The Footnote Files

I spent twenty years researching and learning about everyday life in the 1830s for my book, Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More, and in the process, I dredged up a great deal of information that didn’t make it into the finished book!

So in this and future posts, I’ll share interesting tidbits and fun facts from the first half of the 19th Century.

Believe it or not, the word “pothole” has ties to central Ohio and the National Road…

The docent who conducted the tour during my recent visit to the National Road/Zane Grey Museum in Norwich, Ohio said the term came to be named for the potters who would scoop out enough clay for one pot from the softer clay in the roadbed, leaving behind those annoying little holes in the road.

Zanesville, Ohio, located 50 miles east of Columbus, was the center of art pottery production beginning in the 19th Century, with companies like McCoy and Roseville headquartered nearby. Rich clay was available in abundance, due to the excavation and building of the National Road in the 1820s.  At one time, there were thirty potteries in operation in the area.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition, suggests that the term pothole dates back to 1826, which lends credence to the charming story of crafty potters who stole clay from the roadbed!


A replica of Bexley's National Road marker with the author's collection of McCoy, Roseville, and Weller art pottery


 A replica of Bexley’s National Road marker with the author’s collection

of McCoy, Roseville, and Weller art pottery.

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