Rookwood Pottery has a unique and colorful history. Started in 1880 by Maria Longworth Nichols, it was the first US manufacturing company to be owned by a woman. Maria's family was one of the wealthiest in Cincinnati, OH, which gave her more freedom to study fine arts and the means to start her own company. The international art community believed American pottery and art in general during this time to be inferior. Maria set out to prove otherwise. To the surprise of almost everyone, Rookwood Pottery took the Grand Prize at the 1889 Paris Exposition launching the American Art Pottery Movement.
Rookwood quickly became a household name among the wealthy. Everyone who was anyone had at least one Rookwood piece in their home. Museums started requesting pieces for their permanant collections and Rookwood began appearing on the shelves of high-end retailers across the United States.
With the help of talented technicians, chemists, and artists Rookwood developed many new techniques in pottery. They developed an airbrush that allowed the artists to gradually layer colors giving Rookwood a very unique appearance. They also worked tirelessly to develop new glazes and glaze processes.
In 1902, Rookwood stepped into the world of architecture with their Architectural Faience Department. The department quickly grew to include fireplaces, mantels, fountains, and plaques. Rookwood tile graces many early 20th century homes and public buildings all over the country. The peak of production for the architectural line came in the 1920's, but the Great Depression would change everything.
As a luxury product, Rookwood struggled for the first time since beginning production. In 1941, the company filed bankruptcy. However, they were able to keep their doors open through very limited production until it was sold to the Herschede Clock Company in 1959. Production was moved to Starkville, MS but they were unable to continue production and in 1967, production ceased altogether.
In 1982, Dr. Art Townley, a Michigan-based Rookwood collector came to the rescue. He purchased, archived, and preserved over 3000 molds, secret glaze formulas, and all of Rookwood trademarks. He produced a few pieces a year in order to maintain the trademarks - a monkey statue which is now appropriately named the Townley Monkey and is still produced.
He refused many offers to sell the Rookwood assets, waiting for someone to come along who loved it as much as he did and would cherish it and restore it to its former glory. In 2004, a group of investors convinced Dr. Townley to sell and to move the assets back to Cincinnati. Artisans and chemists were brought in to develop the Rookwood brand again. They worked to recreate many of the original glazes and tile designs as well as develop new ones. In 2006, Martin and Marilyn Wade invested in the company and assumed control in 2011.
Today, Rookwood Pottery is going strong working on restoration projects around the country as well as producing vases, tiles, architectural pieces, corporate gifts, trophies and more. They have just recently released 30 new glazes and beautiful architectural fireplace pieces similar to those manufactured by Rookwood in the early 20th century. Antique Floors is proud to be their exclusive dealer in North Texas!
SOURCE Antique Floors site
Photos courtesy of Antique Floors