Homer Laughlin China Company established a small pottery plant—one of the first whiteware plants in the United States—in the early 1870s. The two-kiln firm, located in East Liverpool, Ohio, was first founded by brothers Homer and Shakespeare Laughlin as Ohio Valley Pottery. It later became Laughlin Bros., according to Warman’s Antiques & Collectibles.
The company excelled at the Centennial Exposition of 1876 in Philadelphia where they were recognized with an award for the best white-ware on display. In 1879, Shakespeare sold his interest in the pottery to his brother, and Homer ran the business for more than two decades until he eventually sold it to a group of investors. The company’s then-bookkeeper William E. Wells along with Louis Aaron and his sons, Charles and Marcus, assumed ownership in 1897.
The new owners moved the firm to Newell, West Virginia in 1907, and built a new factory that boasted 30 kilns. The factory still operates in that location today as the HCL Inc. family of companies that includes Hall China as well.
By 1908, the Homer Laughlin China Company was producing 300,000 pieces a day, according to Homer Laughlin: Decades of Dinnerware by Bob Page (Replacements, Ltd.). In 1916 more kilns were added, and by 1920 the company could not keep up with demand.
Over time, this thriving business made thousands of patterns of china. Many had decoration variations on the same shapes. A few of the most popular with collectors are detailed below.
The Fiesta Line
Fiesta, a brightly colored line of dinnerware introduced in 1936, was Homer Laughlin China Company’s greatest success. Frederick Hurten Rhead, who descended from a family of highly regarded English ceramicists, had previously worked for both Weller Pottery and Roseville Pottery before joining Homer Laughlin in 1927. He went to work looking at new shapes and glazes as part of expanding Homer Laughlin’s lines, and designing Fiesta was one of his achievements.
Older Fiesta dinnerware is a perennial favorite among collectors. New Fiesta is still sold in department stores and other outlets today.
Other Homer Laughlin Lines
Homer Laughlin China Co. made thousands of patterns of china. Some used the same basic shapes with various decaled designs. One of the most prolific Art Deco blanks was the Century shape developed in 1930 on which the kitschy Mexicali and Hacienda decals were applied among many other designs.
Here are a few of the many popular Homer Laughlin patterns sought by collectors today:
- Kitchen Kraft – Kitchen Kraft was an extension of the popular Fiesta line made by Homer Laughlin. It was advertised as Fiesta Kitchen Kraft when it was introduced in 1939. This line of bake and serve dinnerware was made in the original Fiesta colors of cobalt blue, light green, red, and yellow introduced in 1939. Although it was quite successful, it was discontinued in 1945, according to Replacements.com.
- Harlequin - This pattern, made from 1938 to 1964, was similar to Fiesta being a concentric ring design. But Harlequin has rings that are separated from the rim by a plain band. The handles on cups and lids also have a triangular shape, which differs from Fiesta although both patterns were made in similar colors. Harlequin colors include chartreuse, forest green, gray, maroon, mauve glue, medium green, red, rose, spruce green, turquoise, and yellow. Seven different novelty animal figurines were also made as part of this line in 1939.
- Riviera – Actually a colorfully glazed version of the Century blank, this pattern was introduced in 1938 and made until the late 1940s. In comparison to other solid color patterns from Homer Laughlin, Riviera production was more limited. Colors in this pattern are ivory, light green, yellow, red, and a medium blue referenced as mauve-blue.
- Virginia Rose – The name Virginia Rose refers to a shape rather than a pattern. It was first used in 1929. Many different decals decorated these elegantly shaped blanks, some of which featured roses and other flowers such as the Armand, Moss Rose, and Fluffy Rose patterns. These are sometimes, erroneously, referenced solely as Virginia Rose as if it were the pattern name. This confusion is compounded because the name Virginia Rose appears in the mark on many of these pieces.
Learn More About Homer Laughlin China
Homer Laughlin: Decades of Dinnerware by Bob Page (Replacements, Ltd.) is a recommended book for learning more about this company and its varied wares.