A Town of its Own – Wick Boro

Time spent in East Liverpool, Ohio by John Wick ended up having a significant impact to the area north of Kittanning. At that time there wasn’t much development north of Chestnut Street. East Liverpool was the pottery capital of the world and there wasn’t much of an enterprise of this kind in Pennsylvania then. After spending time as a store merchant in the pottery capital after leaving Kittanning, John Wick Jr. learned the ins and outs of the pottery trade and contemplated bringing the industry back to his home. Not only did he learn the trade, he became one of the largest industrialist in the pottery trade.

This is Ford China Company that became Eljer. Wick China was similar in design and also isolated on N. Water Street which is the present location of the YMCA. The area would appear the same before the lots where laid out and houses built.

Hard to imagine at one time that a little area was pretty much self-sustaining for the family needs. When Wick Boro was formed around 1900 your families life events were within a couple block area. In this locale was your school till 8th grade which was 4th Ward School on Wilson Avenue being the 1100 block. Several churches dotted the neighborhood and you either work at the Wick Pottery or Kittanning Plate Glass Co. in the 1200 block of N. Water St. What was considered the Wick Boro business district  located in the 11oo block of Orr Avenue and Montieth Street were some of the following business until at least the 1920’s. The main focal point was the Orr Ave Hotel 1103 Orr Avenue, Rambach and Caplan Grocer at 1101 Orr Avenue, Arthur Donaldson’s Restaurant, 1119 Orr Avenue, Foulis Pharmacy 1046 Orr Avenue, E.E. Ritchey’s Store 1048 Orr Avenue. Even a bowling alley and billiards by Harry Rumbaugh at rear of 1106 Orr Avenue with Gus Kirscht having a barbershop in the front. This was located across form the Orr Ave Hotel. The trolly car ran through the center of Orr Avenue to town, and eventually to Lenape Park south of Ford City.

Orr Ave Hotel – one of the hubs in the business district of Wick Boro. Rambach and Caplan had a grocery store at the corner building.


This truly was the meaning of community, newer forms of transportation later give us the ability to go elsewhere for our needs, but maybe it wasn’t so bad when ours needs came to us instead. Several of your social events took place in your community also. The 4th Ward Ball Park which had a grandstand was at the location of the Kittanning High School. Nightly games just a  few steps from your house. Square dances and old time fiddle players entertained at the fire halls. Some of these events were held as fundraiser for local needs.


E.E. Ritchey Store & Foulis Pharmacy – 1048 & 1046 Orr Avenue. Adjacent corner to Orr Ave Hotel. (Photo courtesy of Bill Cousins)

Recently I was visited by John Wick’s Great Granddaughter who was generous to share and give me several pictures and artifacts regarding the life of John Wick Jr. It was remarkable to discover that he truly believed in Kittanning and and was progressive in it’s development. When you read of accomplishments in history regarding industrialist, like Andrew Carnegie in Pittsburgh for Steel Development, John B. Ford in Ford City for Plate Glass Production, John Wick Jr. was one of the most responsible individuals regarding the development of upper Kittanning(Wick Boro).

John Wick Jr was one-time president of Kittanning Council

John Wick Jr. continued into the Theatrical and Movie Entertainment business later in life. In 1913 he oversaw the building of the of the Wick Opera House which later became the Columbia Theater. His ownership of the building saw it rebuilt from two major fires, one in 1926 and the other in 1932.

Columbia Theater located at 318 Market Street



2 new pieces of Wick China added to my collection

This week our mailman that happens to be female, delivered a long anticipated package from an individual in Ohio.  It was so exciting to receive the phone call at work that a large box arrived in the mail for as I knew exactly what was carefully wrapped inside.  Inside this box nestled in those irritating packaging peanuts and taped in bubble wrap were pieces 73 and 74 for my collection of china manufactured by the Wick China Company.  I couldn’t wait to get home and place these two items with the other 72 pieces that were all made before 1914.

The Wick China Company was a commanding presence over the Allegheny River.

Once I arrived home from work that evening, I carefully removed each from the box and eagerly unwrapped their protective covering, I could see the beautiful blue tone floral print on each piece.  Both these pieces were at one time part of a toiletry set that possibly graced some ladies wash stand in her chamber.  The greatness that these two pieces were part of a set are not what has thrilled me as much as the pottery mark on the bottom.  This will be the first in my collection to contain the KNOBLE T W C Co. on the bottom.

The newest additions to my collection of Wick China.

The KNOBLE mark from the Wick China Company.

My collection up until acquiring these pieces, consisted primarily of the two most common marks which are the Aurora China mark and the one with two horses flanking a coat of arms with The Wick China Co. underneath.  I also have another rare mark, a mark that I have never read about in pottery books, nor have I ever seen on another piece of Wick China.  Due to the distortion on the bottom of the plate it is stamped on, this mark is somewhat illegible, but a portion can be read.  It appears to be Marseillies or something close to it.  The rest of the design resembles the Aurora Mark.

The mysterious "Marseillies" mark from a Wick China Plate in my collection.

Over the past year, I have had several individuals inquire about the pottery that once stood along North Water Street, where the new YMCA facility is currently being build.  Many people are looking for the same information.  How can you tell if it is Wick China?  Do you know who worked there?  How can you tell what year certain pieces come from?  All these questions are certainly important.

The truth is, after the storm destroyed the plant, and W. S. George purchased it, there is little to no documentation on the company.  Beers History of Armstrong County briefly overs some insight about the company.  The Sanborn Fire Insurance maps for Kittanning, dating from 1903, 1908 and 1913, do offer a glimpse to the layout of the pottery.  These maps show the kilns, painting and decorating areas, as well as offices, and a host of other areas that Kittanning and Wickboro residents earned a living.  There are also a handful of pottery books on the market that have made reference to the company, as well as offer a few images of the marks to identify it as Wick China.  Other than those records, nothing else has been discovered.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps from 1908 offering some insight as to the layout of the pottery.

This past summer I have started to extract names from the Kittanning Borough and Wickboro 1910 Federal Census Records of those listed as being employed by the pottery.  Currently, I estimate that I have complete about one quarter search.  This will be the only known list or partial list of employees that punched the time clock at the pottery.  I hope to create a database or table of these names and their residents and available information from the Census.

One of two best known pottery marks on Wick China, Aurora with T W C in the center.


1908 Sanborn Map & Publishing Company, Limited, 117 & 119 Broadway, New York, NY.

Lehner’s Encyclopedia of U. S. Marks on Pottery, Porcelain & Clay, 1988 By Lois Lehner.

Grandma’s Tea Leaf, by Annise Heaivilin.

Wick China Company photograph from Pete Harmon

Pictures of Wick China and markings from the collection of Christopher Anthony.