There is so much to know about the history of the Rookwood Pottery that to best serve their pottery history we have divided it into sections to provide greater detail.
The Rookwood Pottery Company has a very storied past. This was all started by Maria Longsworth Nichols in 1880. She took particular interest in pottery to escape the trappings of a “not happy marriage” several years prior to opening Rookwood. In the 1870’s, decorating china became all the rage by people of means and various pottery clubs were formed. Maria started decorating china in 1873 and in 1875 received Japanese design books. You can definitely see the Japanese influence in all of her work. The most recognizable of the pottery clubs at the time are the Pottery Club of Cincinnati and the Womens’ Pottery club. Louise McLaughlin had written several books on china painting. She founded the Women’s Pottery Club in 1879 but Maria was not invited to join. Apparently there was a rivalry of sorts between her and Louise McLaughlin who was also a driving force in art pottery during the same period.
At this time, Maria started to create pottery at the Frederick Dallas Pottery. While both ladies used the Dallas pottery in Cincinnati to create their wares, they were always in separate rooms. Louise had a new kiln built because the current one was too hot. Maria then had a new kiln built. Louise sent her wares to NYC for firing and so did Maria but to a different company.
Maria first worked in graniteware but colors did not take. Soon she moved to clay and with the help of Joseph Bailey Sr she was able to develop some glazes. Soon it became difficult for Maria to be creative in the Dallas Pottery, he father suggested using a schoolhouse he had previously purchased and turning that into a pottery. She named the pottery Rookwood which is a combination of Wedgewood Pottery of England and her father’s home near a crow (rook) filled woods. In November 1880, the first pieces were fired. From the very beginning, several types of wares were being produced.
By 1881, they were making quantities of dinnerware often decorated with underglaze prints of birds, fish and other animals. While the other artists decorated in this style, Maria was heavily influenced by Japanese art. By today’s standard, Maria’s creations tended toward a more gothic nature. Maria expanded the pottery and space was provided for the Rookwood School for Pottery decoration. She hoped this school would provide talented artists to decorate her pottery wares. She hired office staff and artists. Rookwood was used by many amateur artists who were undocumented and may have marked their pottery with the Rookwood trademarks.
In 1881, some of the most famous of the Rookwood artists were hired. Those being Albert Valentein, Laura Fry, Harriett Wenderoth, W.H. Breuer, Alfred Brennan and Fanny Auckland. William McDonald andMatthew Daly joined in 1882. With all this talent, wares were produced that were exceptional in detail.
The company started to thrive and in 1883 she hired an administrator, William Taylor to run the company as it had been losing money even though they sold a tremendous amount of wares. He put a new marketing strategy into place, increased sales, expanded product lines and the potteries plus closed the pottery school. They ultimately moved to a new location on the summit of Mount Adams overlooking Cincinnati. In 1883,Laura Fry made a discovery by using an atomizer to spray on glaze which turned into the Standard Glaze. This glaze was Rookwood’s staple for many years with various artists painting decorations of floral, animal and people. This glaze is still collectible today.
In the early years, the Rookwood art pottery won several medals from various exhibitions which gave them notoriety and helped to increase sales. In 1890, Maria retired from the Rookwood Pottery and turned over all interests to William Taylor.
Collecting vintage Rookwood Art pottery can be very challenging, especially when the price of a single Rookwood Pottery Vase can be many thousands of dollars. But there are many lines that can be collected on a budget. Click here to see Rookwood Pottery for sale at The Kings Fortune.