The Roseville Pottery was incorporated in 1892 in Roseville, Ohio, but they had been producing stoneware since 1890 when they purchased an old J.B. Owens Pottery factory. In 1895 they purchased the Midland Pottery, and began producing large amounts of artistic garden accessories. Even today there is a great demand for the jardinieres of this period, and they are quite rare.
In 1898 Roseville Pottery purchased the Clark Stoneware Company and began operations in Zanesville, Ohio. Although the Zanesville plant produced purely utilitarian painted ware, it was quite successful. With the hiring of Ross Purdy in 1900, the first art pottery line was created, Rozane which is their standard glaze slip-decorated pottery. Artists were hired to hand-paint the wares with designs of flowers, animals and people. Today, some of the most sought after pieces are those painted with dogs or Native Americans.
In 1900, John Herald was hired as a designer and art director who created lines that were in direct response to those created by the Weller Pottery. One such line, the Rozane Mongol line won first prize at the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. With a deep red crystalline glaze, it was a successful attempt to recreate a lost Chinese blood-red glaze.
In 1904, Frederick Hurton Rhead was recruited as the Art Director, and he held that position for only four years. But during that time he created art lines that are among the most difficult to find and highly-sought by collectors. He initially oversaw lines created before his tenure such as Woodland, Mongol, Mara, and Egypto, all of which are very hard to find today. However, he introduced many of his own lines, including Olympic, Fudgi, Crystalis, Aztec, and Della Robbia, all highly desirable patterns today.
In 1908 Harry Rhead succeeded his brother as Art Director. In an era where hand-decorated wares were becoming unpopular and unprofitable, Harry began in earnest to create less labor-intensive lines. He was responsible for the creation of the famous Donatello line, which was produced for at least ten years. They sold over 100 shapes of Donatello and the line made the Roseville Pottery successful and profitable.
Everything changed in 1918 when Frank Ferrell became the Art Director. He would come to be responsible for every shape and form created by Roseville for the next thirty years, encompassing nearly 100 lines and thousands of shapes. His first line set the tone for the future, the Sylvan pattern featured tree bark, with leaves throughout. Wildlife and hunting scenes occasionally decorated the pieces, making it quite popular with rural customers. Frank quickly followed up with the Vista pattern, and then released the first of the floral-themed patterns, Dogwood. These themed lines would become an instantly-recognizable hallmark of Roseville Pottery for decades to follow.
In 1928, Frank created the famous Futura line, featuring a wide variety of art deco designs. Even today Futura remains unique among American art pottery as the epitome of art deco design and style. Several pieces of this line such as the Tank and the Chinese Bronze are extremely rare and can command over $10,000 at auction.
In 1935, Frank designed what became the highest selling art pottery line of all time: The Pinecone line. This line was credited with saving the company from bankruptcy, and is today collected by more enthusiasts than any other pattern by any company. Pinecone was produced in over 100 shapes for over a decade, and was even added to in 1953 with the Pinecone II line. It was hoped that a revival of the success with the Pinecone pattern would rescue the company from trying financial times.
As with all other American pottery companies, cheaper imports from Japan undermined their sales. Constantly struggling to survive, Roseville Pottery limped along until 1954, when they sold the company along with all designs and plants to New England Ceramics Company who then sold it to Franklin Potteries of Franklin, WV. In 1954, all production of Roseville Pottery stopped. Even to this day vintage Roseville Pottery is collected by thousands of people world-wide. Prices have undergone wild swings over the years, and some patterns fall into and out of style with collectors. But with a solid history and thousands of different shapes, Roseville Pottery is certain to be collected for many decades to come.