Wednesday, July 13, 2011


The myth and magic
of Nemadji "Indian" Pottery

Nemadji Pottery has been produced at the gateway of Minnesota's Arrowhead Region since 1923. The plant was first founded in the City of Moose Lake, which is at the crossroads of Minnesota state highway 73 and Interstate-35.
Nemadji Tile first graced the floors of many churches, and businesses and the homes of America's most wealthy. The less expensive pottery was produced as a tourist item during the Great Depression. It was sold primarily in the west and in the northeast as "Indian" Pottery.
The only connection to Minnesota's Ojibway Tribe is the Name, Nemadji, which roughly translates as"Lefthand." While never produced by Indians, the pottery was promoted as being reminiscent of ancient indian pottery--overtime, it became known as Indian Pottery.
The Pottery was first made using the rich clays taken from the banks of the Nemadji River. The special painting technique used to give the pottery its unique look was developed in 1929 by Eric Hellman. The Nemadji plant was moved to Kettle River in 1972-73. The new owner updated the plant and made significant changes to the pottery. The plant was sold again in 1980. Within a year, the new owner closed down the tile making end of business. Production of Nemadji pottery ended in the winter of 2001-2002.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Chalkware was figurines made of sculpted gypsum painted with watercolors; most typically those made in one of two periods, the first beginning in the late 18th century and ending by the beginning of the 20th century, the second being during the Great Depression. Those made during the first period were more typically serious art; those during the second period were more typically somewhat jocular.
Today, Chalkware is more commonly created with a plaster substance to create long lasting collectibles. Vaillancourt Folk Art is known for producing the first contemporary chalkware figurines since the original gypsum versions. Contemporary chalkware was made popular by designer Judi Vaillancourt and is one of the last remaining crafters still designing by hand.

 From Country Home Blog

ChalkwareThis is a featured page

Called poor-man’s porcelain, chalkware was the immigrant’s savvy answer to a growing demand in 19th-century America for ornamental figurines. Using fast-drying plaster of Paris (which sets white and powdery like chalk), small teams of craftsmen created products that sold for pennies. Plaster did not have to be fired in a kiln like pricier ceramics, and decoration could be quickly hand painted rather than glazed.

One family, a rented room, water, plaster, and a few jars of paint were all that was needed to create a menagerie of small, colorful chalkware animals, birds, portrait busts, and fruit compotes to sell door-to-door. Image peddlers, as they were called, strolled city streets hawking wares they carried on boards above their heads. Some took along unpainted pieces as well, which they would decorate to a housewife’s liking right on her doorstep.

Though chalkware was a commercial product, today it is appreciated as folk art. The difficulties of modeling plaster gave each figure a coarse, almost clumsy charm. Forms are often imprecise and dependent upon painting for descriptive details. Because each piece was hand painted, two casts from the same mold can vary according to the skill or taste of the decorator.

While the 20th-century eye looks for signs of the human spirit in the individuality of each piece, the original chalkware owner was more likely to focus on resemblances. Chalkware was an imitative art form, executed in the style of then-fashionable Staffordshire figurines. From sheep and peasant couples to the ever-popular spaniel, many chalkware forms were modeled on imported ceramics. However, although comparisons between Staffordshire and chalkware figures can be made, no one has ever identified a chalkware piece that was cast directly from a Staffordshire figure. Chalkware craftsmen, it would seem, did not buy the expensive imported figures to make their molds.

Instead, they made their own models with the goal of capturing the general look of the more expensive wares. They were also selective in choosing which Staffordshire forms to imitate, opting for dogs, cats, and squirrels over cows and for patriotic and pastoral themes over figures from literature, mythology, theater, or sports.

Italian immigrants in Philadelphia, Boston, and New York carried on the bulk of chalkware production in America from 1840 to 1890. They worked in barely furnished rooms and abandoned houses, rarely staying in one place long enough to set up a home or a shop. Some itinerant peddlers sold their wares on city streets; others traveled deep into the countryside.

