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 early 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.
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.
Almost a year had passed since ht 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.