Ask About Antiques Roseville Pottery II - The 20s And 30s

by Budd A. Moore, Ed.D.


Roseville Pottery became an established business by 1910. At about this time the Victorian influence began to wane and tastes and styles began to change. The hand-decorated pottery of Roseville’s first years was being replaced by a new trend, Art Nouveau. It was a fleeting moment in the parade of styles in the early part of the twentieth century. Art Deco took over, and together these two influences changed the demand for art ware for the home. Art Deco and Art Nouveau swept away the fashion for hand-decorated pieces that were one of a kind and started some radical new techniques.

The artists who served the company very well in the years preceding this drifted away to new assignments and new artistic adventures. Roseville was left short-handed. Frederick Rhead, one of the founding artists took a post at a university, but his brother Harry Rhead arrived in 1908 to become the chief art director of the pottery.

Harry Rhead is a phenomenon at the company who changed Roseville forever. He brought a European outlook and radical ideas. His influence was responsible for the birth of such lines as Carnelian I and II, Mostique, and Pauleo. However, Harry Rhead will be remembered in the history of this enterprise forever as the designer of Donatello. This line of pottery, a molded and lightly decorated pottery introduced in 1915, set Roseville pottery on the road to major profit and world recognition. It was the first line of pottery the company produced that was an instant success.

In 1917, a devastating fire razed the Muskingum plant and the entire utilitarian ware operation was moved to the Linden Avenue plant where Roseville Pottery resided until its end. The plant was greatly enlarged and a monstrous tunnel kiln was added to produce pieces on a massive scale. Rosecraft, Volpato, Antique Green, and many other lines of this period were produced under the direction of George Krause. It was the beginning of Roseville’s golden era, but the end of time of George Young, the pottery’s founder. His son Russell Young, who continued the pottery’s traditions, replaced him in 1918. Also, George Krause became the technical supervisor and Frank Ferrell (the savior of Roseville in later years) replaced Harry Rhead as the art director of the company. It was Ferrell that would give Roseville its style that would be remembered even to this day as the “Roseville Look.” He was responsible for a flood of new lines that brought Roseville increased fame and profit in the 20s and the shaky 30s. He immediately came up with Sylvan, Panel, Normandy, Corinthian, Dahlrose, Tuscany, Cremona, and Futura. These were the years of Russell Young. They were full of progress and prosperity for the company.

On October 29, 1929, the stock market crashed and spelled doom for many American companies. Roseville soon felt the aftershocks and tremors of the great upheaval. In 1931 the company suffered another loss. George Young left the company. His feisty and never-say-die mother, Anna, replaced him. She doggedly shepherded the pottery through the stormy waters of the depression. Despite all that she and the company tried, the high standards of quality and beauty and the active public relations program that Roseville maintained failed to promote significant sales during the 1930s, which is why the pieces of this era are so scarce and pricey. Throughout the country, potteries were closing their doors. It was expected that it was only a matter of time until Roseville succumbed. What was needed was a miracle and someone to perform it. No one dreamed that tucked away in one of his old notebooks of design, Frank Ferrell had already forged the salvation of the company.

Discovered by one of Roseville’s salesmen, the Pinecone line was brought out and dusted off for production. It proved to be the miracle that was needed. It was Roseville’s most successful line of pottery. There were more than 75 different shapes and it was produced for over 15 years. It was definitely Roseville’s salvation and Frank Ferrell was the savior. It was also the first line to bear the script trademark that would adorn all subsequent lines. Roseville looked forward to the end of the depression and the beginning of a new era.

Auction Action: [Recently sold at Matt Hurley’s Legacy Auction Center, 2800 Buchanan Trail East, Greencastle, Pa. 17225]

* 4 piece inlaid Mahogany Bedroom Suite, $1800
* Butcher Block, $1000
* 4 Early German Steins [some with handled animal figurines] $830
* Old Cast Iron Bank, $140
* Box of Stereoscope Cards, $120.

Moore, Ed.D., is a specialist in the valuation of antique and collectable objects of the last 100 years. He is an educator, counselor, and avid antique enthusiast as well as a candidate member of the American Society of Appraisers. He has been a collector of antique American Art Pottery and has been a dealer for over 20 years. He is familiar with nearly all lines of American Art Pottery, twentieth century glassware, Art Deco, and Art Nouveau categories. If you have a question about antiques or collectibles, you can e-mail him at buddm4cnsl@comcast.net.