The Haviland dinnerware history is a classic story exemplifying the 'great American dream'.
However, there can be cause for confusion to the casual observer because there are seemingly many different Haviland companies. You need to nail down the who's who story because, on first appearances, it can seem convoluted.
The story began in the USA, then went en France.
First let us list the likely suspects.
Who on Earth is Who?
They are, Haviland & Co (Limoges), and Haviland & Parlon, Johann Haviland, Charles Edward Haviland, Theodore Haviland, Charles Field Haviland.
Phew! Quite a few companies to sift through then.
Leave it to me, your intrepid online reporter (with a bit of help from Haviland expert Nora Travis).
Today there are 3 surviving Haviland dinnerware companies.
Haviland & Co (Limoges), Haviland & Parlon and Johann Haviland.
I go into a bit more detail further down, but to cut a long story short, the company which, in my view, has the closest claim to be the original Haviland China Company is Haviland & Co (Limoges).
Confused As To Which Haviland Company Made The Above Items?
You have every right to be. Amazingly nowhere online is the Haviland Dinnerware dynasty properly explained in a simple but thorough manner. I took it upon myself to right the wrong (I even went to the lengths of having a recognized Haviland author, expert and dealer, Nora Travis, go over the details and make a detailed analysis of my article - (click here to see her input)
So here goes, the following is my free online guide to Haviland china manufacture:
Originally, Haviland dinnerware was founded in 1842 by American David Haviland, importer of china to the USA. He came across a fragment of perfect porcelain which he understood to emanate from France. Determined to find the source of the shard, he went to Limoges to investigate. Eventually, he found the factory (Foecy, north of the region of Limoges).
It turned out to be one of the few places in the world which had the natural ingredients needed to make perfect porcelain. Only the Limoges "kaolin" could replicate the non-porous eggshell found in the original fragment.
With help from his family including his sons and several brothers including Robert (more of him and his son, Charles Field later), he started a local decorating workshop (awaiting delivery of his own kilns). He bucked the local tradition by refusing to send his products to Sevres for decoration, as was the standard practice.
He decorated locally in Limoges but with American tastes in mind. French china artists were outraged by the foreign upstart who broke all the rules. They held protests at the factory gates. However, he was so successful all was soon forgiven.
Early Haviland dinnerware was soon influenced by the Impressionist. The innovation of painting on earthenware with liquid clay immediately attracted exponents of the new movement such as Manet and Monet.
When Haviland appointed painter and sculptor Felix Bracquemond in charge of the studio such artists as Gauguin, Ribiere, Dufy, and Cocteau, were drawn to the new medium. These artists changed the direction of Haviland china designs, enabling their china products to be thought of as works of fine art rather than just products (see also Clay Artists section).
Meanwhile, in 1859 the abovementioned Charles (Field) Haviland, son of David’s brother Robert, who had also relocated to France with the rest of the family, wanted a piece of his own action and started his own Haviland dinnerware company. The new venture only lasted until 1881, but, nevertheless, produced high quality wares whilst it lasted.
Charles Field Haviland used many of the same patterns as the original Haviland dinnerware, but gave them a bolder, larger interpretation. The company ceased in 1881 to be bought by Limoges china firm Gerard, Duffrasseix & Abbott in 1882. Many Charles Field Haviland wares are unidentified, but very beautiful and collectible.
Back to the original firm: - David Haviland died in 1879 and the company was divided by a split between the two sons, Charles (Edward) and Theodore. They fell out and Theodore separated from his rather stuck-in-his-ways brother. Charles (Edward) retained Haviland & Co and Theodore Haviland began a company with his own name – both claimed to be the genuine Haviland.
So at this point in time there are three Haviland china companies – the two sons of David, and also his nephew Charles (Field).
Then, just to add to the confusion, a fourth company emerges – Charles Edward's son Jean formed Johann Haviland Company in Bavaria. This original Johann Haviland company lasted only until 1924.
However, after some legalese and jockeying, eventually in 1937 the German porcelain manufacturer, Rosenthal, bought the Johann Haviland factory and began to produce fine china for export to the United States, using the backmark "Johann Haviland, Bavaria, Germany”, continuing until the late 1980s. Today, it is still being made. However, the back-stamp now reads, "Tradition Fine China Made for Johann Haviland China Company", and is made in Thailand.
Both of David’s sons, Charles (Edward) and Theodore, died around 1920 and the two companies were handed to the respective sons.
Meanwhile, in 1924 a fifth company was started by yet another relation. This time it was another Robert, the grandson of Charles (Field) Haviland (great-grandson of founder David’s brother, Robert).
This company was originally called Robert Haviland, but went on to be known as Haviland & Parlon and is still running successfully today.
The 1930’s stock market crash saw the end of Charles Edward's company which was snapped up in 1930 by the Gerard, Duffrasseix & Abbott firm who already owned the ‘Charles Field’ trade name.
Theodore’s firm had made it through due to the good work of his son, William. Subsequently, William cleverly worked to buy back the rights of Charles Edward Haviland and Charles Field Haviland from Gerard, Duffrasseix & Abbott, finally succeeding in 1941. The new company is what we now know as Haviland & Co (Limoges).
So three of the five had become one again. That just left two Haviland companies outside the fold (Johann Haviland and Haviland & Parlon).
Simple, wasn’t it? The story of the five Haviland dinnerware firms told nowhere else properly online (too many vested interests - making claims to be the 'true' Haviland).
There are three trade names remaining active, of which two are well respected prestige factories and the third is a trade name owned by luxury German maker Rosenthal of Selb (Johann Haviland).
Haviland Limoges has roots which can be traced back directly to the founder, David, whilst Haviland & Parlon and Johann Haviland are later family off-shoots. All in all, Haviland is an important name in European porcelain manufacture.
Haviland Limoges now incorporates the ‘Limoges Castel’ trade name employing over 300 people. Haviland & Parlon employs around 60 people.
Now, a big thanks to Haviland expert Nora Travis, who kindly read the above, and gave me further details and a couple of additions on certain details which you can access at the bottom of the page here.
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