Nautilus and Nautilus Eggshell by Homer Laughlin
The following originally appeared on pages 129-135 of An Overview of Homer Laughlin Dinnerware ©2002,
and is being posted on www.laurelhollowpark.net with permission along with corrections and updates.


The Nautilus flatware is characterized as a plain round shape with a single sunken ring around the edge. On the other hand, the hollowware is ornate with shell finials and handles and little scroll feet.

Modeling of the line began in July 1935 with a 9" plate with a ,"deep ball, sunken bead, and a plain edge." Several other version were created, but the original design was accepted. From August to October, several casseroles were modeled: "Plain Sunken Bead", "Sunken Bead on Edge, Ring Handled" and "Sunken Bead, Plain Cover, Oval Handles." Ring handled sugars and creamers were then made to match the casserole.

On October 1935, the familiar Nautilus casserole was modeled and listed as, "Casserole Shell Handles Four Footed." With the basic shapes for the flatware and hollowware approved, the rest of Nautilus was made. The flatware was created with ease, however the same cannot be said for the hollowware. The casserole required several revisions so the shell handles would come out right in the finished product. The feet for the hollowware underwent several changes. On March 20, 1936, an entry in Frederick Rhead's journals discusses one of the problems with the hollowware" "...Nautilus cream. Casting holes in foot too prominent. This piece and the sauceboat to be taken care of..." On the same day an entry is made regarding the teapot which confirms what many collectors have suspected: "Pittenger phoned about Nautilus teapot. Told him that J. M. Wells had not included it in the line. He suggested the Wells teapot. Suggested that we decorate one..." While Rhead doesn't mention the Wells teapot again, it must have been picked up since sets of Nautilus can be found with a Wells shape teapot.

Nautilus was offered in early 1936 and would continue to be produced into the mid to late 1950s. Almost every piece (except teacups and demitasse cups) will be marked with a special Nautilus backstamp which Rhead notes making on December 26, 1935.

Advertisement for "Early America" on the Nautilus shape

Besides the Wells teapot, some patterns had other pick up pieces included such as the Baltimore mug, Cable egg cup, and the Jade butter dish. They carry a general HLC backstamp with date code.

Pastel Nautilus

Soon after the pastel line Serenade began production in 1939, HLC considered making one of its already existing shapes in the pastel glazes for F. W. Woolworth's. In September, the following shapes in the Serenade colors were ordered for testing purposes: Wells, Harlequin, Nautilus, Coronet, Republic, Virginia Rose, and Swing. Several more trials and samples were made unit it was finally decided that the pastel glazes would be used on Nautilus.

There were only two changes to Nautilus to make this special line. One involved modifying the teacup by making it larger. The other was the addition of a double egg cup. The Kraft Blue shape egg cup was selected and the rope embossing was removed.

Pastel Nautilus was sold through Woolworth's in early 1940 in the standard Serenade glazes: pink, green, yellow, and blue. Almost every piece if found with a Homer Laughlin/Nautilus backstamp.

Nautilus Eggshell

Almost a year had passed since the regular Nautilus line was put into production when HLC decided to use the shape as a basis for a new type of body called, Eggshell. Rhead would often call this a "talc body" but it was really a special combination, light weight clay. Some vintage ads identify the primary mineral involved as Tremolite - or Calcium Magnesium Silicate Hydroxide Ca2Mg5Si8O22(OH)2. The flatware for Nautilus Eggshell is the same as the regular Nautilus version, but the hollowware is different.

The round shape of the hollowware was preserved, but the little scroll feet were replaced with a one piece foot and the shell handles and finials were greatly simplified. When the casserole was redesigned, three different handles and finials were considered and tested. The original sketch is shown at the right . The fist two (A and B) were open , but it was the smaller closed versions (C) that were accepted. New handles and finials matching the casserole were also made for the covered sugar. The creamer and sauceboat were also made with solid round feet and the little "thorn" atop the handles was removed. While the design of the flatware was not changed, appropriate molds needed to be made for the new type of body.

Rhead notes making the Nautilus Eggshell backstamp on December 28, 1936 - two days over being exactly a year since he made the regular Nautilus marking. Various sketches are shown to the right. The new line was offered in January of 1937.

When it became apparent Eggshell was a good seller, HLC decided to make more shapes in the light weight body. Swing came next in late 1937, Theme in 1939, Georgian in 1940, and Andover in 1941.

In August 1940, several new shapes were added to Nautilus Eggshell: salad bowl, teapot, and square plate. This coincided with the same pieces being made for Georgian Eggshell. When shakers were modeled for Georgian Eggshell during the same time, Rhead notes that instead of making them for the Nautilus version, the Swing shakers would be picked up instead.

Hundreds of decals were used on Nautilus Eggshell from it introduction until it was discontinued in the early 1960s. It and Virginia Rose are arguably the most decorated shapes HLC produced.

Nautilus Eggshell was a sharp contrast to the Art Deco and Streamline shapes for the 1930s and '40s as well as the more casual lines of the '50s. In most catalogs form the 1950s, Nautilus Eggshell is usually offered along side Georgian Eggshell and the last eggshell shape made by Homer Laughlin, Cavalier.

