By this time Medalta had been shipping its stoneware crocks, jugs, and bowls all across Canada, and by the end of the 1920s they were producing 75% of the pottery in the country. However, production plummeted after the stock market crash in 1929 and the company struggled to stay afloat. The war effort from 1939-45 revived the industry as imports from Europe and Japan stopped, and the army demanded record amounts of stoneware. Medalta employed a large female workforce during this time, and even employed German POWs.
The end of the 1940s saw Medalta struggle with increased production costs and renewed competition from imports. By 1954 the company officially disbanded, but the history of Medalta has since remained a great source of pride for locals. Stoneware produced by the company remains highly collectible, and pieces produced for the railways, military, and restaurants are highly sought after.
In 2010 I was fortunate to act as videographer with Stream Media for certain portions of the excavation and capture some of the archival work that was going on at the site. I witnessed them uncovering one of the original kilns that had long been buried under one of the factories concrete floors. Even walking around the site now you can still see countless pottery fragments buried in the dirt.
Medalta has now been largely renovated and restored as a national historic site and museum. It's also home to the International Artists in Residence facility providing studio space and access to equipment. I toured the outskirts of the original buildings in March to capture these photographs for this series.
For more, view my images of the historic Medalta site in the throws of winter here, or have a look at some of the vintage machines scattered at the site. I also explored the interior of the Medalta factory and you can view those additional photographs here.
|Medicine Hat Pottery Company ca. 1912-1915|
|A 1915 postcard showing local industries. Medalta is shown bottom right.|