Hidden in a box with my china closet stuff were four 6” Pennsbury Pottery placques. I’m finally getting to unpack and put things away after two years. My kitchen is finally painted! I’m not even sure anymore if they were my grandma’s, aunt’s or my mom’s, they’ve been in the china closet drawer so long. They bought this pottery at the Gateway gift shop in Breezewood, PA. on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the late 50’s – early ‘60’s. They loved to drive in the mountains and would pack a picnic and the diaper bags and throw us in the car and take off for a ride on the turnpike, turning around at Breezewood. I have memories of Breezewood and the one nice gift shop and restaurant. Now it’s unbelievable all the restaurants, gas stations and giftshops at the exit! It’s a bottleneck.
I looked up the pottery online to see how much the placques might be worth and how readily available pieces might be to get a hold of. They range from 3.99 to 15.00 each. There is quite a lot of other pottery pieces available too. I’m excited because I think I want to decorate the new kitchen with it. The light blues will match the new paint.
The pottery was founded in 1950 by Henry Below, his wife Lee and son. Mrs. Below was the artistic mind behind the lovely Americana designs, especially these cute Amish people. This design is what really set this pottery apart in the 60’s and 70’s. Pennsylvania is the heart of Amish country. There were also roosters, barber shop quartets, eagles and Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs. The Belows came to America from Germany in the 1920’s. Henry worked for Stangl in Trenton NJ and developed the famous tangerine glaze used on the Birds of America dinnerware, the first open stock dinnerware in the country. By 1949 Henry and his wife decided to open their own business. The pottery was in business for two decades. Henry died in 1959 and his wife and son continued on in the business. Sadly competition from China and Europe flooded the market and hurt the company. Lee died in 1969 and the next year the pottery filed bankruptcy and closed. In 1971 a fire destroyed the factory and all the molds.
In 1955 the Walt Disney Elementary School opened in the Pennsbury School District. The officials invited their namesake to the grand opening in Levittsburg PA. The Belows designed a commemorative plate in honor and presented it to Mr. Disney. Only the one plate was made. It’s a real mystery whatever became of the plate. It will be worth a pretty penny if it ever shows up!
You can take a look at more pottery here and here. And you can check out this old postcard of Snyder’s Gateway Inn and gas station in Breezewood back in the day! Read the history here. It opened in 1941 and still operates today only now it’s basically a huge truck stop!