Category Archives: Pottery

Breakfast Goes Modernistic

Royal Rochester label on the bottom of the batter bowl. 1928.

1928 Royal-Rochester label.

 

Back in 1999 at an antique store in Frankfort, Kentucky, I came across a very striking electric coffee pot. Painted in an abstract design in bold colors it almost bordered on the avant-garde. I had never seen anything like before, so the $110.00 price was not much of a purchasing deterrent. To me the it exemplified the exuberance of early Art Deco design of the late 1920’s. A crazy, optimistic style that produced Roseville Futura pottery and the Chrysler Building and wouldn’t last long once the Great Depression hit in 1930. Made by Robeson Rochester under their trade name of Royal Rochester, a company well-known for the manufacturing of kitchen appliances.

 

Royal Rochester coffee pot in the Modernistic pattern.

Modernistic Royal Rochester coffee pot. Ceramic body made by the Fraunfelter China Company.

Once I had the coffee pot, now I wanted to add more pieces and have a complete set. This wasn’t going to be easy because other pieces weren’t turning up. A couple of years later the teapot, creamer and sugar were up for auction on Ebay. The three-piece set ending up selling for over $500.00 and way out of my price range. And once that auction ended more pieces with the same design were not coming up. And I had never come across these pieces at any flea markets or antique malls. But I did learn from that Ebay listing that this pattern’s name is “Modernistic”.

The Fraunfelter China Company of Ohio produced the ceramic pieces purchased by Royal Rochester for their various lines. “Modernistic” is only one line that used these shapes. The lusterware tan stripe and lilac stripe pieces turn up a lot more often and even though they have the same shape those designs are nowhere near as striking as “Modernistic”

 

“Modernistic”, like all Royal Rochester lines had a full range of pieces to make any breakfast stylish and up to date. Beside the coffee pot and sugar and creamer, a smaller sugar and creamer came with the teapot. The center piece of the line was the large coffee samovar.  Small ceramic cups in metal holders were good for both coffee or tea. A waffle set included a syrup jug, batter bowl and ladle and of course the waffle iron. Completing the line a casserole and pie plate, both came with chrome stands.

 

Modernistic in the 1928 Royal Rochester brochure

Royal Rochester 1928 brochure featuring Modernistic. Image from Modernism.com

Introduction of Royal Rochester's "Modernistic" pattern.

Advertisement for Bullock’s Department Store in Los Angeles and the introduction of Royal Rochester. November 21, 1928. Image from fultonhistory.com

The “Modernistic” pattern made its debut during the Christmas season of 1928. What we  now call Art Deco made its American debut only less than two years before. Modernistic styles proved to be popular with more well to do people living in major cities. To the average American the new style seemed as foreign as a martian. Traditional styles, like colonial revival, remained the most popular in the United States through the 1940’s. Radios or refrigerators tended to be the only moderne style pieces in the house. Because of this Royal Rochester’s “Modernistic” ended up being a huge flop. The company’s advertisements for the 1929 Christmas season no longer mentioned this bold and colorful pattern. Since it was only available for a year or less, it makes the pattern extremely rare and hard to find today.

 

Democrat & Chronicle advertisement 1928.

Christmas 1928, Sibley, Lindsay & Curr Company in Rochester, NY. Democrat & Chronicle advertisement, 12/14/1928. Image from fultonhistory.com

 

I never knew, until recently, how short a production time “Modernistic” had. This explained why it took eighteen years to find more pieces. Finally this summer in an antique mall in Wisconsin I found the large creamer, casserole in holder and pie plate. The dealer seeing a good customer told me she had more of this pattern in another mall nearby, just over the Illinois state line. There I picked up many more pieces, including the very rare waffle iron and batter bowl. Being very reasonably priced and 20% off, I took the plunge. I still need to get a few pieces, including the samovar, cups and the probably nearly impossible to find ladle. So the hunt continues!

 

Waffle iron, batter bowl, pie plate and casserole.

“Modernistic” waffle iron, batter bowl, pie plate and casserole in chrome holder, by Royal Rochester, 1928. Author’s collection.

Royal Rochester's "Modernistic" coffee pot and sugars and creamers.

The “Modernistic” coffee pot I purchased in 1999 with the sugars and creamers purchased in 2017. Author’s collection.

 

Anthony (A Freakin’, Tiquen’ Guy).

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Fiestaware 101: Part Five 1940 Promotional Campaign Sugar Cream and Kitchen Sets

 

Sugar, Cream & Tray Set

The sugar, creamer and tray promotional set.

