Deposits of china clay were discovered in 1768 at Saint-Yrieix-La-Perche near Limoges in the department of Vienne. The first porcelain factory in the area was opened in 1771, and taken over by the Sèvres company in 1784. The industry flourished in the 19th century, the number of factories increasing from 15 in 1827 to more than 30 by 1850. The American manufacturer David Haviland settled in Limoges about 1840 and began to export porcelain in large quantities to the United States. There were 135 kilns operating in the area in 1907. From the middle of the 20th century circular kilns were replaced by gas-fired tunnel kilns, although several of the former remain as monuments. Limoges is still the principal centre of porcelain manufacture in France.
The museum of the porcelain industry was founded in 1845 by the local archaeological and historical society. It was developed by Adrien Dubouché (1818-81), a cognac merchant, who donated several collections which he had purchased, and acted as curator from 1865. He persuaded the local authority to allow the museum to be moved into a former lunatic asylum. In 1881, the year of his death, it was taken over by the government, and from 1900 was accommodated in a building specially designed by the Paris architect Henri Mayeux, which is steel-framed, and has an Italianate facade with an Art Nouveau interior. It holds the largest collection in France of Limoges pottery.