Although chalkware has been found as far north as Maine and as far west as the Mississippi, it was eastern Pennsylvania’s German population who proved such an enthusiastic audience that, until recently, collectors mistakenly regarded chalkware as a homespun craft of that region. Experts attributed the vibrant, often garish paints on chalkware to the local taste for color and proposed theories as to how a tradition of plaster figurines so strong in Italy could have developed and flourished in the German community. This misunderstanding of the origin of chalkware led collectors to believe that it was an exclusively country art form favored by those who could not afford pricier ornaments. The truth is that plaster ornaments were just as likely to have decorated urban homes as rural homes, and, while they were certainly very popular with working-class loan modification people, they also appealed to Victorians of more than humble means. Victorian interiors were dark, with heavily draped windows. Indoor lighting was expensive and inefficient, but rows of inexpensive, colorful chalkware could brighten a room.

The majority of chalkware pieces depicted animals—sleeping and sitting cats, poodles, spaniels, squirrels, roosters, parrots, deer, and sheep. Religious figures included angels, nativity scenes, Madonnas, kneeling children, and Saint Nicks. During the first half of the 19th century, portrait busts and relief portraits of royalty and political figures such as Napoleon and Josephine were made, but they soon fell out of fashion. After 1860, the range of chalkware that depicted people focused almost exclusively on working-class heroes such as firemen, idyllic peasant couples, custom shot glasses,George Washington, singer Jenny Lind, and social reformer Amelia Jenks Bloomer.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Saga of Landers, Frary & Clark

The Saga of Landers, Frary & Clark
By Earl Lifshey
Copyright © The National Housewares Manufacturers Association
Reprinted with permission.

