working as a dealer of dental supplies. It was then that he invented what he called the Revelation: a kiln for firing dental enamel that he was sure was going to add to his trade immensely. While it was meant for firing dental enamel, this invention came about during the height of the Arts and Crafts movement in America, and Mary Chase Perry, a local ceramic artist and Caulkins’ neighbor, began using the kiln for her china painting and pottery glazes.

The ingenuity of Horace Caulkins, who had created an invention he was sure to stay in his own field of dentistry, had to combine perfectly with the creativity and drive of Mary Chase Perry in order for everything to match up exactly and for this “odd couple” to thrive. The results of the pairing were amazing, and Caulkins and Perry ultimately formed a partnership and in 1903 they co-founded the Pewabic Pottery Company. The unique glazing technique perfected by Caulkins and Perry put them at the forefront of the American ceramics field and changed the face of pottery forever. While Horace James Caulkins died in 1923, works from the company can be found at many churches, public buildings, and museums throughout Detroit and southeast Michigan, carrying on his legacy. The company is still being housed in the same building on East Jefferson that it first occupied in 1907. It is now a historic landmark.

 


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