Family Drama: The Havilands of America, France and Germany

In the 1800’s there was an American family named the Havilands who owned a china shop in New York City. The family was made up of four brothers David, Edmond, Daniel, and Robert all who participated in the dishware business in one way or another whether it was through trading, importing, exporting or physical operation of the William Street storefront.

A 19th-century view of William Street where the Haviland’s worked. Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library Digital Collection.

Selling dishes in New York City in the 19th century was a competitive business. China merchants were located all around town utilizing the bustling harbor to import dishes from faraway countries. The Haviland inventory came from England and France in the form of creamware…

Early 1800’s English creamware

that came off the Pearl Street docks just a few blocks from the Haviland’s shop. Constantly trying to improve their offerings and find lucrative ways to stay afloat while supplying the city with serving pieces, the Haviland’s also offered china repair services. Legend states that a broken teacup made of a beautiful white clay brought in by a customer, led one brother, David, to hunt down the source of this stunning bright, light material.

Portrait of David Haviland painted in 1848 by Fortin

The search for discovery led him all the way to Limoges, France where factories had been producing porcelain dishes made from local kaolin clay since the 1700’s. Beholding the beauty of this delicate but strong material the enterprising David picked up his wife and young son from America and moved to Limoges with plans of opening his own porcelain factory in order to send all of its creations back to America for sale.

David’s wife, Mary Miller Haviland

In France in the 1800’s, pottery manufacturing and pottery design were two separate businesses. First, the pottery was made in a factory then it was shipped to artisans who painted or applied decorative imagery to the blank pieces. David Haviland saw a faster, more efficient process. When he opened his china manufacturing plant in Limoges, he hired local artists to hand-paint colorful designs on his porcelain pieces in-factory, thus eliminating the extra steps of sending china blanks out to be finished.

David’s European business venture quickly set him apart from other local French potters. His faster production time allowed more shipments and greater volumes to be exported. Plus, his new oval shaped dishes, the artistic renderings of realistic-looking hand-painted flowers and the bright white glow of the porcelain material delighted American buyers. Quickly word spread and a prestigious reputation of fine china manufacturing followed. Havilland Limoges became the must-have item. Even U.S. presidents were smitten. An elegant, artistic brand bearing the Haviland name was established.

Haviland Limoges china circa 1870

Back in France, David’s two sons Charles and Theodore grew up in the family business. Both went on to make life-long careers of the industry, each adding their own unique style, design aesthetic and innovation to the Haviland brand. But even though the company enjoyed world-wide notoriety, staying at the top of their game was still a constant balancing act. Competition was fierce both inside the industry and inside the family.

Upon their dad’s death in 1879, Charles and Theodore couldn’t agree on similar ways to move the company forward so they broke it in two.  Both brothers, now operating at the helm of their own separate companies, incorporated the family name and waged a war against each other for top spot in the market.

Charles’s pottery mark on the left, Theodore’s pottery mark on the right, circa 1880’s/1890’s. Marks courtesy of Kovels.

The stable of original in-house French artists that their dad, David, had gathered and that had turned the Haviland dishes into beautiful works of art became pawns between the two son’s companies. There was in-fighting and backstabbing. The brothers competed with each other on all levels from design to pricing. When a set of Theodore Haviland China went on sale, Charles would reduce a similar set of his own even more. If Charles offered a 15 piece set of china for a certain price, Theodore would offer a 25 piece set for the same price. And so it went back and forth between the two.

Charles Haviland china plate on the left,. Theodore Haviland cup and saucer on the right.

Charles had a son named Jean, who was born in France and like his dad grew up in the china business. But unlike Charles’s childhood,  Jean didn’t grow up in the hard-work-pays-off environment experienced by his smart, industrious grandfather, David. Instead, Jean saw his dad, Charles, bear the exhausting burden of constantly competing in a business that relentlessly beat back. Brother warred against brother for ultimate superiority and control of the prestigious Haviland name.

Young Jean loved dishes just like his father and his grandfather but he didn’t see a place for himself amidst the family feuding. When Jean became of age, he moved to Germany, changed his name to John and opened up his own pottery factory in Bavaria under the name Johann Haviland.