~ Nautilus Examples ~

"Goodrest" pattern, number N-200 on a Nautilus casserole.

Pattern N-261

Tulips with green band and gold line.

Pattern W-138, "Antique Shop"
A note in Rhead's journals from March 1938 describes the Antique Shop decal:


Window shelf, left to right: Drinking vessel, American, 18th century. Stiegel swirl bottle, 1750-1770. Wistarberg amber flask, 1759-1780. Wine bottle, American, early 18th century. Early American fiddle bottle.

Table, left to right: Underlaze, painted plaque, Minton art studio, London, England, about 1880. Chinese vase, red enamel, K'ang-hsi, 1662-1722. Stoneware jug, 18th century. Willow Plate, Staffordshire. Toby Jug, Ralph Wood, Staffordshire, about 1770. Modern Stoneware bottle, Finland. Georgian silver candlestick.

German salt glaze stoneware, jug, early 17th century. Chinese beaker, 21 inches high, (K'ang-hsi, 1622-1722) Back ground, painted enamels.

This vase, or one like it, was in the collection of the elder Pierpont Morgan who is reported to have paid $125,000. (One hundred and twenty five thousand dollars) for the example.

"Antique Shop" detail

Pattern N-234

Pattern N-388

Hacienda sauceboat, front

Hacienda sauceboat, back

Red Apple creamer, pattern JJ-50 for J. J. Newberry's

Red Apple sauceboat

Platter and 9" plate with pattern N-332

Demitasse cup and saucer with pattern N-296

Pattern N-259 sauceobat and baker

Pastel Nautilus sauceboat

Pastel Nautilus platter

Pastel Nautilus casserole

Pattern N-200 sauceboat

Pastel Nautilus double egg cups

"Neville" pattern on a Nautilus platter. (Neville on HLC's Kwaker shape was sold by Sears.)

~ Nautilus Eggshell Examples ~

Pattern N-1811, "Minuet"

Pattern N-1769

Pattern N-1812

Pattern N-1776, "Magnolia"

Pattern N-1578

Pattern N-1785

Nautlus Eggshell decorated by Wheeling Decorating Co.

Pattern N-1430

Mexicana, N-1524

Ads for "Corsage" (Eggshell Nautilus) and "Boquet" (Georgian Eggshell)

Underglaze decoration

Nantucket/American Provincial plate


"Cardinal" platter

Pattern N-1219 platter

Pattern N-1219 sauceboat

Pattern N-1794 sauceboat

Pattern N-1521, "Della Robbia" platter

Pattern N-1775, "Magnolia" with wide gray band

Pattern N-1580

Pattern N-1577, "Ferndale"

Pattern N-1591

Pattern N-1586

Pattern N-1773, "Orchard"

Pattern VM-8, "Bristol"

Pattern N-1753, "Nantucket"
on an Eggshell Nautilus platter.

Pattern N-1523, "Metropole"
which was used on Georgian as G-114.

Pattern N-1583, "Ardmore" platter

Pattern N-1583, "Ardmore" teacup and saucer

Covered sugar decorated by an outside firm

Overstamp of the decorated sugar

Casserole with pattern N-1248

Casserole with pattern N-1402

Casserole with pattern N-1829

Casserole with pattern N-1554

Casserole with pattern N-1670

N-1635 (blue band as shown) N-1605 (pink band)

Three Eggshell Nautilus decal test plates from the 1940s

Eggshell Nautilus sugar with N-1520, "Dolls House" and creamer with N-1691, "Blue Dawn"

Eggshell Nautilus sugar with CP-24, "Acacia" and creamer with N-1475, a pattern that originally appeared on Kwaker.

Spanish Door on Eggshell Nautilus 9" plate, gravy, Swing Eggshell sugar, Georgian baker (G-48), and Jade sugar and creamer (J-7).

Teapot with N-1694, "Greek Key"

Colonial Kitchen on Eggshell Nautilus teacup and saucer

36s bowls with pattern N-1409

Gravy with pattern N-1481

Part of a bridge set from 1940 using Eggshell Nautilus shapes.

Assortment of Items:

Items marked with (*) were made in eggshell body only
Items marked with (**) were made for Pastel Nautilus

  • 10" plate
  • 9" plate
  • 8" plate
  • Square plate *
  • 7" plate
  • 6" plate
  • Fruit cup
  • Oatmeal bowl
  • Teacup
  • Saucer
  • Demitasse cup
  • Demitasse saucer
  • 15" platter
  • 13" platter
  • 11 platter
  • Chop plate
  • Salad bowl*
  • Egg cup**
  • Pastels teacup**
  • Casserole
  • Cream soup*
  • Cream soup liner*
  • Lug soup
  • Deep plate
  • Gravy fast stand*
  • Sauceboat
  • Sauceboat stand
  • Sugar
  • Creamer
  • 10" baker
  • 9" baker
  • 10" nappy
  • 9" nappy
  • Teapot*
  • Shakers*
  • Eggshell Egg cup*
  • Cable egg cup

A marriage of an Eggshell Nautilus body and a regular Nautilus lid, probably brought together and decorated by an outside firm.

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