"This is the story of Landers, Frary & Clark and its service to the American home. For more than a century three able men, active in the industrial, political and cultural life in New Britain and in Connecticut, were the principal actors in our little story. But the real theme is the changing pattern of American living in the past 100 years and of the company's contribution to this changing pattern, because Landers has been making products for the American home for nearly twelve decades and its success has been due to ability to change products with the changing times."
Those were the words with which Richard L. White, then chairman of the board of directors of Landers, Frary & Clark, began a speech on his company's history at a meeting of The Newcomen Society in Noank, Connecticut, August 12, 1955. (Mr. White resigned as chairman in 1958. B. C. Neece continued as president of the company. The following year he was named chairman but retired in 1960. Harry T. Silverman, who had been president and was then elected chairman, was the last to hold that post.)
In 1965 though, this great company, once one of the best known and most prestigious in the housewares and hardware business, closed its doors permanently. The unbelievable had happened. While rumors of its impending doom had long been zig-zagging throughout the marketplace, the final reality came as a shock to the thousands of retailers who had known and dealt with the company for so long.
On May 17, 1965 its illustrious "Universal" trademark along with the remaining assets, inventory and equipment were acquired by the General Electric Company's Housewares Division, though not until after some rather frantic last minute meetings with government officials in Washington who wanted to satisfy themselves the acquisition involved no "monopolistic" aspects.
The number of products manufactured by Landers over the years was enormous and their scope amazing. They made stainless steel bull-nose rings and electric ranges, kitchen scales and vacuum bottles, window hardware and ice skates, mouse traps and percolators, can openers, cutlery and aluminum cookware, and thousands of other products. And somehow, almost until the very end, it seemed to work out profitably.
Landers, Frary & Clark traces its start to the time George Landers, age sixteen, arrived in New Britain, Connecticut in 1829 looking for a job. He soon went to work for Josiah Dewey who, seven years earlier, had started a small foundry making cupboard latches and other hardware. After Dewey's death, it became Landers & Smith Manufacturing Company in 1853. As president, Landers' salary was seven hundred dollars a year.
In 1862 the small but prosperous company made another of the many acquisitions that were to mark its history and growth in future years. It acquired the firm of Frary, Clark & Company, of Meriden Connecticut, the company name changed to Landers, Frary & Clark, which it retained for the next full century of its existence.
Probably the most important item introduced around this period was a household scale, "the first product designed particularly for the American housewife," White explained in his speech.
The company and the extent of its line continued to it had added meat choppers and sausage stuffers, screw eyes and strap hooks, door handles and floor scrapers, molasses gates and faucets, meat hooks and harness hooks, cast iron match boxes and curry combs, fancy brass hat hooks and eyes with porcelain knob ends--and even toys.
In 1870, George Landers, having turned fifty-seven, decided to retire from active management, but to stay on as vice-president and director. His son was now secretary of the company.
In the 1890s the trade name "Universal" was adopted for the company's products. And it was in the same period that it introduced a series of quite revolutionary household products that were to help establish it as a leader in the housewares field.
One of these, explained Richard White to the Newcomen Society, was the "Universal" bread maker.
In those days breadmaking was a common household chore...the days of baker's bread were still far away. In the "Universal" bread maker, dough was prepared in the evening, left in the machine to rise overnight, ready for baking in the morning. That business was one of the mainstays of the company.
The second product to become a household necessity was the "Universal" food chopper. Choppers were not new, but this one ground not merely meats but vegetables as well....Odds and ends could be turned into hashes and casseroles with ease....The identical model food chopper first produced in 1897 is an active item in our line now in 1955--58 years later.
The third, and to us, the most important invention of the period was the "Universal" coffee percolator (first produced in 1905). Here was a brand new method of brewing coffee below the boiling point, with resultant improvement in clarity and flavor....Today percolators outsell other types of coffee makers. This percolator of the nineties was a simple one, heated on the stove. The day of electricity was only dawning.
A stock clerk named Charles F. Smith had gone to work for Landers in 1882, and in 1900 on the death of Charles Landers, son of the founder, he was elected president. Until his death in 1938, Smith was responsible for the tremendous growth of the company. Beginning with a patent it received in 1908 for the development of an electrical unit to be used on percolators, the company moved head-on into the appliance field.
The first "Universal" appliance appeared in 1912 when a "thermo cell" electric iron was introduced. Percolators, toasters and ranges soon followed. By 1915 it was already making electric ranges. Then came World War I when all production was devoted to military needs.
After the war the company greatly intensified its entry into electrical household products, an era Richard White referred to as the second or "electrical phase" of its development. "Today [1955], while Landers is manufacturing many non-electrical products for the home, its principal products are in the electrical field," he said.
It is noteworthy that in the early 1920s Landers, in order to exercise more complete quality control over its appliances, adopted a policy of making all its own parts as far as possible. At the time it claimed that six out of every ten homes in the country had at least one "Universal" product. Its capitalization in 1923 had reached $10.5 million and it employed over three thousand people.
In 1919 the Barnes & Kovell Company and the next year the Columbia Heating Pad Company were added to produce its own "Universal" line. In 1940 it acquired the O-Pan-Top Manufacturing Company, producers of a top-opening carpet sweeper.
Throughout the many years of its growth Landers had developed a conservative, intensely quality-minded image; here, it seemed, was a company so solidly rooted "it'll go on forever." So in 1950, when it announced the discontinuance of its cutlery division after eighty-four years of operation, the trade was shocked. Landers, they would tell you, acquired businesses--it didn't drop them.
But the next few years saw acquisitions. In 1954 Landers bought the Dazey Corporation with a big line of can openers, juicers, and other items. The following year it bought the Electric Steam Radiator Corporation, Paris, Kentucky, adding the name "Electresteem." In 1958 the Standard Products Company, Whitman, Massachusetts, was purchased and its line of portable appliances marketed through a new subsidiary, Handy-Hannah Products Corporation under the "Handy Hannah" brand. The same year a Canadian firm, Ever-Bright Limited, was bought. It made copper-clad utensils and portable appliances. To house the operation making private brand merchandise, Landers bought a big new plant in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, the Eastern Metal Products Company. In the next couple of years Landers also brought out a line of "Cookamatic" copper-cored stainless steel appliances, operated by a single control.
A great effort was made to develop new products, especially in portable appliances, using new principles of design. Yet an ominous cloud of doubt still hovered over the company's future.
The complicated closing chapters of Landers, Frary & Clark can be well summarized by these excerpts from an account of those developments which appeared in the New Britain (Connecticut) Herald, April 21, 1965:
Concern over the future of L F & C in New Britain, its birthplace, reached large proportions in 1957 with the purchase of the modern Eastern Metal Products plant in Fort Smith, Arkansas.... President Bret Neece advised stockholders on March 3, 1958 there would be greater utilization of subsidiary facilities.... Final days of true local control of L F & C were early in 1959. Frederick W. Richmond of New York, called a modern "empire builder" and "financial wizard," came onto the L F & C scene in 1958 by way of a "blind offer" to buy stock. The Franklin National Bank of Long Island made the offer.
Richmond, still in his thirties at the time, headed an investment firm which wound up with one hundred thousand shares of L F & C. Richmond soon became chairman of the board.
He was unseated in June 1960. A group, headed by another New Yorker, Harry T. Silverman, became the largest shareholders....
Silverman expressed confidence at the outset, predicting the number of employees would double within a year. Approximately 1800 were on the payroll then, about one-half the 3600 peak.
By the Spring of 1961 Silverman, the chairman of the board, the president and other holders of large blocks of stock, turned their ears to offers.
On March 30, Silverman announced a tender to acquire controlling stock of L F & C by J. B. Williams Company, a leading producer of pharmaceuticals. Within six weeks J. B. Williams had ownership of 80% of some 404,000 outstanding shares.
Matthew B. Rosenhaus, president of J. B. Williams, came to New Britain before the stock was actually acquired. He spoke optimistically of the future. Williams paid $22 per share or approximately $9 million for the stock. The total investment of the Rosenhaus group, Silverman estimated, would be $25 million. Williams officials have maintained L F & C has been a losing proposition.
The efforts to diversify, to strike out in new areas continued. In 1964, for example, with much fanfare, it introduced what was said to be the first, mass-produced, pure nickel electroformed coffeemaker under the brand name of "Permatel." Research and development for this project cost $500,000 and cost of installing production equipment was $1 million.
But a year later it was all over. Landers, Frary & Clark was now another famous name that had passed into history where, with the years, its former fame would soon fade away.

