The first Special Exhibition of American Pottery and Porcelain was held from October 16 to November 13, 1888. According to the Museum's annual report for that year, 32,234 visitors attended. Exhibitors competed that year for money prizes totaling $750. Others could display their wares without competing. According to a published announcement, any prize-winning object would become property of the museum and would be exhibited and identified as purchased through the Joseph E. Temple Fund.
Most of the correspondence was written by the individuals and companies invited to enter their wares or who asked to be included in the competition. The first folder of correspondence contains a list of firms to whom the circular was mailed. Letters among committee members regarding exhibit logistics and museum purchases are also included. Most of the letters written after the competition were from the winners acknowledging receipt of their checks. From the company's responses, Rockwood Pottery appears to have been one of the more successful contestants, winning in more than one competitive class.