While Trenton is known for many things, one of the highlights is the city’s industrious past. After all, the city’s motto, “Trenton Makes, the World Takes” didn’t come from nowhere! Right here in the Capital City, goods such as pottery, steel, textiles, and more were manufactured and shipped to buyers all over the globe. The pottery industry in particular made its mark in the community, and is still one of the most sought-after exports of Trenton today. This, however, may not have been possible without the dedication and efforts of local visionary, Thomas Maddock.
Thomas Maddock was born in Burslem, Staffordshire, England in 1818. Maddock worked as a potter throughout his life, and would go on to have a lasting and profound impact on the industry at large. Coming from a family of potters, there is no doubt that Maddock was destined for this line of work. He began his pottery pursuits as an apprentice in England, and worked there until relocating to the United States. In 1847, Maddock came across the pond with his wife, Honor Bossom, and settled in New York. Together, the pair had two sons; while one son would tragically pass away, his other son, John, would go on to establish a pottery company of his own right here in the Capital City.
With years of experience in the pottery industry behind him, it didn’t take long for Maddock to start making his mark here in the states. While he was in New York, Maddock was responsible for for the establishment of a china decorating company, the first of its kind in the United States. As he continued to establish himself in the industry, he made his first break into Trenton pottery in 1873, where he began working with earthenware. Some of the items that Maddock was responsible for producing included household items like mugs, dishes, wash basins, etc. However, while Maddock found success in these pursuits, Thomas knew that he was destined for more.
As Thomas made his mark on the American pottery industry, he encountered frustrations regarding how goods were manufactured and was determined to find a more efficient means of production. At the time that Maddock was manufacturing, a toilet, a household item we all take for granted today, was a luxury that was typically only reserved for those with enough resources to afford one. However, Maddock knew there had to be a way to produce these items in such a means that they’d become more accessible to the average American. As the elements of pottery such as earthenware and glaze can be temperamental, Maddock had to refine his process in such a way that these items could be produced at scale and still remain functional, high-quality items. And he did exactly that.
By the late 1800s, the overwhelming majority of sanitary wares that were sold in the United States were manufactured right here in Trenton. This ease of access was nothing short of revolutionary, fundamentally transforming the industry forever. Maddock was also the head of several other producers throughout the city, further expanding his capacities. By the time of Maddock’s passing in 1899, wares produced in Trenton were responsible for 86% of all pottery sold in the United States. As his sons took over his business under the name of Thomas Maddock’s Sons Co., even in his death, his name lived on in Trenton and beyond. Although the company was ultimately sold to American Standard in 1929, Maddock’s legacy will no doubt live on in the industry which he helped forever change.