Rookwood Pottery

Rookwood Pottery History

Maria Longworth Nichols Storer


  • Founded in Cincinnati, OH in 1880 by Maria Longworth Nichols Storer.
  • One of America’s First female-owned manufacturing companies.
  • Storer began Rookwood Pottery, named after her family’s country estate, in a renovated schoolhouse.
  • Storer was herself, an accomplished artist and wanted her pottery to be both beautiful and useful which lead to experimentation with many glazes and production techniques.
  • After much success, in 1882, Rookwood Pottery was relocated to a larger building.
  • A year later, William Watts Taylor became manager of the pottery company.
  • Taylor closely identified and inventoried pottery
  • In a survival of the fittest, decorators were retained according to the number of their pieces that were sold, and the Rookwood Pottery gained its distinct company image.

rockwood pottery vase


  • Rookwood Pottery became one of America’s most successful pottery companies by the early 1900’s.
  • Securing a firm hold on international fame and establishing Rookwood Pottery pieces as objet d’art, Rookwood won the Gold Medal at the 1889 Universal Exposition at Paris before earning the Grand Prix in Ceramics in Paris a year later in 1890.
  • Museums began buying and displaying pieces by Rookwood and retailers such as Tiffany began selling Rookwood pieces in their galleries.
  • With their ever-evolving experimentation with glazes, Rookwood took to new heights of popularity with its release of the Velum Glaze line, first introduced at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis.

rockwood pottery bookends

  • Despite the sudden death of Taylor in 1913, the experimentation continued, and many new glazes were released making this period through the 1920’s the last great era in Rookwood Pottery.
  • During the Great Depression, Rookwood Pottery was forced to close for a year.
  • By the end of 1932, all decorators were laid off from the company.
  • Finances worsened until 1941 when the company filed for bankruptcy and was bought out that same year.
  • Some former decorators like E.T. Hurley, Elizabeth Barrett, Jens Jensen, and Kataro Shirayamadani rejoined the corporation and created vases in limited quantities, especially during the Second World War.
  • Ownership transferred again, and soon, during the war, certain glazes like the Tiger Eye in Marine color were discounted as they needed the uranium for the war.

rockwood pottery

The End of Rookwood Production

  • During the 1950’s Rookwood production continued with pieces and line such as Cirrus that required no special technique or artistic ability.
  • By 1953, all the decorators at Rookwood had left permanently.
  • To take advantage of cheaper taxes and labor, Rookwood was moved once again to Starkville, MS after having been, once again, sold several times.
  • Before permanently closing their Mississippi factory in mid-1967, Rookwood produced 11 new glazes, some more unique and original than ever before.

vintage rockwood pottery advertisement          vintage rockwood pottery advertisement        vintage rockwood pottery advertisement

Rookwood Pottery Glaze Lines

  • Glazes grew with the company, beginning with the difficult dipped Limoge, Ivory and Cameo glazes, followed by the famous, yellow-tinted Standard Glaze.
  • The Iris and Sea Green glazes were released in 1894 and were two prominent variations of the Standard Glaze, praised as being both cool in tone yet colorless.
  • Matte glazes also appeared at the beginning of the 20th century when in 1904 Rookwood released the Velum Line and the Ombroso line in 1910.
  • At the height of Rookwood production, there were more than 500 glazes ready to use at any given time.
  • In 1915, Rookwood returned again to using glazes with a glossier finish with the introduction of the Soft Porcelain finish.

rockwood pottery magazine

  • Glaze lines blossomed in the 1920s, ranging from colorful Ivory lines, the Later Tiger Eye, and the Decorated Mat/Double Vellum glaze.
  • Asian influence during this period was evident in the glaze names such as Sung Plum, Chinese Turquoise and Ming Yellow.
  • Rookwood was divided by the highly decorated lines and the commercial or production lines released through the 1900s.
  • While some glaze lines lend their work to artisans, such as the scenic vellum, other glazes like the Dip/Drip line, the 1940s Vista Blue and Bengal Brown were explicitly created due to the lack of decorators.
  • Rookwood continued to introduce glazes into the 1940’s and 50’s such as Rambo, Violet Gray, Cirrus, and Bengal Brown.

