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The Dish Patch, Homer Laughlin China, Newsletter

The Dish Patch Newsletter on Homer Laughlin China written by Jo Cunningham and Darlene Nossaman.

Published by Robbins Nest.

laughlin brothers backstampThe Homer Laughlin China Company was founded in 1873 in East Liverpool, Ohio with a $5,000 start-up fund provided by the fathers of East Liverpool. The two Laughlin brothers, Homer and Shakespeare, accepted the offer in 1873 and work on the pottery began in the fall of the same year and the very first white-ware came out of the kilns of the Ohio Valley Pottery in October of 1874. The city fathers walked up the River Road to see the new ware. When they saw the piles of misshapen ware, including cups with handles that had fallen off, they were convinced they had made a mistake in giving $5000 to the Laughlin brothers. Homer was quoted as saying that he too regretted ever taking the money from the city for the pottery.

Prior to building the new Ohio Valley Pottery, the Laughlin Brothers had been selling yellow ware from the East Liverpool area from about 1868. The brothers traveled to New York State and several other areas in the east to sell the East Liverpool area ware. By 1872 and into 1873, the brothers were in New York City with their own dinnerware import business. The Laughlin brothers are listed in the 1872-1873 New York City Business Directory with both a business and a resident address. This proven information makes it impossible for the brothers to have a pottery in the East Liverpool area in 1871. My conclusion is that they formed a partnership in 1870 or 1871 for their china import business.

The Laughlin Brothers were not defeated by the disastrous ware from the first firing, in fact they were even more determined to make a quality ware and by 1876 the Laughlin Brothers Ohio Valley Pottery white ware won the prize at the Philadelphia Exposition. At this particular time,the American consumer would not buy anything but English made ware. Even the catalog companies such as Sears stated in their catalog pages that "American-made ware was inferior to the English-made ware." This determination of the American housewife to buy only English made ware caused many American potteries to use backstamps that appeared to be English to either encourage or deceive the American consumer to buy American ware. After the Laughlin brothers won at the 1876 Philadelphia Exhibition, Homer Laughlin decided that he would always be proud of his white ware and set about to design a backstamp that would show that it was American made. Homer Laughlins now famous Eagleover the Lion backstamp was used from about 1877 until circa 1902 or 1904. The exact date that the backstamp was retired is not known.

eagle over lion backstampeagle over lion backstamp
white granite backstampMost of the white ironstone ware made in the late 1800s and early 1900s in this country was copies of English ware. Standard shapes were used by most of the potteries in this country with only slight variations from pottery to pottery. Keep in mind that most of the people who worked in the potteries had come from England and their methods of work, pricing and even the shape of the ware quite naturally had the English influence. Ironstone, both American and English have become very desirable to collectors over the last few years and prices have risen accordingly. Simply stated, Ironstone currently is a very hot collectible.

Ironstone is described as hard earthenware and was made as a utilitarian ware to stand up to hard use. Ironstone was also called white granite; granite is heavy, bulky and substantial. Plain white ironstone had its beginning in England about 1840 and from 1840 to 1870, many different embossed decorations were used according to Jean Weatherbee, this countrys leading authority on ironstone. Mrs. Weatherbee is the author of White Ironstone; A Collectors Guide published by Antique Trader Books 1996.

The ware that was being made in the East Liverpool area in 1840 was Rockingham and Yellow ware from local clay. When these clays were fired, the ware they produced could be beige/buff to yellow color. Rockingham generally has a mottled brown or mottled glaze. Even though William Bloor produced white ware as early as 1860, and the Knowles, Taylor and Knowles Pottery was making white ware as early as 1872, it was the Laughlin Brothers Ohio Valley Pottery in East Liverpool, Ohio that was first established in 1873 for the sole purpose of producing white ware.

homer laughlin plantFrom the early resource materials that I found concerning "the brothers little pottery", it was natural to assume the first Laughlin Brothers pottery on the River Road to be small. It was not until I found a drawing of the Ohio Valley Pottery dated 1877 that I realized that it was "no small pottery" as had been described. On pages 6 and 7 of Homer Laughlin China 1940s-1950s the 1877 drawing of the pottery is shown and surrounding the picture of the pottery are many examples of Ohio Valley Potterys white ware. The railway runs in front of the pottery building closest to the River Road and the pottery is built towards the rivers bank. Shakespeare Laughlin withdrew from the pottery in 1877" by mutual consent".
horseshoe backstamp In 1886 to 1889, Homer Laughlin experimented with making a true porcelain ware. According to newspaper reports, the china was successful but Mr. Laughlin did not pursue china making after 1889 and manufactured only earthenware. The chinaware made during this brief period is marked with the Horseshoe using either a stamp or an impressed mark.

In the early 1890s Homer Laughlin was already interested in moving to California (according to correspondence found in old files) and made several trips to Los Angeles. Mr. Laughlin incorporated the pottery in 1896 and sold the business in 1897 to the Aarons and Wells families. The Wells and Aarons families continue to direct the business of the now famous Homer Laughlin China Company.

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