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Buffalo Pottery Background, History and the Company’s “Premium” Wares
Buffalo Pottery Roosevelt Bears Milk Pitcher

Buffalo Pottery Roosevelt Bears Milk Pitcher, Ca. 1907, Sold for $1,320 at Morphy Auctions in February, 2012 (Click on the Photo for a Larger View)

Photo Courtesy of Morphy Auctions
Buffalo Pottery’s history began in 1903 when the Larkin Soap Company of Buffalo, New York began making pottery and china to offer customers as premiums when they purchased soap products by mail order or through select retail outlets.

While the soap being sold was the focus of John Durrant Larkin, his brother-in-law Elbert Hubbard, who was a salesman with the company, spearheaded the marketing plan that resulted in the now-famous pottery company. An ardent follower of William Morris, Hubbard organized the legendary Roycrofters in his home in Illinois. His fascination with the Arts and Crafts movement no doubt influenced the hand decorated art pottery Buffalo distributed with soap in its early years. Hubbard tragically lost his life on the Lusitania in 1915, but the pottery company he inspired continued to live on, according to an online article by Brice Garrett.

Buffalo’s First Products

Operating nine kilns from the very beginning, the first Buffalo products were actually semi-vitreous dinnerware sets. In fact, this was the first American-based company to produce a line of Blue Willow ware, and their mastery of blue-printing china rivaled that of English factories. They also developed a line named Gaudy Willow which featured multi-colored decor. Other early products included game, fowl and fish sets - styles popular the world over in the early 1900s. They made advertising plates and mugs as well.

Buffalo also made commemorative and historical lines, which included Roosevelt Bears (akin to the “Teddy” bear) pieces like the one shown here (see the reverse side on page 2 of this feature).Other pitchers made feature fairy tales like Cinderella or historical figures such as George Washington. Even when these pieces are stained like the example here, they can still easily sell in excess of $1,000 each due to their rarity.

By 1911, this growing pottery company employed close to 250 people. The premium products on which the company was founded continued to be popular with consumers who gladly redeemed certificates distributed with the purchase of Larkin products to obtain their Buffalo Pottery wares.

To learn about Buffalo Pottery's Deldare lines and take a look at an example, see page 2.

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