Making "Splendid Things":
The Potter's Wheel Online Archive
Welcome to Making ‘Splendid Things’: The Potter’s Wheel Online Archive, a digital archive collection focused on the lives and works of the Potters. The Potters were a St. Louis-based women’s art and literature collective that created a handmade, multimedia magazine called The Potter’s Wheel. Written and circulated from November 1904 to October 1907, the Wheel was issued once a month as a single copy. The magazines are entirely handmade and consist of original poetry and stories, designs, drawings, photography, sculpture (reproduced in photographs), essays, and plays. The issues also include notable quotations and artist’s notes, which reflect influences on the Potters’ works as well as their own developing aesthetic program. Not only is the work historically important to literary history—its most famous member was Sara Teasdale, who won the first Pulitzer Prize for poetry—the monthly issues speak across history, politics, and art in myriad, often surprising, ways.
This site aims to do three things: 1) preserve digital copies of fragile manuscripts, 2) facilitate the interdisciplinary study of women’s art, literature, and scholarship, and 3) provide a teaching resource for scholars and students of literature, cultural studies, art history, and beyond.
This online archive was designed and developed by Amy E. Elkins, a project generously supported by the Beck Fellowship at the Emory University Center for Digital Scholarship. I am indebted to the generosity and expertise of the ECDS team, especially Dr. Alice Hickox and Bryan Chitwood who assisted in matters of site design and provided unwavering encouragement, as in all things. My early interest in the Potters began at the University of Virginia under the guidance of Professor Jerome McGann, with further early guidance from Professor Kathleen Butterly Nigro. Many thanks are also due to the talented staff at the Beinecke Library who so skillfully consulted on digitization and granted permission to use the files courtesy of the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The Special Collections curators at the University of Wisconsin—Madison kindly assisted in providing access to bibliographic information and a review by Francis S. Porcher, one of the Potters’ contemporaries.
In that review, Porcher cites Williamina Parrish on the difficulties of assembling the magazine: “’I simply go and camp at their houses,’ she says, ‘and I make their lives miserable but the Wheel always comes out.'” In a similar spirit, I hope this project will continue to grow as more issues are digitized and located. What an unlikely delight that The Potter’s Wheel can be made available to such a wide audience over a century after its creation.