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The Art of the Table: Vintage Fiesta Pottery

The most popular American dinnerware ever, designed by the Englishman, Frederick Hurten Rhead, was introduced to the American public in 1936 by the Homer Laughlin Pottery Company of Newell, West Virgina. Rheads original Fiesta ware line roared through production for a little more than twenty years before it was modified, reduced and eventually discontinued by the end of 1972.

Fiestaware Demitasse PotRheads Fiesta pottery line would continue to be produced for almost 25 years until it was restyled in 1959 and replaced with Fiesta Ironstone which was discontinued in 1973. Fiesta dinnerware was reintroduced in 1986 to celebrate its 50th anniversary, with many new pieces and some familiar faces. Although Post-86 (as it's called) Fiesta ware has its own strong following, the Vintage Fiesta pottery that more or less drew to a close near the beginning of the 60s was of a whole different calibar.

It's amazing and frustrating that a pottery line that produced 10,129,449 pieces in 1948 alone can be so hard to find a mere 50+ years later.

Fiesta ware was originally introduced in just 5 colors, Red (it may look orange, but everyone seems to have agreed to keep with its original name of "red"), Blue (cobalt now), Green (light or original green), Yellow and Old Ivory (simply ivory now), with Turquoise not hitting the shelves until 1937.

"The new idea in American dinnerware is Fiesta–in five lovely colors of Green, Yellow, Blue, Old Ivory, and Red–all brilliant and cheerful. Smart sophisticated services of rich color and beauty! A California fashion that has swept the nation."

1936: A FIESTA POTTERY TIME LINE...

The First 34 Fiesta Pottery Pieces:
coffeepot
demitasse pot
large tepot
carafe
ice pitcher
sugar bowl
stick handled creamer
bud vase
tripod candle holders
bulb candle holders
salt and pepper shakers
sweets compote
15" chop plate
13" chop plate
12" divided plate
10" divided plate
10" dinner plate
  9 " dinner plate
  7 " dinner plate
  6 " dinner plate
teacup and saucer
demitasse cups & saucers
6 " dessert bowl
5" fruit bowl
ashtray
footed salad bowl
set of 7 mixing bowls
covered casserole
cream soup
covered onion soup
relish tray
12" comport
nappy 9 1/2"
nappy 8 1/2"
Within a Year, a Couple of Early Deaths:

Fiestaware 12The first piece given the boot was the 12" compartment plate (it was dropped before turquoise came along, so you won't find one in turquoise - try as you might - and if you have please contact me!). These won't ever be marked- many of these early pieces weren't marked. The ink stamp "GENUINE fiesta" came later, which explains why so many plates aren't marked, although the lower case "fiesta HLC USA" or "fiesta MADE IN USA" was molded and indented into many of the first pieces. There were quickly modifications to some pieces of the line (the sugar bowl, teacups, utility trays, the creamer, the nesting bowls, the ashtrays- they all underwent slight modifications early on). These early pieces are highly coveted with serious collectors.

Fiestaware Covered Onion Soup Bowl - in RedNear the end of 1937 the covered onion soup bowl would be dropped as well.Turquoise being added right before the onion soup bowl was discontinued explains why those little bowls are so rare and valuable.


THE ROARING '30S
17 More Pieces for Christmas:
sauce boat
egg cups
deep plates
Tom and Jerry mugs
covered casseroles
11" fruit bowl
mustards

marmalades
2 pint jug
the utility tray
12" oval platter
8" vase
10" vase
12" vase
bowl lids(#1-#4)
disk water pitcher
ring handled creamer

In the fall of 1939 the stick handled creamer was replaced with the regular ring handled version, and production of Fiesta ware cranked on and on.

During the 40's Homer Laughlin released a Fiesta promotion - a 7 piece Juice Set

"imagine getting this smart, new 7-piece set of genuine Fiesta pottery with all its color, charm and usefulness–for so little! ($1) "


1942: 5 years into production:
Homer Laughlin Co dropped the tripod candle holders, the stick handled demitasse coffeepot & the 10" and 12" vases '

1943-1959: Red Disappears for 16 Years
Fiesta Cobalt Dessert BowlThe government needed the Uranium that was used to make the red glaze during World War Two, so red was given up for the war effort, until March of 1959, when you could once again purchase uranium oxide in the hills of West Virginia. During the war years, Homer Laughlin continued to slash pieces - the footed salad bowl, the 11 1/2 fruit bowl, the bud vase , bulb candle holders, carafe, 12" compote, sweets compote, marmalade and mustard, ice pitcher, 9 1/2" nappy, relish tray, large teapot, 10oz. tumbler the utility tray, and the 8" vase, were dropped from the line.

1950's: The New Colors
During the fall of 1951 some very new and modern colors were brought in, retiring cobalt, green and ivory. An entirely new pallette of forest green, chartreuse, rose and grey brought in a whole new look and feel. These colors were destined to only have a short life before Fiesta pottery would whimper away at the end of the 60s, thus the reason for the high price difference on pieces in these colors.

 

1959: The End of the Decade...
By the end of the decade red was back in and the eleventh color to date, medium green, was introduced. In 1969 the entire line was restyled - thus making the few last pieces around in medium green much more scarce than most all other fiestaware), but the other 50's colors were done along with more piecies– 15" chop plate, Demitasse cups & saucers, the coffeepot, 10 1/2" compatrment plate , cream soups, egg cups, 4 3/4" fruit bowl and the 2 pint jug. But just to keep the ball rolling they put out the individual salad bowl. (This piece was only made in Red, Medium Green, Yellow and Turquoise- the last bastillon of the Fiesta colors).

The 60's and Into the End
The 60's marked the end for Fiesta pottery- the greatest American dinnerware either lost its appeal or was a victim of poor marketing. Early on they dropped the 6" dessert bowl but then left everything alone until they totally restyled their line in 1969 and put out Ironstone. They kept the original red going, but cut the entire line down to 19 pieces. Antique Gold and Turf Green were added and many of the molds changed shape. They tried this stuff for a few years but called it quits at the end of 1972. So really, if you want to be ahead of the curve go ahead and build your collection of Turf Green fiesta now while it's still affordable - it was after all only made for a few years... but sadly it is so '70s...


ORDER OF PIECES DROPPED FROM THE FIESTAPOTTERY LINE:
12"Compartment (divided) plate | Covered Onion Soup Bowl | Stick Handled Creamer | Tripod Candle Holders | Demitasse Coffee Pot | 10" & 12" Vases | (Red from 1943-1959) | Footed Salad Bowl | 11 1/2" Fruit Bowl | Bud Vase | Bulb Candle Holders | Carafe | 12" Compote | Sweets Compote | Marmalade | Mustard | Ice Pitcher | 9 1/2" Nappy | Relish Tray | Large Teapot | 10oz. Tumbler | Utility Tray | 8" Vase
----------------
1950s (late)
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15" Chop Plate | Demitasse Cups & Saucers | Coffeepot
10 1/2" Divided Plate | Cream Soup | Egg Cup | 4 3/4" Fruit Bowl | 2 Pint Jug

Of course Fiesta dinnerware was reintroduced in 1986 and is going strong today. But this concludes our brief history lesson. On to the gallery...

Happy Heidi's All New Vintage Fiestaware.com, where you can purchase quality vintage fiestaware from my personal collection
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Happy Heidi's All New Vintage Fiestaware.com, where you can purchase quality vintage fiestaware from my personal collection