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The Talking Capitalism blog is a way to share words and images from Sarah's road trip 2018 but also from members of the Talking Capitalism Collective and others. 

 

Posts from the road trip will appear on The Blog page but only posts from the road (Sarah's and those of people she meets) will appear on the Road Trip page. 

 

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The Pottery Capital of the World

Updated: Sep 11, 2018


East Liverpool Ohio K.T.u.K Pottery Factory Kilns (1908)

Driving west from Pennsylvania, I crossed briefly into West Virginia before entering Ohio. Stopped at the McDonald's in East Liverpool, known in the early 20th century as The Pottery Capital of the World. Taking advantage of its location on the Ohio River and the abundance of clay, English immigrants started a pottery industry. The town once produced more than half of ceramics in the U.S , including fine porcelain. At the height of the industry in the town had more than 300 potteries (source: Wikipedia). Over the course of the 20th century ceramic companies moved their production to cheaper labor markets. Currently there aer a few ceramics companies in the area, including a Fiestaware factory in nearby Newell WV and two small companies in East Liverpool itself. One of these, American Mug and Stein company, received a contract in 2012 to produce mugs for Starbucks (see NYT article, including 4-minute video about factory).


Today there is very little industry and very high unemployment in East Liverpool and the city has become known for the prevalence of opioid addiction, as highlighted in a 2017 PBS report: How the Opioid Crisis Decimated the American Workforce. The drug problem was also the first thing the friendly woman at the Chamber of Commerce in Lisbon, a few miles away, said when I mentioned East Liverpool. I'm no way pretending to do anything like formal research on this trip. But during the 10 minutes I was in the McDonald's in town, two people interviewed for jobs. The interviews consisted of a five minute conversation with a nice-seeming manager and then being handed a sheet of paper with instructions about how to complete online application - and doing something that cost $10: drug testing? - and advice about how to buy appropriate pants at Walmart.


Job interview, McDonald's, East Liverpool OH, 9/10/18

Driving west I passed through the town of Lisbon, OH and stopped at the Chamber of Commerce.

Lisbon has lots of clearly very old buildings, and Marilyn McCullough, the Executive Director of the Chamber told me it is the second-oldest city in Ohio, after Marietta. She and her daughter, Kristen Huston, were busy preparing for the Johnny Appleseed Festival that is happening this coming weekend. They were nice to take a break for a few minutes to talk to me. Marilyn told me that in the 19th century the State had offered Lisbon either a canal or a railroad stop. She said that in choosing the canal they'd lost out on later economic development. Lisbon's economy has been based on ceramics, but also coal and steel jobs in nearby Youngstown and other towns.


Lisbon has lots of clearly very old buildings, and Marilyn McCullough, the Executive Director of the Chamber told me it is the second-oldest city in Ohio, after Marietta. She and her daughter, Kristen Huston, were busy preparing for the upcoming Johnny Appleseed Festival. They were nice to take a break for a few minutes to talk to me.


Marilyn told me that in the 19th century the State had offered Lisbon either a canal or a railroad stop. She said that in choosing the canal they'd lost out on later economic development. Lisbon's economy has been based on ceramics, but also coal and steel jobs in nearby Youngstown and other towns. As she said, coal jobs had declined because Obama had been against coal. When I asked about fracking she and Kristen described how in recent years there had been some optimism about gas-related economic growth but companies that came in had mainly brought their own employees from outside the area.


Kirsten and Marilyn said sales of land had helped some farmers who had sold rights but that the boom was short-lived. She did note that farmers tended to use the money they'd earned from selling rights to buy new equipment; "that's the way farmers are - they invest in their farms". In general, they said, big farms in the area were doing OK but smaller family-owned dairies had really suffered because of what they called low-balling of milk prices, particularly by Walmart which "doesn't really care" and which has supplanted Deans, the local milk company.


Marilyn described current efforts to stimulate Lisbon's economy, particularly around tourism. There is a new bike trail which attracts people to visit and which is part of the Great Ohio Lake-to-River Greenway, a State-funded project that will eventually extend from Lisbon to Cleveland.

Johnny Appleseed, carved in Lisbon OH (born in Leominster MA!)

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