Trifari history

Since the 1920s, Trifari has been one of the most respected and admired producers of costume jewelry in the United States. Founded in the 1910s by Gustavo Trifari, the Italian-immigrant son of a Napoli goldsmith, the company has designed jewelry that’s been worn by countless high-profile clients, from Mamie Eisenhower to Madonna.
The success of Trifari, and the reason for its collectibility today, is most often credited to French designer Alfred Phillipe, the company’s chief designer from 1930 until 1968. His use of invisible settings for stones, which he originally developed for Van Cleef and Arpels, added a level of craftsmanship and technique that had not been previously seen in costume jewelry.
Among Phillipe’s countless contributions are the Trifari Crown pins from the late 1930s to the 1950s. The crowns were so popular that Trifari incorporated a crown into its mark in about 1937. Authentic Trifari jewelry is typically marked with "Jewels by Trifari," "TKF" (for Trifari, Krussman & Fishel), or "Trifari," depending on when it was made.
Some of the Trifari Crown pins feature eye-catching, brightly colored cabochons. Others are composed entirely of clear crystal rhinestones for a monochromatic effect. Naturally, a series of Coronation Gems was produced in 1953 to celebrate the ascendancy of Elizabeth II to the British throne.
Trifari’s Jelly Belly pins of seals, poodles, roosters, and other animals appeared in the 1940s. Each animal’s "belly" consists of a solid Lucite "pearl" with settings of sterling silver or gold plate. Although any Jelly Belly from this decade is going to command a good price, the poodles are especially rare.
Other categories of vintage Trifari costume jewelry to look for are the vintage floral pins from the 1930s and the fruit and vegetable pieces from the 1950s. In particular, collectors like the miniature fruit pins (apples, pineapples, grape bunches, and strawberries, to name a few) from the late 1950s through the 1960s. These single pieces, usually finished in a matte silver or gold, were worn by themselves or in groups. Also popular are the patriotic pins from the 1940s of American flags and red-white-and-blue eagles.
Like all manufacturers during World War II, Trifari was unable to use metal in its products due to rationing. This forced Trifari to switch to sterling silver during the war, which tripled prices for Trifari products (although that didn’t seem to hurt sales). Post-war, Trifari wanted to go back to less costly, maintenance-free metal, but its audience was now used to silver. To hype the return to a cheaper base metal, the company began advertising a "revolutionary" new metal called Trifanium, which was a made-up name for their basic metal — unlike silver, it could be given a no-polish rhodium finish.
The campaign worked so well that by 1953, Mamie Eisenhower felt perfectly comfortable to break with tradition and wear costume jewelry to the inaugural ball. To match the First Lady’s pink satin gown (studded with 2,000 rhinestones), Alfred Phillipe designed an "orientique" pearl choker with matching three-stranded bracelet and earrings, each laden with eight pearls. Three sets were made: one for the First Lady, a second for the Smithsonian, and a third for the Trifari archives. Mrs. Eisenhower was so pleased with the ensemble that she had Trifari make jewelry for her second inaugural ball in 1957.

