As I mentioned on Friday, I took a tour of Homer Laughlin China Company last week where they make Fiesta Ware. If you’ve never heard of fiesta ware, it’s the brightly colored china seen here:
It’s certainly a collector’s item for some as the company retires a color almost every year and they introduce a new color every year. Some families have had fiesta ware in their homes for many generations and pass it on to their grandchildren. Others, like myself, purchase the ‘seconds’ which are those that have small imperfections. They are significantly cheaper than the ‘firsts’ but are just as durable and beautiful.
Today I’d like to share some of the history and fun facts I learned during my tour.
- Homer Laughlin’s business began in 1871, fiesta ware began in 1936.
- The factory is located in Newell, WV which is about 15 minutes away from East Liverpool, OH. East Liverpool is known for its many potteries including Hall China Co. which was recently bought by Homer Laughlin.
- Most of the china in Homer Laughlin is handmade, there are only a small number of machines.
- Homer Laughlin china is sold commercially, fiesta ware and to hotels and restaurants.
- The china made for hotels and restaurants uses a clay specially purchased from Europe because it is a bright white when fired in the kiln.
- The fiesta ware china is made with an ivory clay purchased from Kentucky.
- Homer Laughlin used to use clay found in East Liverpool, OH but they stopped because it was too yellow.
- All fiesta ware can be used in the oven from mugs to plates to casserole dishes.
- The china will receive an embossing that says “Fiesta” or a stamp that says “Homer Laughlin China Co” on the bottom and sometimes certain pieces will receive both.
- Lilac is the retired color that is highest in demand.
- All china is made in the U.S. even though the clay is purchased from Europe, no molds are made before shipping.
- The gold lines painted on dinnerware for restaurants and hotels is real gold.
- Everything at the factory is recycled except for the final china pieces. The broken china pieces are buried but in June of this year Homer Laughlin was approached by a company from Wexford, PA to recycle the broken china and make counter tops, coasters, and lazy susans.
- Fiesta ware celebrated it’s 75th Anniversary in 2011 and produced the color Marigold for 75 weeks.
- Former Steelers player, Mean Joe Green visited Homer Laughlin and signed this plate for them:
If you’re ever in the Ohio Valley area I highly recommend taking the tour and it’s free! I’ve included some pictures below illustrating the facts I mentioned. I know not everyone loves fiesta ware but I hope you enjoyed this brief history about one of America’s potteries!