Biography and History

William Burgess (1857-1929) was a prominent lobbyist and figure in the United States pottery industry around the turn of the century. Burgess was born in Brooklyn, New York on January 18, 1857. He received a B.S. from Princeton in 1877 after which he enrolled at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, initially planning on pursuing a career in medicine. He was forced to leave medical school after becoming seriously ill. He then chose to enter the family business of pottery importing and wholesaling, establishing William Burgess and Company in 1879. He moved his operation to Trenton, New Jersey shortly thereafter, establishing the International Pottery Company. The International Pottery Company quickly became one of the leading manufacturers of pottery in the United States. Burgess served as president from 1879-1904. After resigning from the International Pottery Company, Burgess became Chairman of the Executive Committee and confidential representative of the U.S. Potters Association. During this time, Burgess traveled across Europe and Asia studying the international pottery industry. He eventually became the President of the Potters Association. This position required him to make frequent trips to Washington, D.C. to lobby on behalf of the pottery industry. His high profile in the industry and his international experience ultimately resulted in his being appointed to the U.S. Tariff Commission by President Warren G. Harding in 1921. The Commission was responsible for gathering and analyzing data on imports while reporting and making recommendations to the President and Congress. While on the Commission, Burgess earned the reputation as a high tariff advocate. He resigned his post in 1925 after a particularly contentious disagreement within the commission.

Burgess married Clara Dwight Goodmann in 1879. They had four children together. Burgess died on November 20, 1929.

Source: From the finding aid for MC035