Homer Laughlin China Company
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The Homer Laughlin China Company initially began as Laughlin Pottery in East Liverpool, Ohio. The company was started in 1871 by brothers Shakespeare and Homer Laughlin, however Shakespeare would later leave the company in 1879. In 1889, William Edwin Wells joined Homer and seven years later the two would incorporate. Homer would sell his interest to Wells shortly thereafter. The firm experienced rapid growth and opened a facility in Newell, West Virginia in 1903. By the late 1920s all production was centered at the West Virginia factory and the Ohio site was abandoned.
To this day (2008) the company (often known as HLC) continues to manufacture all of its products in the United States. A visitor center, museum, and factory outlet are maintained at its headquarters.
In the 1920s the firm advertised itself as the largest pottery company in the world. Estimates of production range from 25,000 to 35,000 different patterns since production started.
Homer Laughlin began producing the popular and colorful Fiesta line of dinnerware in 1936. Fiesta dinnerware continued to be produced through the late 1960s, with a number of new colours offered before the entire line was phased out. Fiesta was re-introduced by the company in 1986, and remains in production to this day. The new Fiesta line contains a number of pieces produced from the original molds, as well as brand new pieces designed for modern day use. Like the original line, the current day production features an evolving number of colors.
Other Retail Lines
In addition to Fiesta, two other lines of colorful dinnerware in bright, solid-colored glazes were introduced in the 1930s. Harlequin was introduced in 1938 as a less expensive alternative to Fiesta available at Woolworth's stores. They also produced Riviera dinnerware , which is distinctive for its triple-scalloped edges. Riviera was available in red, yellow, light green, mauve blue, ivory [during the war] and occasionally cobalt blue. Production of Riviera ceased in the late 1940s [1948-1949]. Harlequin was produced until 1964 and was briefly reintroduced in 1979 to mark an anniversary year at Woolworth's.
Epicure, a line based on popular colors and shapes of the 1950s was introduced in 1955, and was designed by a student of Russel Wright. Wrights own dinnerware lines were made by Homer Laughlin rival, Steubenville Pottery in nearby Steubenville, Ohio. Epicure today is a sought after collectable, but it was not well received when introduced and was dropped only 1 year after its debut.
A key part of Homer Laughlin's business yesterday and today is its hotel and restaurant lines. Fiestaware is also sold to trade accounts.
HLC maintains contracts with the federal government to supply china and dinnerware for a range of functions. This includes formal dinners to dinnerware for use by US troops at base camps and in the field. A number of these designs are exclusive to the US government.
Golden Wheat Line
Homer-Laughlin Company produced the Golden Wheat line between 1949 and 1966. These pieces were added to Duz Detergent boxes as an enticement to buyers. These dishes feature a center picture of wheat bending in the wind, with a trim on the edge in 22k gold.
- Collectors Encyclopedia of Fiesta, 7th edition, Huxford. Collector Books, division of Schroeder Publishing, Inc.
- Collectors Encyclopedia of Russel Wright, 2nd edition, Kerr.
- Press Reference Library: Notables of the Southwest, The Los Angelis Examiner, 1912, p. 45.