- Published: May 14, 2014
- Written by Royal Copley
The following extremely detailed history of the Spaulding China Company is from
"Collecting Royal Copley with Royal Windsor and Spaulding" copyright 2006 By
Joe Devine. Reprinted with permission of the Author Joe Devine.
The Story of the Spaulding China Company
It seems strange that a company as outstanding as SpauldingChina should remain for all practical purposes unknown and unheard of in all thematerial that has been written on Ohio pottery. Even the renowned author, Lois Lehner, mentions in one of her articles in the Depression Glass Daze, that at one time she stood in the
building where Royal Copley was made and didn't know it. Usually when someone attempts to write a book on a certain subject there is literature available from which to glean certain facts and information. The story of Spaulding will be told the hard way, as I began with nothing, and finally pieced the story together bit by bit. It has been an interesting challenge to reveal the glory that was Spaulding's. The story of Spaulding is unique in many ways.
It all began at Sebring, Ohio, an area long noted for pottery and fine ceramic ware. Although Spaulding was born at Sebring, it was the "child" of Morris Feinberg. Without his guidance, foresight, and creative genius there would have been no Spaulding China Company. Here was a man who, singularly, would have been successful in any endeavor he might have chosen. Contrary to dates and figures found elsewhere, Spaulding did not begin operation until 1942. It was during the first six months of 1942 that production actually began. From a brief history of Sebring, Ohio, published in 1949 in connection with Sebring's 50th anniversary, a few interesting facts are noted. The company began operation in a garage on East Ohio Avenue. Needing more room, the plant moved temporarily to theabandoned plant of the Alliance Viterous China Company. Finally, through the efforts of the Sebring businessmen, they acquired the location of the old Sebring Rubber Company. The company installed the finest and most up-to-date machinery they could find at the time. They started with a straight tunnel kiln and a decorating kiln that fired at a lower temperature for decal and golddecorating. Due to increased demand and production, the straight tunnel kiln and decorating kiln were dismantled around 1947 or possibly 1948. With the installation of a large continuous circular kiln, they were able to operate 24 hours a day and in 10 hour cycles. They were in operation every day of the year except for a two week period. With the installation of the large continuous circular kiln, it was possible to fire about 1,500 dozen or 18,000 items per day. And with this kiln, only one firing was required. Most people seem to believe that Sebring became a center for china and ceramic ware because of its clay. This was not the case. It was thesupply of coal and water that made Sebring the center it has been for so many years. The clay for the Spaulding China Company was shipped in from other states such as Georgia and Florida with a much needed No. 5ball clay coming from England. The officers of the Spaulding China Company were Morris Feinberg, president, Mount Vernon, New York: Irving Miller, vice president. Jamaica, Long Island, New York: Daniel Eisenberg, vice president and assistant secretary, Plainfield, New Jersey: and David Borowitz, secretary, Chicago, Illinois. The main office was located in the Empire State Building, New York City, New York. The plant was operated by the following personnel: James G. Eardley, general manager: E.F. Cannell, production control: James Simpson, production: Albert Sines, maintenance supervisor: Clyde Hardy, decorating and design; Frank Weizenecker, quality control and shipping; Barbara Berry, office manager; Joan Haberland, billing; Margaret Kadisch, art and design;Carmen Lewis, design; and Dennie Welch, dipping.
Pearl Habor and World War II meant the end of many ceramic items received from Japan and other places outside the United States. Because ceramics were not strategic to the war effort, all companies producing ceramics ware were given the signal to increase their production. It seems that everything Spaulding did was carefully considered, planned, and worked out. The name for the company was given very special consideration. The name Spaulding rather than Spalding was selected as the name for the company. It was the u in the way the word was spelled that made the difference. The word Spaulding has an English air about it and carries with it a note of sophistication. And what about the words Royal Copley and Royal Windsor? They were carefully considered, also, and not "pulled out of the air" so to speak. For most people the names Royal Copley and Royal Windsor suggest an association or connotation with royalty or something very fine. And the clever use of terms continue: Regal Assortment, Lennox Assortment, Carlton Assortment, Crown Assortment, Essex Assortment, and Oxford Assortment. These assortments were merely a grouping of certain birds, wall pockets, vases, and figurines into cartons of various kinds. They were sold this way and it was an efficient and convenient way of processing the orders. None of the cartons or assortments were opened. Thus, the assortment principle was a bit of merchandising that proved to be popular as well as profitable for the company.
The Spaulding operation was unique in many ways and this contributed greatly to the volume of sales and the popularity of the products. First of all, the operation was one that stressed the importance of design and quality. Spaulding soon learned that it didn't cost any more to make items of fine quality and design than it did to make junk. So their motto became "Gift Shop Merchandise at Chain Store Prices." It was theiremphasis on design and quality that changed the taste of chain stores for ceramic ware. In fact it can be said that it was Spaulding that revolutionized the era of chain store taste for ceramics. And it wasn't long until competitors learned the lesson from Spaulding. Secondly, Spaulding maintained one of the cleanest and most immaculate plants of any around. All items were shipped in strawless and standard cartons that held up well and prevented damage and breakage. However, during the height of the war when the shortage of cartons was critical, many items were shipped in cartons from stores and places of business of various kinds.
