Ask About Antiques Roseville Pottery III The 40s and 50s
by Budd A. Moore, Ed.D.
As Roseville Pottery moved out of the depression into the 1940s, demand for its products reached an all-time high. The prolific Frank Ferrell still headed the art department and produced dozens of new and exciting lines for sale. The style he developed was the symbol of Roseville. It was called the “Roseville look.” The 1940s were the era of the “garden flowers” lines of pottery. Such lines as Peony, Bushberry, Foxglove, Water Lily, and White Rose all followed the Ferrell design and plan for production. These lines were embossed with realistic floral designs and finished in a satiny matte glaze. They were the essence of the Roseville look and what a lot of people today know as Roseville Pottery.
Roseville flourished during the 1940s with a huge number of lines and tons of pieces distributed throughout the country. The company was enjoying a wildly profitable period of its existence. Gardenia, Mock Orange, Clematis, Snowberry, Apple Blossom, and many other flow lines flew from the production lines. All of this was a dream situation that soon ended. As the war ebbed, so did the demand for Roseville Pottery. The very success of some industries that helped the war effort made up one of the elements of the doom of Roseville. Plastics were found to be a suitable substitute for pottery. Inexpensively produced foreign ware took less time to import and to distribute than it once took a shipment of Roseville to go from Zanesville to New York. The ruse of wartime business tapered to a trickle.
Roseville’s managers wondered what to do in this unprecedented situation. The post war competition was far different from anything that Roseville ever faced. The competition was leading and Roseville was forced to follow. This was a strange situation that the company found itself in at this time. Roseville Pottery was never cut out to be a follower. In its haste to do something about the situation the company abandoned the “Roseville look” and opted for a shiny glaze and styles that were thought to be more in keeping with the times. It gave up something that was unique for something that was a lot less in demand. This is the time when Wincraft and Ming Tree were produced and just did not get off the ground. Most lines failed to sell. There were few buyers. Instead of projecting a new image that would bring in new business, the company was producing pieces that were unrecognized, unappreciated and unsold.
By the time 1950 rolled around, even the most optimistic admirer of Roseville had to admit that the market was lost. The unRoseville-like Roseville and the new and different competition had frittered away a half century of leadership in the industry. As a last gasp, the company thought producing an oven to tableware that was contemporary in design and useful to the average person could restore that economic solvency. Lots of capital was expended to produce the new dinnerware called Raymor. This effort was the last chance that the pottery had for survival. The risks were great. Raymor looked promising. It seemed just what the public seemed to want, and it should have sold. However, when introduced, there was no public acclaim and no rush to fill orders. There were no longer any smiles on the faces of Roseville executives. The company had lost its biggest gamble.
The obituary was written on November 15, 1954 when Roseville Pottery was sold to the Mosaic Tile Company. Less than a month later the company was again sold to New England Ceramics, Inc. The molds were eventually sold to a company in Mississippi with the intention to re-open production, but they ended up on the scrap heap, symbolizing the demise of the pottery once and for all. In the 60 years that Roseville operated, its products became a symbol of quality and beauty, a fixture in American homes. It is not easily forgotten. As the production of Roseville Pottery ended, a new force stirred. The era of the Roseville collector dawned.
Auction Action: [Recently sold at Matt Hurley’s Legacy Auction Center, 2800 Buchanan Trail East, Greencastle, Pa. 17225]
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* Watt Ware bowl #39, $100;
*Marx-Salerno Cookie Truck, $80
Budd A. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or drop him a letter at 8864 Lorford Drive, Chambersburg, PA 17201-9335. An answer to your question may appear in a subsequent column.