Jean’s desire was to produce simple, affordable serving pieces and dish sets for everyday American households as well as strong, sturdy constant-use sets for hotels and restaurants. Even though his dishes bared the Haviland name, their simple designs and more economical price-point were seen as somehow inferior to the exquisite detail and artistic merit associated with David Haviland’s original dynasty.  Jean stayed in business only a few years before his company was bought by another pottery company. From there, the Johann Haviland brand changed ownership again and again until it was finally discontinued in the 1970’s.

Of the two warring brothers, Charles and Theodore,  and the fate of their warring companies, ultimate success was achieved by Theodore whose family line continued the Haviland tradition of fine quality craftsmanship and exquisite design that still continues today…

Jean Haviland’s pieces under the Johann Haviland brand might be snubbed today by serious Haviland collectors, but they still hold up in both form and function. The simple elegance of this Johann Haviland platter is effortless in design and ability. It matches everything, accommodates a plentiful array of food and contains the history of a man who dared to do things without the drama.

Perhaps there was a bitter taste in Jean’s mouth when he witnessed his family’s ultimate fight for prestige over passion.  Even though Jean who became John and then traded under the name Johann, knew all the formulas for success in order to produce high-quality dishware he did not succumb to the mercilessly competitive nature of his father and uncle, which seems like a character trait that would have made his grandfather David proud. Jean might not have put his personal mark on the china industry for as long as other family members but he did manage to break away from the feudal family climate and follow his own more peaceful rhythm.

Find the smartly stylish Johann Haviland platter listed in the shop here. It looks outstanding with every other dish in the shop so if you are looking for a grouping of serving pieces then this is your easy-breezy match-all mate.

 

Set A Contemporary Vintage Table

For years now, Ms.Jeannie has been collecting bits and pieces of antique china to use alongside her everyday dishes. These everyday dishes are as basic as basic can be: white, plain, unadorned. The only bit of flair they possess is that they were made by an Italian plateware company. This makes the plates oval shaped instead of round and the coffee cup saucers are offset to accomodate a slice of biscotti alongside your coffee cup. Other than that they are strictly ordinary.

Having said that Ms. Jeannie discovered one day, while cleaning out her china cabinet, that when she paired these ordinary day plates with her vintage china treasures, her whole table setting instantly hummed with it’s own sort of individuality and surprise. The ordinary looked extraordinary and the mis-matched patterns looked marvelous next to each other because they contained a lot of similar colors.

So Ms. Jeannie started experimenting and was delighted to discover a very broad range of different decorating options when it came to pairing vintage with contemporary.

This is an example of how you can set a contemporary vintage table by combining contemporary dishes with vintage china.

If you look closely there are 10 different plate patterns/designs in this setting. They all work together because they have two themes tying them together: birds and green leaves.

The unexpected vermillion color in the napkin also helps tie together all the warm colors without looking forced or too matchy matchy.

The square bird dish is actually a contempoary soap dish, but has been repurposed to act as a small bread plate or a drink coaster here. It also matches the colors of the black and white toile-looking hunt plate as well as the antique orange, black and green floral bread plate from the 1930’s.

The colors in the antique sugar bowl match the colors found on the vintage bird water glasses. The crazing on the sugar bowl also matches the faux antique patina on the contemporary white salad plate from the Todd English Collection.

You can see here just by adding or subtracting pieces you can get different effects from your table display:

Ms. Jeannie is drawn to three things when it comes to scouting vintage china. She loves anything made out of old English ironstone, anything that contains the color green in its design and anything that contains crackling or crazing marks. So her collection has thousands of ways that it could displayed together since they have those three characteristics in common. You can start your own vintage china collection based on color, shape, time period or region for your own unique look.

This table arrangement was made up of the following pieces:

1 antique sugar bowl (circa early 1900’s)

1 Contemporary ceramic soap dish from Creative Co-op

2 contemporary salad plates from the Todd English collection

1 contemporary fox hunt salad plate from Corona

1 antique bread plate from T.S.&T Paramount Ivory circa 1930’s

2 vintage bird beverage glasses circa 1950s

2 vintage coffee cups (swirl pattern) from Hitkari Potteries

1 contemporary coffee mug from the Todd English Collection

1 vermillion colored cloth napkin from Pottery Barn

Start your vintage tableware collection with this curious antique sugar bowl for $14.00

Curious Antique Sugar Bowl – Pink & Yellow Rose Pattern from msjeannieology