Antique Lenox china is a brand of fine porcelain that has been around for over 100 years. This American-made fine china can be found in many antique malls, shops and shows and is often sought after by collectors.
Origins of Lenox China
Walter Scott Lenox and his partner, Jonathan Coxon Sr., started a porcelain making business called Ceramic Art Company back in 1889, in Trenton, New Jersey. Walter Scott Lenox took full ownership of the company in 1894 and renamed it Lenox, Inc.
The company started out as more of an art studio than a factory. Instead of a full line of ceramics, Lenox produced one-of-kind artistic ceramic pieces. Shops specializing in high quality ceramic pottery carried Lenox products. These products were displayed in the Smithsonian Institution in 1897.
In the early 20th century, separate dining rooms and hostess parties became the trendy thing to do. Lenox became popular when they started producing custom designed, elaborate dining plates. Famous artists of the time were hired to design the plates. After the success of the plates, Lenox started to produce complete dinnerware sets.
Chief designer at Lenox, Frank Holmes, contributed greatly to Lenox's brand and popularity by winning several awards including the 1927 Craftsmanship Metal of the American Institute of Architects and the silver metal of the American Designers Institute in 1943.
In 1928, the National Museum of Ceramics in Serves, France started to display 34 pieces of Lenox porcelain, (including designs by Frank Holmes) which was the only US-made porcelain to ever receive this honor.
Lenox is still the only major US manufacturer of bone china today.
Chosen for the White House
Lenox was the first American china to be used in the White House. In 1918, First Lady Edith Wilson, who preferred American made china, picked Lenox china after seeing it in a local store in Washington, DC. The pattern she selected was designed by Frank Holmes. Each of the 1700 pieces featured the seal of the president raised in gold in the middle, surrounded by a bright ivory body with two bands of matte gold encrusted with stars, stripes and other designs. This pattern was also used by the Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover administrations. Lenox china continues to be used in the White House.
Antique Lenox China
As with many antiques, the older pieces of Lenox china hold the most value. The back stamps used on the china can be helpful in trying to date it. The Official Price Guide to American Pottery and Porcelain by Harvey Duke is a good reference collectors can use as well.
- Items produced between 1906 to 1930 have a green wreath on the stamp.
- In 1931, the words "Made in the USA" were added.
- In 1953, the wreath color changed to gold.
Collectible antique Lenox porcelain include patterns by Frank Holmes, such as his 1926 Fountain pattern, which features bright colors and geometric lines coupled with floral designs. His 1939 Rhodora and 1940 Harvest patterns reflect the Depression era with simple, natural motifs such as roses and wheat stalks.
Discontinued lines of Lenox porcelain are more sought after than lines that are still in production. If you are looking for certain items to replace pieces you might be missing from a certain line or if you just want to browse around to see what items are available for sale, visit Robbins Nest or Replacements Ltd.
Ideas for Collecting
If learning about Lenox China has sparked your interest in possibly starting your own collection, here are some ideas for a starting point:
- Collect holiday plates from as many years as you can find. New pieces are added to existing patterns each year.
- Collect the White House patterns. Expand this into a political collection that includes patterns designed for embassies and state governors.
- Collect all patterns designed by various famous artists such as Frank Holmes.
- Collect patterns with a common theme such as floral designs.
However you decide to collect antique Lenox china, you can be sure that what you are getting is a classic American made product good enough to grace the table settings of some of our most respected leaders.