In 1890, the Roseville Pottery Company was founded in Roseville Ohio by J.F. Weaver and incorporated in 1892 with former salesman George F. Young as general manager. They didn’t move to Zanesville until 1898, by which time George Young had accumulated a controlling interest in the business.
The company’s first pottery range was the Rozane line, named after Roseville and Zanesville, and since then the company has launched a large number of different pottery lines and individual hand crafted pieces. Just prior to the 1920s, the company shifted towards the more commercially produced forms of pottery due to a lack of demand for the more expensive hand-made designs, and the traditional blues and browns eventually gave way to the floral decoration more associated with Roseville pottery patterns today.
The patterns of the 1920s and 30s are suggested by the names given to them, such as Wisteria, Columbine, Fuchsia and White Rose. Gone were the scenes from nature and Central and Native American themes under the names of Aztec, Crystalis and Fudji, and focus was centered on popularity and market conditions.
This is not surprising since the period between the two World Wars was one of great change and social upheaval, swinging from the excesses of the 1920s to the despair of the Great Depression, and not only were there similar cathartic shifts in fashion and design but also in money available to purchase them. These were the years of American Modernism, the Harlem Renaissance and Art Deco, and little wonder that pottery design was similarly fluid.
The highly successful Pinecone range came into being between 1931 and 1935, and was eventually to become the most successful of all Roseville patterns, with over 75 designs in three colors: green, brown and blue. However, the Second World War was to change things forever, and although many new patterns were born during this period the war also brought the development of plastics and melamine.
Melamine ware was to become the death of many traditional tableware businesses, and Roseville Pottery history came to an end in 1954 as an increasing number of people found this new material known as plastic to be cheap and unbreakable. It wasn’t to last of course, but by the time people started to return to pottery it was too late for many businesses, the Roseville Pottery Company among them.
However, Roseville are still collector’s items and can command high process. So much so that Roseville pottery fakes are fairly common, and collectors can have a difficult time because of the situation regarding kiln markings. Roseville Pottery marks can be confusing, and many of the early pieces had no marks at all, but simply paper labels. Roseville pottery identification can be difficult for those not familiar with the markings and the way they developed.
In fact many reproductions and Roseville pottery fakes are difficult to identify unless you are an expert. If you collect Roseville it’s worth learning a bit about the markings, because you can’t always tell a fake just through the absence of ‘USA’ in the marking: much of it is in the glaze and color, although experts can often identify a reproduction from the way the ‘S’ slants. Real Roseville has a definite slant of the ‘s’, though it’s sometimes hard to tell even knowing that.
It doesn’t help that the company was very inconsistent in its kiln markings. The early Rozane lines were given a wafer mark to identify the pattern and a blue ink stamp in the form of Rv was used from 1923. You often see this on the Vintage, Rosecraft Panel and Carnelian I patters. However, between 1927-35 this was replaced with paper or foil labels. Examples of this are seen on the Cherry Blossom, Blackberry, Sunflower and Futura lines among others.
None of this makes Roseville pottery identification easy, and then in 1936 along came the ‘Roseville’ trade mark, die-impressed and with the shape number stated in script along with its size. To confuse matters further, from 1940 pieces began to be marked with the name in raised letters rather than stamped. At least the slanted ‘s’ still gave a guide to collectors as to whether or not they were looking at a Roseville pottery fake.
Roseville pottery identification was made even more difficult with the Pinecone range that was developed over a long period of time. In the absence of consistency in kiln markings, Pinecone can come with any of a number of different types of marking. They can have no mark at all, or have either the impressed or relief company name.
Some Roseville pottery patterns now command high prices, although the early pieces are sometimes difficult to recognize due the absence of kiln marks. Frequently the paper label might be missing, and then only an expert can tell whether a piece is genuine or not. However, would you really want it to be too easy? Surely the insecurity and investigation into proving your piece’s provenance is part of the fun and enjoyment of being a collector.