Coro history

Coro, a partnership between Emanuel Cohn (the "Co") and Gerald Rosenberg (the "ro"), began producing jewelry in New York in 1901 and continued through the 1970s under the marks Coro, Coro Craft (later Corocraft), and Vendome, among others. Although Vendome was the company's high-end line, some of the most sought-after pieces today are the Coro pieces, especially the Duettes, the company produced in the 1930s and 1940s.
The reason for much of Coro’s early success was Adolph Katz, who became the company’s design director in 1924, and Gene Verri, who designed for Coro from 1933 until 1963. Katz created Coro’s en tremblant floral pins, which featured tiny metal springs that allowed elements of the pin to vibrate or tremble when its wearer moved.
Among the most collectible vintage Coro pieces today are the Coro Duettes from 1931 to the 1950s. The Duettes utilized a frame based on one designed by Cartier in 1927. Like the Cartier frame, the Coro version had two openings in it, one for each pin. Pins could be attached to the frame to be worn as a set, or detached from the frame to be worn individually.
The first Duette designs were Art Deco and monochromatic in style, but subsequent pins include pairs of enameled owls with aquamarine eyes and pavé-set rhinestone bodies, crowned cherubs, horse heads, and an Indian brave and squaw. Though their popularity ebbed in the 1950s, today a vintage Coro Duette, particularly one that trembles like the Quivering Camellia, is highly prized by contemporary collectors.
Corocraft was the next step up in quality, price, and prestige from Coro. Under the Corocraft brand, Coro introduced a line of Jelly Belly pins that were similar to those made by Trifari, right down to the Lucite "belly." Whereas most vintage Coro pieces were built on metal frames, vintage Corocraft pins and bracelets were often made of sterling silver or plated in gold. As for the rhinestones, Coro Craft ads from the late 1940s refer to these as "Diadem Jewels" to give its line of cut glass the allusion of royal lineage and status.
Vendome, which was introduced in 1944 and replaced Corocraft in 1953, was the top of the Coro line. This was serious, simulated bling, featuring rhinestone-studded chokers, cabochon-festooned silver-plated bangles, and, by the 1960s, a set of six gold-plated pins designed by Vendome’s Helen Marion, who was inspired by the work of the great Cubist artist Georges Braque.
Like Coro, which had embraced Lucite for both its Jelly Bellies and individual pins, Vendome also used Lucite. But instead of treating the material as just a clear or translucent replacement for a glass bead, Vendome designers shaved and formed Lucite into organics shapes in unexpected colors. For example, one floral pin with matching earrings features delicate blue-and-white Lucite petals atop verdant-green Lucite leaves.
Key terms for Vintage Coro Costume Jewelry:
Cabochon: A stone that has been shaped and polished instead of faceted. It usually has a flat back and a shape that is round or oval.
Diamante: Another word for rhinestone.
En tremblant: A trembling effect on a piece of jewelry achieved by mounting coiled metal springs to the piece’s fitting. Brooches and other piece that have this effect are usually called tremblers.
Pavé: A setting in which numerous small stones are set so tightly together that they create a uniform surface.