It wasn't unusual for many orders to be packed in cartons bearing the term "kosher" on the outside. Thirdly, the plant was one of the most smoothly run in the country and won safety awards time and time again. The working relationship among the workers was one of which few companies could boast. The whole operation was without a doubt one of the finest and most efficient in the nation. Of all that can be said about personnel, the name James Eardley is one of the most significant in the company. Here was a man trusted completely by both his boss and his fellow workers. Morris Feinberg, the president, had the ability to select people of special talent to implement his desires, goals, and wishes. He had such confidence in James Eardley that Mr. Eardley was permitted to sign checks personally for over a million dollars at a time. That was a lot of money at the time! Very seldom does a man like that come along. Fourthly, Spaulding experienced no inventory difficulties and at all times knew exactly where they were. Due to strict inventory keeping, they were able to change production every two weeks. This was an innovation few companies were able to duplicate. It was all part of the novel and efficient operation at Spaulding. Mould making was a big operation at Spaulding. Altogether Spaulding had 50 casters (all men) and each one worked with 50 to 100 moulds depending on size and the number of cavities. Thus, there were times when as many as 4,000 molds were in operation at one time. The mould department was kept busy not only making moulds for new items but replacing those in current production. After about 100 fillings most moulds were worn out and destroyed. Another big department at Spaulding was decorating. There was a total of 35 decorators (all women) and it was from this department that the rich, blending colors were selected and applied. Only lamp bases were made at Spaulding. Most of the lamps made at Spaulding were made early and were similar to the little bud vases and pitchers that started Spaulding on its way. Most of the lamps were made in various styles with floral decals. For the most part these lamp bases were made for only a few customers, the most important one being the Bradley Manufacturing Company of Chicago, of which David Borowitz, a
stockholder in the Spaulding China Company, was president. Being sold and produced in this manner, paper labels as a rule were not applied. However, a few of these same decal lamps bearing a lovely Spaulding paper label have been found. So many of the items marked "Royal Windsor" and "Spaulding" were made for the florist trade. The Planters of the Month or Books of Remembrance series are good examples. All items produced at the Spaulding plant were geared to demand, popularity, and the number of orders coming in. Royal Windsor for the most part was made later and represented only modest production. Copley was so popular and such a big item it tended to overshadow everything else that was made. Although the quality of Royal Windsor and items marked "Spaulding" were not superior to Royal Copley, the items commanded a higher price because they were handled by department stores.How easy the story of Spaulding China Company would have been had all items been stamped or marked with raised letters. Fortunately many items were marked, but so many left the plant with only a sticker or paper label. And over the years the labels were removed or washed off. How thankful collectors can be that so many Copley items, Royal Windsor, and Spaulding items bear their original labels. Familiarity and study is of great help in identification and comments from collectors of long standing have been invaluable. Without a doubt every item produced at the Spaulding plant was given a paper label. However, there is a lot of confusion concerning the paper labels. It is interesting to note that some Royal Copley items can be found with a Spaulding label and some Royal Windsor items can be found with a Royal Copley label. For the most
part the item can be identified by characteristics other than that of a label. With so many items being produced it is easy to see how paper labels might have ended up on the wrong item. Really, it doesn't make any difference as it all came from the same plant. However, for the most part, the right sticker did get "stuck" to the right item. It was Royal Copley that was sold almost exclusively to the chain stores. Good merchandising has many fine points. A name can make a lot of differ ence in sales. It certainly did at Spaulding. If the real truth were known it just may be that certain items sold better if a certain label were applied. It is conceivable that the idea of "giving them what they want" is nothing more than good business.
The company prospered, growing in volume to become, at its peak, the second largest art-ware pottery in the United States. With the end of World War II the tastes and attitudes of people began to change. About a year before the factory closed, the company, in order to meet competition and changing demands, began to produce items combined or associated with wire goods. This was the "thing" at that time. It was during this time that most companies began to experience labor difficulties of various kinds and Spaulding was no exception. During this time of change and adjustment there was, everywhere, a deterioration of morals in business. Many stores began to cancel orders without any intention of fulfilling their part of the contract. In fact many businesses abused their supplier. Without a doubt it was severe competition from the Japanese that hastened the decision to cease operation at Spaulding, for the Japanese were flooding the market with decorative pottery at very competitive prices. And to make it worse, wage rates in Sebring were the highest in the pottery industry in the United States. With the approach of the sixties it was obvious the nation had entered an age and time in which the good, old established ways of doing business were gone. Morris Feinberg was a man who loved business and work; but when it reached the point of interfering with his peace of mind, he considered it time to get out of the rat race. Therefore, in 1957 he retired, but before doing so honored the orders and contracts of customers by turning them over to a nearby company, China Craft, to fill. For a period of almost two years such orders and contracts were filled. It was a rather natural kind of business arrangement as Mr. R.H. Brown, the president of China Craft, was formerly with Spaulding. Mr. R.H. Brown was not the first to leave Spaulding to form his own company. George Stanford, a former manager at Spaulding, left Spaulding and formed the Stanford Pottery Company. It was Stanford that made the lovely Corn pattern that is becoming so popular among collectors.
Irving Miller deserves a special place in the history of the Spaulding China Company. He was an early partner of Morris Feinberg. fn those early days while Morris was making frequent trips between New York and Sebring, it was Irving Miller who headed up the sales. Irving Miller, vice president, not only headed up sales but approved many of the items that were to go into production. He was another giant in the story of Spaulding. Spaulding was first sold to a Mr. Shiftman who was in the plumbing business. He made primarily small sinks
for mobile homes but the operation was not successful. His problem was solved through the help and guidance of Morris Feinberg. There was no foreclosure but through a financial arrangement Mr. Shiftman was relieved of his obligation. Vacant for a few years, the plant was sold in 1964 to Mr. Eugene T. Meskill, president of Holiday Designs, Inc. They made primarily canisters, cookie jars, teapots, and accessory items.
In May of1982 the plant was sold once more to Mr. Richard C Durstein of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Mr. Meskill remained with the company for an indefinite period of time. Thus, the story of this special plant ends here. But the glory of Spaulding will ever speak to us.