Museum of Overbeck Art Pottery

Yellow VaseOverbeck ButtonOverbeck Pottery, produced between 1911 and 1955, is recognized as an important part of our national art history. The museum preserves the creative art of the six Overbeck sisters who lived and worked in Cambridge City, Indiana.

Overbeck History

Ceramic ElephantIn Cambridge City, Indiana, in 1911, four sisters established the Overbeck Pottery in their home. FishermanAt a time when most pottery was copied from European and Japanese art, they believed that "borrowed art is bad art". The majority of their work stemmed from their surroundings and included painted porcelain; redware; imported vases, Art Nouveau and Art Deco; and figurines modeled on real-life persons or "grotesques" which Mary called "humor of the kiln".  They were especially noted for their subtle hues in matte glaze as well as brilliant turquoise and heliotrope in bright glaze. They never divulged these formulas. It is believed they are in the possession of their nephew.

From its inception Overbeck Pottery has been held in high esteem. Awards were won in Paris, Chicago, New York, Syracuse, Baltimore, St. Louis, Detroit, in Indiana on a regular basis and at the Panama Pacific Exposition. Maroon VaseQuaker CoupleIn recent years growing groups of museum curators, art schools and collectors have developed a full realization of the artistry of Overbeck Pottery. It has earned an important place in the history of American art and has been exhibited at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and Wayne County Museum. In 1990 the Los Angeles County Museum of Art featured a prize Overbeck vase in their exhibition. In 1987-88 Overbeck Pottery was awarded national recognition in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston sponsored exhibit, "The Art That Is Life"; The Arts and Crafts Movement in America, 1875-1920. A vase in the collection was chosen as an example of originality in early American pottery and was exhibited in Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles and New York Art Museum. The modest, genteel Overbeck sisters would be astounded at the fame they have achieved.

Overbeck Family

Overbeck Sisters - Harriet, Margaret, Hannah, Elizabeth, Ida, Mary Frances

Harriet-Elizabeth-Mary OverbeckIDA, 1861-1946

The eldest, Ida opened a successful photography studio in Cambridge City. Married to Martin Funk, wheelwright and woodcarver, Ida was the only sister to marry.

MARGARET, 1863-1911
The catalyst in establishing the Pottery, she functioned as a teacher as well as an accomplished artist. She studied at the Cincinnati Art Academy, trained with Frank Duveneck as well as other well-known artists. She taught art in private schools in Kentucky and Missouri, then DePauw University, before returning home to help found Overbeck pottery.

HANNAH, 1870-1931

Attended Cincinnati Art Academy and Indiana State University. She was the "ultimate designer", a perfectionist in sketching and water colors. Listed in the American Arts Annual,Goldfinch - paint on cardboard her drawings were featured in Ceramic Studio, a magazine for china painters. She taught school before returning home in poor health. Though bed-ridden with severe neuritis, she continued to design by having the pencil placed in her fingers.

HARRIET, 1872-1951

An accomplished musician, Harriet trained in Chicago, Cincinnati, and Leipzig. she played piano, organ, and violin; gave private lessons; and directed choirs. A proficient linguist, she spoke French, German, and Italian fluently. During the busy years of the Pottery, Harriet kept house for her sisters.

ELIZABETH, 1875-1936

"The ultimate potter", Elizabeth studied with Margaret in early years and later at the College for Ceramics in New York with noted ceramist, Professor Charles Binns. As a teacher and lecturer, Elizabeth exhibited widely, bringing much honor and recognition to the Pottery. Listed in the American Arts Annual and Who's Who in American Art, in 1936 she was awarded the highest honor as a ceramists, being named a Fellow in the American Ceramic Society.Overbeck Tile - Click for larger view.

MARY FRANCES, 1878-1955

Mary studied with Margaret and attended the Cincinnati Art Academy, Indiana State University and Columbia University. She taught for a time before joining her sisters at the Pottery. A talented designer, Mary excelled in a wide range of art. She sold original bookplates, sculpted, and painted in oils and water colors in addition to the vases, pottery and figurines. She was listed in American Arts Annual as well as Who's Who in American Art. To amuse children visiting the Cambridge City library, Mary made the pirate ship, Don Quixote.

Pitcher with 4 tumblers.CHARLES BORGER, 1881-1913

The only son and youngest Overbeck, Charles graduated from Purdue University, became an engineer and had two children, Charles and Virginia. Charles and Virginia and their descendants are the remaining members of the Overbeck family.

About This Collection

Cambridge City Public LibraryIn 1972 Kathleen and Arthur Postle presented their Overbeck collection to the Cambridge City Library in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Ressler, Kathleen's parents. This gift and the library' collection formed the nucleus of the Overbeck Museum. This collection depends upon the public for tax-deductible gifts of Overbeck artwork and memorabilia. Each item is appraised, insured, cataloged and made available for public viewing. It is most appropriate that this distinctive collection be seen in Cambridge City, the home of the Overbecks.

Additional Images

Overbeck Card with CardinalsAdditional images of works by the Overbeck Sisters are located on the "Artists of Wayne County" web site. PBS has an article about the Overbeck Sisters that includes some images.

Overbeck Home

The Overbeck home has been restored by Jerry and Phyllis Mattheis. It is located at 520 East Church Street in Cambridge City, Indiana. Tours of the home are by appointment only. For more information, call 765.478.5993.

Read More About It

The Chronicle of the Overbeck Pottery by Kathleen R. Postle was published originally by the Indiana Historical Society in 1978. Check your local library.

Overbeck Museum Interior -  Cambridge City Public Library, Cambridge City, Indiana

The pirate ship, Don Quixote, created by Mary Frances Overbeck.


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Did You Know?

Hagerstown native, Ralph R. Teetor, respected automotive engineer and former president of Perfect Circle, was the inventor of the "Speed-O-Stat", now known as cruise control.