Merchandising Company Formed Pottery
Plant To Make Premiums
The origin of the Buffalo Pottery is found in a bar of Larkin’s Creme Oatmeal Soap. John D. Larkin and his brother-in-law, Elbert Hubbard, created the merchandising strategy that led to the pottery’s establishment.
Larkin and Hubbard had worked for a Chicago soap factory, and in 1875 returned to their home town of Buffalo, New York, to manufacture soap there. Larkin was in charge of manufacturing, and Hubbard was responsible for the marketing.
The original product was a bar of yellow laundry soap called “Sweet Home”; it was In 1885.
Hubbard introduced the idea of bypassing the middleman, and selling direct to the consumer. He did not reduce the selling price, however; instead, he offered the difference in value to the customer in the form of premiums. The idea caught on quickly, and soon the Larkin company was buying enormous quantities of premium stock.
In 1890, Hubbard introduced the Club Plan – a system of selling soap products to groups, such as women’s clubs. This new marketing plan produced such high profits that Hubbard was able to retire in 1893.
(He then went on to form the Roycroft Community of craftsmen, which produced high quality metalwork, leather goods, furniture and bookbinding, in the Arts and Crafts style. Hubbard was killed in the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915.)
The success of Hubbard’s soap-merchandising schemes was so great that the Larkin Company gradually began to manufacture its own premium merchandise. One of the first factories to be established for this purpose was the Buffalo Pottery, begun in 1901.
It was wholly owned by its parent company and started out with nine kilns. By 1911, it had grown to employ 250 people.
The first items to be produced were dinner sets in a semivitreous china, designed after an imported French dinnerware, and also a blue willow pattern. There were also calendar plates and some commemorative and historical pieces. The output of the pottery became so popular that the company began selling its ware through regular retail outlets, as well as using it as premium merchandise.
In 1908, Buffalo Pottery entered the art pottery field with its introduction of Deldare Ware. It is characterized by the solid olive-green color of the body; the term does not apply to any particular style of decoration.
Each piece of Deldare was hand-decorated over a transfer print. The regular Deldare ware is always banded with a continuous scene, with a titled scene in the center. The primary motifs were a hunt scene called Fallowfield Hunt, Ye Olden Days, Ye Lion Inn and Dr. Syntax.
A second art pottery line, Abino, was produced between 1911 and 1913. It was hand decorated, but no transfer prints were used. The scenes came from a place called Point Abino, a sailboating haven near Buffalo. Although the same molds were used as for Deldare, the colors used were entirely different.
For a a brief period, about this same time, there were other lines called Luna Ware, a pale blue clay formula; Café-au-Lait, a soft tan; and Ivory Ware, an ivory clay.
In 1915, the company changed to a vitrified china, and from that point on, its wares were marked “Buffalo China” instead of “Buffalo Pottery.”
A recommended reference is The Book of Buffalo Pottery, by Violet and Seymour Altman (Schiffer Publishing.) It was printed in 1987, but covers thoroughly the history and products of the company.
Return to Index