Rookwood Pottery Marks

  • Rookwood Pottery is one of the most documented and thoroughly marked pottery companies in the United States.
  • Rookwood marks can be divided into several categories;
  • decorators’ marks
  • factory marks
  • clay and shape marks
  • unusual process marks
  • Each decorator applied their initials – or their cipher – to their created vase and, at times, they cycled between variations on their mark.
  • With over a hundred artists reported at Rookwood Pottery and several noted uncyphered decorator guests, collectors and authors have taken great pains to catalog the ciphers of 136 official artists.

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  • The essential factory marks went through an evolution before becoming the typical, fourteen flamed “RP” mark that is known today.
  • Prior to 1882, artists experimented with different versions and impressions of “Rookwood Pottery,” coupled with the year produced.
  • In 1886, Alfred Brennan’s “RP” monogram became the standard factory mark and a flame was added around the “RP” every year until 1900 when the flames came full circle to be fourteen in number as seen today.
  • In the twentieth century, the Roman numeral were then added below to indicate the exact year of manufacture.
  • Rookwood Pottery is also found with factory anniversary marks, such as for the fiftieth, sixtieth, seventieth, and seven-fifth year commemorations.

Clay Marks on Rookwood Pottery

  • Rookwood Pottery is marked with a variety of clay and shape marks for accurate identification and classification purposes.
  • Clay marks are straightforward and were mostly used in the early years of production.
  • For Rookwood, they range in clay of
  • “G” for Ginger
  • “O” for Olive
  • “P” for Soft Porcelain
  • “R” for Red
  • “S” for Sage Green
  • “W” for White
  • “Y” for Yellow

rockwood pottery

Shape Numbers Marks

  • After 1900, almost all pottery was either formed from white clay or soft porcelain, eliminating the need for other markers.
  • Shape numbers are also assigned to each Rookwood piece.
  • While they were initially assigned in a random order after 1884, shape numbers are sequential in the order created and introduced to the public.
  • Some shape numbers may also be accompanied by the size letter ranging from “A” (the largest) to “F” (the smallest) size.

rockwood pottery

Process or “Trial” Marks & “Second” Marks

  • Process, or Trial, marks can also be seen on Rookwood pieces and explain where they were meant to be displayed, sold or used.
  • The most common of these miscellaneous marks are the “X” impressions on either side of the Rookwood shape numbers, denoting that the vase was a trial or experimental piece.
  • An “X” ground into the glaze, on the other hand, places the pottery as a “Second” grade and not for retail sale.
  • Rookwood vases marked with an “X” with a line through were seconds that were given away to employees.
  • Collectors have also seen Process Marks of “S” before the shape number used when pieces were made directly from a sketch.
  • The “Y” mark has been seen after a shape number for Rookwood’s Architectural Department, established in 1902.
  • Finally, pottery of vellum finish may be marked with a “V” while the matt glaze finish is signified with a “Z.”

rockwood pottery

Rookwood Standard Glaze

rockwood pottery with standard glaze        rockwood pottery with standard glaze          rockwood pottery with standard glaze

Rookwood Tiger Eye Glaze

rockwood pottery with tiger eye glaze          rockwood pottery with tiger eye glaze

Rookwood Iris Glaze

rockwood pottery with iris glaze          rockwood pottery with iris glaze          rockwood pottery with iris glaze

Rookwood Sea Green Glaze

rockwood pottery with sea green glaze        rockwood pottery with sea green glaze        rockwood pottery with sea green glaze

Rookwood Aerial Blue Glaze

rockwood pottery with aerial blue glaze          rockwood pottery with aerial blue glaze        rockwood pottery with aerial blue glaze


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