Founded in 1872 by Samuel Weller, Weller Pottery opened its doors in Fultonham, Ohio where high-quality clay for pottery production was plentiful. Similarly to Roseville, the company began making utility wares like jars and jugs. The company moved its operation to Zanesville, Ohio in 1889 and eventually added decorative art pottery lines to its inventory to compete with other potteries such as Rookwood.
Weller acquired Lonhuda Pottery in 1894, which lead to the company’s well-known Louwelsa line produced from 1886 through the early 1920s. A number of other lines popular with today’s collectors stemmed from the creativity of the many art directors Weller employed through its years in business.
For instance, Dickens Ware, paying homage to the characters of author Charles Dickens, was designed by Charles Upjohn who worked for Weller from 1895 to 1904. This unique pottery has its own bastion of fans. From 1902 to 1907, Jacques Sicard nurtured the impressive Sicard line while serving the company. Later, art director John Lessell spearheaded the LaSa line in the 1920s. Sicard and LaSa, both with iridescent finishes, are quite popular among collectors.
Other popular hand-decorated patterns such as Art Nouveau, Aurelian, Eocean and Etna were also in production early in the company’s art pottery history, around the turn of the 20th century. The Hudson line debuted around 1917 and remains one of Weller’s most highly regarded achievements with most pieces signed by the artists who decorated them.
Other popular hand-decorated lines created during the life of Weller include Bedford, Cretone, Rhead Faience, Silvertone, and Xenia, all of which may be viewed in the Weller Pottery Price Guide.
During the 1920s and ‘30s
During the 1920s, a number of hand-decorated lines were discontinued as the company explored mass-produced pottery for the commercial market. Even so, some lines, including Hudson, continued on throughout the decade. However, the company’s creativity seems to have waned after Samuel Weller’s death in 1925 when the company was inherited by his nephew. Around that time, some of Weller's lines began to closely mimic the wares of competitors at the time rather than being innovative.
Nevertheless, Weller produced many lines during the early 1930s that collectors seek today including Blue Drapery, Warwick, Chase, Geode, and Stellar, among others. After 1935, Weller completely gave up hand decorating in favor of molded pottery until production ceased in 1948. Those pieces are collected today, but won't command the same level of value as the earlier hand decorated wares.
While vases are the most commonly found item in Weller’s artsy repertoire, the company did make other items collectors seek today including fish bowl bases, wall pockets, and flower frogs. The company’s Coppertone pieces such as figural frogs and lily pads are also highly prized by Weller collectors and pottery enthusiasts in general.
Weller’s infamous cookie jar depicting a “mammy” figure holding a watermelon (referred to by collectors as Watermelon Mammy) is sought by both cookie jar collectors and those who specialize in Black Americana. Another popular, and valuable, vase that departs from the norm is the Lydia figural depicting a woman holding her gown out in a draped fashion. This piece was made in a variety of colors.
A number of umbrella stands, jardinières with pedestals, and a few select lamps were produced by this company as well. These items are fairly hard to come by today.
Weller marked its wares in a number of different ways, including some early marks that included the name of the line. Both circular trademarks bearing the Weller name and incised hand-written marks are appropriate for the time period from the late 1880s to the late teens.
Many pieces from the 1900 to 1925 production years feature a Weller incised stamp in block letters. The early 1900s also found pieces designed by English potter Frederick Rhead signed "Weller Rhead Faience,” with faience referring to a type of smooth, glossy tin-glazed pottery.
Other pieces saw the name Weller written largely in fancier letters.
Prices for Weller Pottery can vary as widely as the items the company produced over the years. The later molded pieces made from 1935 through 1948 can often be found as inexpensively as $12 to $35 a piece depending on the color and décor.
On the other hand, a Weller Cretone, Sicard, or Xenia vase and the price could easily top $500 at auction if the item is in excellent condition. Those popular aforementioned Hudson vases easily sell for hundreds as well, as can the Coppertone figural frogs and lily pad pieces along with Art Nouveau umbrella stands and a host of other early Weller wares.
You’ll find the Watermelon Mammy cookie jar and most of the Weller jardinières with pedestal bases selling for $1,000 or more in the secondary marketplace unless you happen upon a real bargain. Keep looking because it does happen from time to time.