The Art of the Table: Vintage Fiesta Pottery: Visit Happy Heidi's Vintage Fiesta Pottery for Sale at VintageAmericanPottery.com

A Short History of 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.

original fiesta brochure 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. See the fiestaware color guide for more information on the colors."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."


The Fiesta Pottery Time Line

1936: The First 34 Fiesta Tableware Pieces


1936: Summer additions... 14 More Pieces for Christmas


1937: The first discontinued pieces (March 1937)

Fiestaware 12 inch Divided Plate in RedThe 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 early 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 The mixing bowl covers were also deleted at this time. 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.

1937: A few additions (March 1937)

• 10 1/2" Divided Plate
• Medium C Handled Teapot
• Water Tumbler

1938: The loss of the covered onion soup bowl (before turquoise)

Fiestaware Covered Onion Soup Bowl in RedBy January of 1938 the covered onion soup bowl would be dropped as well. Turquoise being added right around the same time that the covered onion soup bowl was discontinued explains why those little bowls are so rare and valuable when found in the turquoise glaze. It is speculated that there may only be a dozen or two max in the turquoise glaze.


1938: January additions

It's hard to believe two full years passed since the inception of the fiestaware line before the turquoise glaze was released as the six original color. Three new pieces were added at that time, right as the covered onion soup was discontinued.
• Fruit Bowl 4 3/4"
• Fruit Bowl 11 3/4"
• Sauce Boat

stick handled creamerIn the summer of 1938 the stick handled creamer was replaced with the regular ring handled version, and production of Fiesta ware cranked on and on. There were three more additions in the summer of 1938.


• Ring Handled Creamer
• Disc water pitcher
• 12" Oval Platter

1940: The promotional campaign years

Fiesta Cobalt Dessert BowlThe 1940s were an exciting time at Homer Laughlin. Fiesta was a roaring success and lots of companies were promoting the pottery with various campaigns and special orders. The pottery line saw an expansion with more than half a dozen items added, not including Kitchen Kraft also expanding.


• Disc Juice Pitcher (promotional item added)
• Juice Tumbler (commission and promo item added)
• Dripcut Syrup Pitcher (licensed addition)
• French Casserole (promotional item added)
• Unlisted Salad Bowl (promotional item added)
• Figure 8 Tray Sugar and Creamer Set (promo item added)

1942: 6 1/2 years into production

By October of 1942 it was obvious that Homer Laughlin China Company was going to have to cease production of its red glaze as the country prepared for WWII and the uranium needed for the glaze was put into restriction. It makes sense to scale back a few pieces and the fiestaware line saw four more pieces discontinued.

• Tripod Candle Holders (discontinued)
• After Dinner Stick Handled Demitasse Coffeepot (discontinued)
• 10" Vase (discontinued)
• 12" Vase (discontinued)

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.


1943-1946: Promotional Pieces and more Discontinued

World War II had already taken a huge toll on Homer Laughlin with the elimination of red. The promotional campaigns also came to an end and the Disc juice, french casserold, juice tumblers, unlisted salad bowl and figure 8 tray with the individual sugar and creamer were all dropped by late 1943. Spring of 1944 saw the end of the Mixing bowls. For a short while, from the Fall of 1942 until the Spring of 1944 they were all produced in only a single color for each number (a great reduction from the choices that awaited consumers before). A little over two years went by without any more cuts to the line until a single item in the summer of 1946, the 8" flower vase was discontinued, leaving only the smaller bud vase from the original start of the line in production.

1946-1951: A National Shift in Tastes

With the war over and servicemen back at home business should have been raging, but styles were shifting and the bright colored tableware that had captured the hearts and minds of the 1930s were no looking outdated and garish. More muted tones and early american decor was taking a foothold. Homer Laughlin would soon respond by introducing a new more subtle color pallette, but not until the largest single reduction of shaps took place. 14 pieces were cut all at once in November of 1946. the bulb candleholders, the carafe, the 12" footed comport, the sweets comport, the ice lip pitcher, the marmalade jar, the mustard jar, the 9 1/2" nappie vegetable bowl, the relish tray, the footed salad bowl, the large teapot, the water tumblers, the utility tray, and the last vase, the bud vase. Drastic reductions left only 28 pieces being made, most of which were plates and small serving pieces.

1950's: Four New Colors (Forest Green, Chartreuse, Rose and Gray)

fiesta brochure 1936During the fall of 1951 some very new and modern colors were brought in, retiring cobalt blue, green and ivory. An fresg assortment of 4 new colors were introduced. Forest green, chartreuse, rose and grey brought in a new look and feel. These colors were destined to only have a short life and only be produced for less than 8 years before Fiesta pottery would slowly fade away at the end of the 1960s. Luckily the fiestaware line so no more reductions in pieces (although no new shapes were added during the 1950s colors).


1959: The End of the Decade...

fiesta 1960 brochureBy 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 largest and most interesting pieces of fiestaware left were the coffeepots, the casserole, the disc water pitcher, the two pint jut, the cream soup bowl, the sugar and ring handled creamer, the sauce boat, the dessert bowls, the ashtrays, the tom and jerry mugs, the AD cups, salt and pepper shakers, the 8 1/2" nappy, the small fruit bowls, the egg cup, the plates, platter and chop plates.

The 1960's and Into the End

fiesta 1960 brochureThe 1960's marked the end for Fiesta pottery- the greatest American dinnerware either lost its appeal or was a victim of poor marketing. By the summer of 1959 the short lived 4 new colors of 1950s were droped along with another 8 pieces from the already smaller line. Although medium green was on it's way to being introduced and the original red was back, along with original turquoise and yellow never being cut from the line, we would have to say goodbye to • the 15" chop plate, • the stick handled AD coffee cup and saucer, • the coffeepot, • the 10 1/2" divided plate, • the cream soup bowl, • the 4 3/4" fruit bowl, • the egg cup, and • the 2 pint jug.

So even with the introduction of a new color, medium green and the reintroduction of original red, the four 1960s colors had only 21 shapes to drap themselves over and more than half of those were simply plates and a few small simple bowls. Gone were the flamboyent days of 12" pottery vases, nesting sets of seven mixing bowls and mix-n-match relish trays. We were down to the basics and times were changing. The 6" dessert bowl hung in there for half a year, but it too was discontinued by January of 1961. One addition graced the last 4 color release, the individual salad bowl, it was the last piece of pottery Frederick Rhead would design for the fiestaware line.

1969: The End of an Era

By the summer of 1969 Homer Laughlin was closing the first chapter of its greatest dinner line ever produced and the original fiestaware would be made no more. It's true that 7 shapes would remain and be caried onto the reinvention of fiesta as Ironstone. And for two and a half more years from July of 1969 until December of 1972 Homer Laughlin would continue to make the disc water pitcher, the 7 and 10" plates, the platter, the shakers, the sauce boat and the teapot in their very 1970s set of colors, mango red (which was really still the same original red from 1936), an antique gold, turf green and amberstone steak house brown. Ironstone has not been popular with collectors until recently and the last decade has seen a retro resurgance for this tableware. It can still be found relatively reasonably but it will ultimately prove even harder to find than the original wares from nearly half a century before.

Vintage Fiestaware Color Timeline

vintage fiesta color chart


Of course Fiesta dinnerware was reintroduced in 1986 and is what collectors refer to as P86, or post 86. Most shapes have changed and the glazes are a completely different formula. Manufacturuing techniques have changed drastically and for those of us that love the original fiestaware, nothing can compare.



Visit our sister site for Early American Antiques at Z and K Antiques »