1940 promotional campaign sugar & cream set. Typical colors of yellow sugar and creamer on a cobalt blue figure 8 tray. Image from vintageamericanpottery.com

The 1940 promotional campaign continues with a couple of sets to brighten up the table. This set is very sought after by collectors of Fiestaware. The last new pieces designed for the Fiesta line, until the individual salad bowl of 1959, were in stores by spring of 1940. Fredrick Rhead, creator of Fiestaware died from cancer on November 5, 1942. These items proved to be his last design. Consisting of three pieces, in standard colors of yellow for the sugar and creamer and cobalt blue for the tray. The values for these pieces are: Yellow Sugar $125.00, Yellow Creamer $75.00 and the Cobalt Figure Eight Tray $95.00.

As with anything Fiestaware, there are variations. Although rare, creamers in red and figure eight trays in turquoise turn up. These colors were probably used for special orders. The values of these pieces reflect their rarity. The red creamer has a book value of $315.00 and the figure eight tray in turquoise of $375.00.

 

Promotional creamer in red.

1940 – 1943 promotional creamer in Fiesta red. Image from vintageamericanpottery.com

Turquoise figure eight promotional tray.

Promotional figure eight tray in turquoise. Image from vintageamericanpottery.com.

 

Sugar & cream set.

From the collection of the author the sugar & cream set with the red creamer.

 

The Kitchen Set

 

Promotional Kitchen set.

Promotional Kitchen Set. In the standard color combination. Image from vintageamericanpottery.com

 

With some diligence and a bit of patience one can cobble together the promotional kitchen set as it is rarely found complete. It is a combination of pieces created for other lines. The Royal Metal Manufacturing casserole, first created in 1936, came in a variety of Fiestaware and Harlequin colors. For the promotional campaign the green casserole base came with a red lid and a yellow pie plate from the Kitchen Kraft line. This matched the yellow, green and red color combination of the promotional salad set. Today expect to pay around $200.00 for the complete set or $150.00 for the casserole and another $35.00 – $50.00 for the pie plate.

 

1940 promotional Kitchen Set.

Promotional Kitchen Set, 1940 – 1943. Image from vintageamericanpottery.com

These two sets add a colorful Deco touch in any vintage kitchen. The next installment on Fiestaware will look at the final two items available in the 1940 promotional campaign.

 

Anthony & Chris (The Freakin’, Tiquen Guys)

 

Fiestaware 101: Part Four The Salad Set & French Casserole.

Fiestaware 101: Part Three 1939 The Juice Set.

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Fiestaware 101: Part Four Promotional Campaign 1940 – The Salad Set & French Casserole

Fiestaware Dancing Lady Logo

 

The success of the promotional juice set in 1939 led to an all out Fisetaware promotional campaign. From 1940 – 1943 a total six promotional items, all costing $1.00 were offered. This article will look at two of the items – the Salad Set and the French Casserole.

 

The Salad Set

 

Fiestaware salad set, 1940.

Fiestaware promotional salad set. Yellow bowl and green and red Kitchen Kraft fork and spoon.

 

This salad bowl was the first piece specially designed for the promotional campaign. The Fiesta line already had two large bowls in production, the footed salad bowl and the fruit bowl. Because both these bowls were too big to be sold as a dollar promotion Frederick Rhead designed this new one. First modeled in November, 1939, a month later it underwent a revision that added a half-inch in-depth. The final bowl had a diameter of 9 3/4 inches and a depth of 3 9/16 inches. Production started in January of 1940 and the set became available soon there after. As a set, the new yellow bowl came with the Kitchen Kraft fork in green and spoon in red. Fiestaware yellow is the basic color of most of the promotional pieces. The outside of the bowl employs Fiesta’s ring motif, but there are no rings on the inside of the bowl.

 

Fiestaware salad set.

The 1940 promotional Fiestaware salad set, with the red and green Kitchen Kraft spoon and fork.

Today this bowl is rarely found with the fork and spoon that came with it originally. Because this bowl has not been found in any Homer Laughlin documents and not found on any vintage price lists, it is known by collectors as the “unlisted salad bowl”.  In production for only about three years, it is not easy to find. The value of this bowl in yellow is around $100.00. Though yellow is the official color for this bowl a few exist in cobalt blue. Being very rare, cobalt bowls have a much, much higher book value and if found will carry a price tag of around $3,000.00.

 

Cobalt promotional Fiestaware salad bowl.

The very rare cobalt promotional salad bowl.

 

French Casserole

Hands down the most elegant piece created for the promotional campaign, the French casserole is not easy to find today. First modeled for the Fiestaware line in 1935 and named ring shaped casserole (one handle) with a hand applied foot, it did not go into production.  A few trial pieces, in ivory were made. In 1939 Rhead returned to the ring casserole as a piece for the promotional campaign. The elimination of the foot is the major difference between the casserole that went into production in early 1940 and the 1935 design.

 

Prototype casserole

Prototype ring casserole (one handle). The Homer Laughlin Museum, Newell, West Virginia.

