Frankoma: a Brief History

Frankoma pottery

John Nathaniel Frank was born in Chicago on January 31, 1905. He graduated from the Chicago Art Institute in 1927. Mr Frank was offered a position at the University of Oklahoma to create the school’s first Ceramic Art Department. There he taught ceramics from 1927 to 1936.

John Frank met Grace Lee Bowman on January 30, 1928, and they were married the following September 4th, on Grace Lee’s 23rd birthday. A small building was purchased in 1933 to begin their career in pottery while he was still teaching. The new business was called “frank Potteries”, later to become “Frankoma Potteries”.

Joseph Taylor joined the staff of the Art Department in 1933, and he and Mr. Frank became close friends. Professor Taylor was a very talented artist and sculptor, and he designed many of the early sculptures produced by Frankoma Pottery.

The Franks and their two daughters, Donna and Joniece, moved to Sapulpa, Oklahoma, in February of 1938, and a new plant was built just outside the town on Route 66. Frankoma was in production by June of that year. On November 10th, the new plant burned to the ground, destroying everything but a very few molds. After much tenacity and persistence, Mr. Frank was able to raise enough funds to rebuild.

Frankoma grew to become a prosperous business. John Frank was named “Outstanding Small Businessman in America” in 1971, and “Marketing man of the Year” in 1972.

John Frank passed away in 1973, and his youngest daughter and artist Joniece assumed operations of the plant. In September of 1983, forth-five years after the first fire, Frankoma again suffered a total destruction by fire. However, John Frank had employed enough foresight to build a fireproof room to store the master molds. Most of the molds that were in production at the time were therefore saved. The plant was quickly rebuilt and reopened for business in July of 1984.

In April of 1990, the IRS forced Frankoma to close because of past due taxes. Joniece filed for Chapter 11 in order to a maintain control and continue production. Frankoma was sold to a Maryland businessman, Richard Bernstein, in February of 1991, and pottery production continues today.

Joniece was retained by the new owner to do a number of limited edition sculptures. Donna returned to Sapulpa in 1993 and is very active in the Frankoma Family Collectorss Assoction. Grace Lee passed away in February 1996. Frankoma Pottery is now sought and collected by people all over the world.

Joniece and Donna have launched their own “studio” pottery called FrankX2 and continue to produce quality art pottery.

An affectionate and intimate account of the complete story of John and Grace Lee Frank and their struggles to make Frankoma Pottery the success it became is told by their daughter Donna in Clay in the Master’s Hands. The book is not only a must read for any serious Frankoma collector, but for any ceramic enthusiast, as well as an entertaining story to be enjoyed by the general public.


  1. There is a creamer that was done for Farmers and Merchants National Bank, the Bank with the chime clock. Do you know where that bank was located. Thanks.

  2. Thanks for your question. I think it was located in Fairview, Oklahoma. Ken

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