Walter Scott Lenox was born in 1859 in the “Staffordshire of America”: Trenton, N.J. which became the USA’s leading ceramics center and boasted some 200 potteries in the 19th century. Lenox worked as a decorator and designer for several Trenton potteries beginning in 1875 and six years later he advanced to design director for Ott & Brewer, then Willets Manufacturing.
Both firms eventually failed and Lenox took his skills and expertise and established The Lenox Ceramic Art Company in 1889. From the outset it was organized as an art studio, rather than a factory, and offered one-of-a-kind artwares in lustrous ivory china, rather than a full line of ceramics.
Pictured a Lenox China handpainted Belleek ware from Lenox.
The exquisitely painted and modeled vases, pitchers, and tea sets, produced at first by just 18 employees, were met with an enthusiastic reception and carried in the most exclusive shops. By 1897 examples of Lenox’s work were included in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution.
With the advent of modern dining Lenox began producing their own fine china dinnerware. The plates received much acclaim and proved so successful that Lenox turned his attention increasingly to complete sets of dinnerware and in 1906 changed his firm’s name to Lenox Incorporated to reflect the new direction from the Ceramic Art Company. The tradition of customized place settings continues today.
Pictured Lenox China featuring the Eternal™ pattern which was designed in 1965 and still ranks among the most popular designs.
From 910 the company began to produce standardized patterns in addition
to the custom-made pieces for the thriving US market. These were initially hand decorated transfer prints and then full-color lithographic decals. The Lenox name had quickly become synonymous with elegant tableware, chosen for the “best” homes — including the White House. President and Mrs. Wilson commissioned an official state service of 1,700 pieces in 1918, making Lenox the first American china to grace a president’s table.
Pictured Lenox China The Wilson Service – the pattern developed by Lenox’s chief designer, Frank Holmes, was as restrained and dignified as the Wilsons themselves.
It remains the only American porcelain in continuous use at the White House for more than 80 years, with new services created for four subsequent presidents: Franklin D. Roosevelt (1934), Truman (1951), Reagan (1981), and Clinton (2000).
Walter Scott Lenox died in 1920, having realized his dream and founded a company dedicated to the “perfection of American porcelain.” The company continued to grow and continued to offer custom-designed services as well as an arr ay of accessories, including lamps, figurines, vases, pitchers, even a honey jar shaped like a beehive.
Lenox products were widely recognized for excellence in design, in large part due to Frank Graham Holmes, chief designer from 1905 to 1954. He garnered numerous awards, such as the Craftsmanship Medal of the American Institute of Architects (1927) and the silver medal of the American Designers Institute (1943). His work was among the 34 Lenox pieces chosen for display in 1928 by the elite National Museum of Ceramics in Sévres, France — the first and only American porcelain ever extended this honor.
Pictured A Lenox China plate designed by artist Catherine McClung.
Lenox continued to improvise and modernise bringing many popular ranges and designs and in 1989 it celebrated its centennial — a landmark reached by no other American porcelain company.
In recent years Lenox has continued as a leader in such trends as transitional china and mix-and-match placesettings while continuing to employ centuries-old craft techniques, including piercing, jeweling, and etching. It has also used some of the world’s leading designers to create ranges and designs including Catherine McClung, Parvaneh Holloway and Sandra Kuck (one of the world’s most collected artists).
Pictured A Lenox China Disney piece featuring Mickey and Minnie.
Lenox brands have included Dansk, Gorham and Brooks Bentley and ranges have included tableware, home decor, jewelry, giftware, collectors plates and collectibles featuring Disney, and animated characters such as from Dr. Seuss, Peanuts, Warner Bros and the Wizard of Oz.
For more details and a full history on Lenox China visit the Lenox Classics Web Site