The history of Haviland
China is a remarkable tale of determination, ingenuity and devoted
craftsmanship. While most people associate old Haviland porcelain
with the French, in reality an American began the first Haviland
china factory. David Haviland worked as a partner in the New
York based D.G. & D. Haviland Trading Company, an importer of
English and French dinnerware, during the early to mid 1800's.
One day, a customer brought him a piece of china she wished
to match, and the events that followed have become the legend
of Haviland China. It was only a broken teacup, but something
about the quality of the porcelain struck Haviland with an insatiable
curiosity about its origin. The fragile piece was remarkably
white in color, almost translucent, and the consistency of the
china itself was delicate and impermeable. Haviland knew this
old porcelain must be French, but being a devoted dinnerware
importer, he could not be satisfied until he had located the
exact place in France where this impeccable china was manufactured.
After extensive travel through France, Haviland found the very
factory that had produced the elusive teacup. It was located
in Foecy, north of the region of Limoges. He special ordered
several sets from this factory, suggesting particular designs
to suit American tastes. However, the products he eventually
received were not yet worthy of the name Haviland China. Undeterred,
David Haviland moved his family to Limoges, France in 1841 to
begin his own factory. Limoges was already a leading center
of pottery manufacturing, but he chose the region because it
was then one of the few places in the world in which the natural
clay ingredient needed to make china, "kaolin," could be found.
While similar materials could be found elsewhere, even in certain
places in the United States, it was only the Limoges "kaolin"
that, when fired, was capable of replicating the non-porous
eggshell whiteware he had been seeking all along.
Haviland China distinguished
itself immediately from the old French porcelain dinnerware
when David Haviland refused to send his products to Paris for
decoration, as was the standard practice. Instead, he set up
a decorating studio within the factory in order to produce patterns
more closely suited to American tastes. This severely offended
French sensibilities, which clung to old traditions about how
porcelain should be manufactured. The idea was so radical, in
fact, that protests by French artists were held outside the
Haviland china factory during its early years. For a while,
Haviland China was so controversial that many of the decorators
producing American patterns in Limoges could not travel alone
at night! Eventually however, Haviland China came to be respected
by French society. Far from remaining isolated from artistic
developments in the country, early Haviland China was strongly
influenced by the Impressionist movement that developed in France
during the same period. In 1872, David's son Charles opened
the Auteuil Studio in Paris, and it was here that the famous
"Haviland Barbotine" was first produced. This innovation of
painting on earthenware with liquid clay attracted the attention
of great French artists such as Manet, Monet, and the Damousse
brothers. It is often said that the work of the Impressionists
greatly influenced the floral designs of Haviland China. After
David Haviland's death in 1879, the firm passed into the hands
of his two sons, Theodore Haviland and Charles Edward Haviland.
However, an irreconcilable disagreement concerning business
practices lead to the liquidation of the old porcelain factory,
and the creation of two separate Haviland china companies. Charles
Edward began "Haviland et Cie," French for "Haviland & Co.,"
while Theodore Haviland installed another porcelain producing
factory under his own name. Charles Haviland marketed his china
under the slogan "Buy Genuine Haviland," while Theodore Haviland
commissioned several artists from the Auteuil Studio to work
for his firm, "Theodore Haviland, Limoges." While the rivalry
seemed vital at the time, ultimately the work of both of these
companies would become synonymous with the name Haviland China.
During this time, as
though seeking to escape the French porcelain rivalry, Charles
Haviland's son Jean moved to Bavaria in 1907 to begin the Johann
Haviland Company. Bavaria was the only other region outside
France and China where the essential "kaolin" could be found.
The Johann Haviland Company was comparatively short-lived, ceasing
production in 1924. The name rights to Johann Haviland were
eventually purchased by an Italian Company, and later by the
Rosenthal Group. Although Haviland & Co. continued to operate,
the future of the company seemed dire following Charles Haviland's
death in 1921. Theodore Haviland's superior marketing strategies
allowed his company to survive the stock market crash of 1929,
which finished Charles's company for good. In 1941, Theodore
Haviland, Limoges, under the ownership of Theodore Haviland's
son William won exclusive rights to Haviland & Co.'s name and
backstamps, and the ttwo Haviland China companies again became
one. It is estimated that over 60,000 Haviland China patterns
were produced by the time the Haviland family retired from management
in 1972. The pieces that remain are highly collectible, not
only due to their historical and artistic significance but also
because of their sheer beauty and timeless quality. The name
Haviland China today is inseparable from the legacy of French
and American dinnerware, certain to be collected and treasured
for many years to come.
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