First China Here Drew Praise From Editor
Porcelain first was made successfully in East Liverpool 55 years ago by Homer Laughlin in his plant on the River Road. The potter was determined to equal foreign china, if not surpass it in texture and beauty.
He succeeded far beyond his most optimistic expectation. The new ware had a high translucency and the slip decorations used were equaled only by the Sevres china of France and the Minton ware of England.
One morning in April 1886, Jere Simms, editor of the Tribune, received an invitation from Mr. Laughlin to visit the plant and see the new china. The first glost kiln had been drawn and Simms' opinion was wanted as to its beauty and worth. He was met by Mr. Laughlin and the plant superintendent, a potter named Bradshaw.
"Have you really made china?" asked Simms skeptically.
Laughlin grinned as he led the way to the decoration shop. "If you don't say it's the finest you ever saw," he retorted, "I'll eat every piece including the saggers."
It wasn't necessary for the manufacturer to keep his drastic promise. The expression on Simms' face when he saw the ware spoke louder than words. He picked up a vase, walked to the window and held it against the brilliant spring sunshine.
"It's china!" was all he could say.
Laughlin and his manager exchanged smiles. "That's right," answered Bradshaw, as he took the vase from the editor, "but handle it carefully, man, there is a limit to its strength. See how fragile it is?" He picked up a small poker and before the amazed and startled eyes of the visitor, tapped the ware sharply.
"Don't do that!" Simms cried out involuntarily. "Why break it?"
"But I didn't break it," answered the manager. "I didn't even crack it."
"Then you knew just where to hit it," declared Simms emphatically. "China is too thin to be hitting with a poker indiscriminately."
Laughlin chuckled as he handed the poker and the vase to the newspaperman. "Try it yourself," he suggested, "and don't be afraid to hit it!"
It was only after several resounding smacks the vase broke in two. Without a word Bradshaw smeared the open cracks with soot from a nearby stove. Simms watched him intently. Most ware was highly absorbent and porous. Without a doubt the unglazed portions would be stained permanently.
"If this were ordinary ware," Bradshaw spoke like a pedagogue, "the inside of this crack never would be clean again. Watch!" He dipped a sponge in water and with a single swipe washed away every semblance of dirt.
"Translucent, break- and stain-proof." enumerated Simms.
"Right you are," agreed Laughlin, "Now, Jere, what do you think of it?"
What he thought of the ware appeared in the next issue of the Tribune:
"The delicate color, which is about that of milk or lump sugar, neither white nor cream, was so noticeable as to secure admiration at the first glance. There was that uniformity of color so much sought after by the artistic potters down though the history of ceramics - a color so hard to obtain. It is no longer a question of doubt that the finest, thinnest and most translucent of china can be produced here in America.
"The trademark for the new ware will be a horseshoe over crossed swords with the letters Laughlin China on the face of the horseshoe"