Walter Scott Lenox

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Walter Scott Lenox
Walter Scott Lenox.jpg
Born Walter Scott Lenox
Trenton, New Jersey
Died 1920
Resting place
Trenton, New Jersey
Nationality American
Occupation Businessman, ceramist
Known for Fine American bone china ware
The Wilson service - first American made bone china service.
The Reagan Service was modeled on Woodrow Wilson's.

Walter Scott Lenox was the American businessman who established Lenox china, supplying the first complete American-made bone china table service for Woodrow Wilson's White House.[1][2]


Lenox resolved to become a ceramicist early in his boyhood. Starting in 1875 at the age of sixteen he first did work for several Trenton potteries. He had developed an excellent reputation in the early 1880s when he was in his twenties and based on this he was hired by Ott and Brewer Pottery Company of Trenton, then Willetts Manufacturing, as its factory art design director.[1][3] Then he focused on ceramic design and decoration. When Lenox was thirty he had saved enough money to enter a partnership with a Jonathan Coxon. They opened a firm called the Ceramic Art Company.[4] Lenox wanted to be an expert in producing quality bone china. In the nineteenth century American ceramics and pottery were inferior to European products. Wealthy Americans would buy European dinner services and tableware when they were looking for quality. Lenox at this point had three things to accomplish for his goal to produce quality bone china:[1]

  1. master the difficult bone china manufacturing techniques
  2. obtain sufficient financial backing for his factory operations
  3. overcome the wealthy’s prejudices against American bone china

Ceramic Art Company struggled financially in the early years of its operation. The material and labor costs exceeded the profits they were getting from the sales of their products. Lenox bought out Coxon’s interest in the company in 1894. From then on he operated it on his own, as Lenox's Ceramic Art Company. He concentrated on manufacturing Belleek style pottery. This is a ware of a rich, thin, ivory-colored porcelain of extremely high quality as manufactured in Belleek, Ireland. Lenox even hired two expert Belleck potters from Ireland to help him master the technique. The troubled company, however, only went further in debt with the lack of sales and profits. He even had to consent to a new factory building being so designed and constructed as to be able to be easily converted into an apartment building if his company failed.[1]

In the early part of the 1900s Lenox's health began to go on a decline. He was becoming paralyzed and going blind. However, Lenox continued to work at the factory daily increasing his efforts. His chauffeur carried him to his office where he began to monitor the production of porcelain with his hands. He relied heavily on trusting his assistant and secretary Harry Brown, a long-time employee.[1]

In 1906 Lenox established Lenox, Inc. Lenox’s company finally received a large order from Shreve and Company, a retailer. Soon after the delivery, the retailer’s store was leveled in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and everything destroyed, except for a single glazed Lenox bone china plate that looked as exquisite as it had on the day it was manufactured. This plate became the cornerstone of Lenox's marketing campaign.[1]

Lenox made the first complete set American-made White House china table service, which was for President Woodrow Wilson.[5][6][7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Lenox, Inc.". Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  2. ^ "Lenox company history". Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  3. ^ Trenton City Museum: History of Trenton Pottery Making
  4. ^ "Pottery & Porcelain - American". Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  5. ^ "Lenox - About Us". Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  6. ^ "Lenox - White House". Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  7. ^ "Lenox Porcelain is fit for presidents and kings". Retrieved 2008-11-17.