If you’ve written a blog for any length of time, it is hard to keep track of all the things you’ve talked about. Luckily, I can do a search, which is what I did today to make sure I hadn’t covered what I wanted to talk about today. I was honestly surprised to realize I haven’t done a post on Homer Laughlin! It’s one of those companies that has given us some really well-known lines.
I myself have a number of Homer Laughlin pieces in my shop. The piece above and the piece below, both Homer Laughlin.
This company is actually still in business today which is commendable considering they rode out the Great Depression, recession and other economic issues that have taken down any number of great pottery houses. They began in 1871 on the banks of the Ohio River in Liverpool, Ohio. A lot of potteries started in Ohio during the turn of twentieth century.
According to the Homer Laughlin website, the Laughlin Brothers, Homer and Shakespeare, wanted to make quality china at a fair price. They started out making yellow ware and stoneware. In 1873, the town of East Liverpool kicked in $5,000 (a lot of money in those days!) to build a “white ware plant which was still to be known as the Laughlin Brothers.” (Lehner, 1988, p. 245).
By 1903 they had outgrown their factory and expanded to Newell Farm in West Virginia which was just across the Ohio River. They also began the framework for what was to become the town of Newell. So definitely an important company to that area of West Virginia!
They landed some government contracts supplying hotelware known as “double thick” in both WWI and WWII. In 1949 they started to produce hotelware full time. This includes products for the restaurant and food service business. That market is still a large part of their business today. Their Best China, a vitrified china product, puts them in the top 3 leaders in this field (Lehner, 1988, p. 245).
They continued to expand through the 1930s when in 1936 they introduced a line of china that became a huge success. Any guesses? Fiesta!! Yes Homer Laughlin is the maker of Fiesta ware. Fiesta was made in a bold range of colors with some really unique designs. Fiesta has many collectors that seek out the vintage pieces. It was discontinued in 1973 but then reintroduced in 1986. The colors are slightly different on the new pieces so it can be difficult to determine old and new but the marking will be different. Check out this section on Laurel Hollow Park on identifying them.
Interesting fact…from 1943 to 1959 the most popular Fiesta color, Fiesta Red, was not produced due to government control of the depleted uranium that went into making the color. During the 40s and 50s the color choices of Fiesta were forest green, chartreuse, grey and rose.
Apparently Fiesta Red was a complicated color to produce because when most of the original technicians who worked on producing the color retired by 1972, the new manufacturing processes could not reproduce the color and they decided, rather than make an inferior product, they would stop producing it. By 1973 all Fiesta production ceased.
There are A LOT of different backstamps identifying Homer Laughlin. Check out Lehner’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Marks on Pottery, Porcelain & Clay for a comprehensive list. Some of their lines include Sunrise, Zylco, Kenmark, Royal, Priscilla, Swing and many, many more.
Homer Laughlin China has innovated over the years becoming a multi-generational employer. They worked hard to introduce some green production, and actually have always produced and manufactured what they sell. I loved learning their story and sharing it with you. Hats off to one of the remaining great American potteries!
I will be partying at the blogs to the right all week, please join me if you have some time. Have a great week!