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American Terra Cotta and Ceramic Company

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: N5

Scope and Content Note

The collection contains thousands of shop drawings from the American, Indianapolis, Midland and Winkle (St. Louis, MO.) Terra Cotta Companies, along with photographs, negatives and order books. Shop drawings are particularly valuable for showing the exact location and method of placement of the terra cotta pieces on each building, thus facilitating replacement and restoration of existing ornamentation.

The collection includes examples of terra cotta designs from such notable architects as Louis Sullivan, George Grant Elmslie, William Gray Purcell, Parker Berry, Percy Bentley, Holabird & Roches and Claude & Starcke.

Though this finding aid lists all commissions by American Terra Cotta, not all of these commissions are represented in our shop drawings and photograph collections. Please contact the Northwest Architectural Archives to inquire about which commissions are available.


  • 1905-1964

Language of Materials


Restrictions on Access

There are no restrictions on access to the collection.

Restrictions on Use

Advance notice is required to view the materials.

Corporate history

The company was founded in 1881 as a drain tile factory by W. D. Gates. In 1888 the company took the name American Terra Cotta Company and moved to a plant near Crystal Lake, IL. The firm grew by absorbing other firms, among them, Indianapolis Terra Cotta in 1918 and Midland Terra Cotta, in 1930. In 1966 the firm ceased the manufacture of clay products but continued to operate as a foundry under the name T C. Industries.


812 Cubic Feet


The collection contains shop drawings from the American, Midland, Indianapolis and Winkle Terra Cotta Companies, along with photographs, negatives, order books and indexes.


The collection is arranged alphabetically by architectural firm name or by project name when firm is unknown. Click on the appropriate grouping listed below to go directly to that section in the list of detailed contents.

Physical Location

High Bay, Mezzanine, Audio-visual room


Received as gift, 1972

Related Material

See also the following architectural collections in the Northwest Architectural Archives:

William Gray Purcell Papers

Claude & Starcke Collection

Ellerbe Architects Papers

Toltz, King and Day Papers

Online Building Photographs

The entire collection of building photographs has been scanned and is available for viewing on the web. [Not shown on this website are the thousands of negatives that illustrate the individual terra cotta pieces and are called "detail photos" in "The American Terra Cotta Index."]

Click here to search for photographs from the American Terra Cotta Collection

Processing Information

The collection was processed and the finding aid written by Statler Gilfillen; published as "The American Terra Cotta Index," 1972.

American Terra Cotta and Ceramic Company Records
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Northwest Architectural Archives Collecting Area