 

The French casserole has a hand applied stick handle that is similar to the one used on the after dinner coffee pot. The straight sided finial is unusual, as most Fiestaware lids have flared finials. The finial is another indication that its design dates back to the Fiestaware’s earliest design period. Like the “unlisted salad bowl” the casserole does not have inside rings. Also like the salad bowl the French casserole had a yellow glaze, though some trial pieces in cobalt blue exist.

 

French casserole in yellow.

Fiestaware promotional yellow French casserole, 1940.

 

Like all the promotional items, the French casserole had a production life of barely three years. This is not an easy piece to find and especially to find in excellent condition. The book value for a French casserole in mint condition is between $290.00 – $310.00. I’ve personally only seen three or four of them over the last 15 years, all with chips, and all with a price tag of over $100.00. I’ve never come across a cobalt one. Cobalt ones are exceedingly rare and have a value that is correspondingly high, around $4,500.00.

 

Cobalt blue French casserole.

The very, very rare French casserole base in cobalt blue.

 

The next Fiestaware entry will continue with items from the promotional campaign and will examine the sugar, creamer, tray and the kitchen sets.

 

Anthony & Chris (The Freakin’, Tiquen’ Guys)

 

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Fiestaware 101: Part Three 1939 The Juice Set.

Fiestaware Dancing Lady Logo

By 1939 Fiestaware was the top-selling solid color dinnerware in the United States. To further stimulate sales, a special promotional juice set was offered at a suggested retail price of $1.00. The set consisted of six tumblers and a 30 oz. pitcher. This new pitcher was identical to the 71 oz. disc water pitcher except for the size.

 

The Fiestaware promotional juice set of 1939. Yellow pitcher and six tumblers in the original colors.

The Fiestaware promotional juice set of 1939. Yellow pitcher and six tumblers in the original colors.

As the  disc water pitcher was being developed in early 1938, several different sizes were modeled. In 1939, the smallest became the juice pitcher with Yellow chosen as the glaze color.  A good number of juice pitchers can be found in Harlequin Yellow (a brighter, more pure yellow than the Fiesta yellow). Harlequin, a sister line to Fiestaware, was sold exclusively through Woolworth stores and there are too many of the Harlequin Yellow pitchers to be an accident.  It must have been a deliberate choice by Homer Laughlin as a way to offer more options for the set. The standard Fiesta yellow pitcher has a book value of $45.00, while Harlequin Yellow juice pitchers are worth around $50.00 – $55.00.

 

Fiestaware juice set and carton.

Fiestaware juice set and carton.

A special order juice set was produced for Old Reliable Coffee a product of the Dayton Mills Spice Company. This was one of many promotional products offered by Dayton Mills and consisted of the same tumblers but with a red pitcher. Today the red juice pitcher is quite hard to find and has a value of over $500.00.

 

The Red Juice Pitcher made for the Old Reliable Coffee special promotion.

The Red Juice Pitcher made for the Old Reliable Coffee special promotion.

 

The juice tumblers had a long and somewhat painful production process. In 1935, Homer Laughlin was approached by Kraft-Phenix Cheese corporation. They were interested in having ceramic crocks made for their processed cheese products.  Creative designer, Frederick Rhead was able (after some trial and error) to mold a crock to Kraft’s satisfaction and 200,00 were produced.  In 1937, Kraft again came to Homer Laughlin for a new container. Rhead knew that there would be a lot of back and forth before an acceptable crock was created. He designed over 20 different models, all rejected, over a 14 month period. In the end, Homer Laughlin was unable to meet Kraft’s needs. As a side note Kraft had glass crocks made by the Hazel Atlas Glass Company. The glass crocks are almost identical to the Fiesta ones. What it boiled down to was economics. A ceramic crock filled with cheese would have to be sold at 35 cents each. Kraft could sell two glass crocks fill with cheese for the same price. The last ceramic crock designed for Kraft would go into production as the juice tumbler the next year.

 

 

 

The juice set tumblers were produced in all six original Fiesta colors.  There was a seventh color available, Rose. Rose was a recent color addition to the Harlequin line. While not as easy to find today as the other tumblers, there are enough out there to suggest that it was either made for a  special order or offered to add more variety to the juice set. Book values for tumblers in the original six colors range from around $45.00 for those in Red, Cobalt and Ivory and $40.00 in Green, Yellow and Turquoise. Rose tumblers have a value of $80.00. But with most Fiestaware since the recession these pieces can often be found for less.

 

Rose Juice Tumbler

Rose Juice Tumbler

The success of the juice set led to an all out special promotional campaign the next year. In our next Fiestaware blog post we will look at the Salad Set and the French Casserole.

 

Anthony & Chris (The Freakin’, Tiquen’ Guys)

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