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.
Lenox in the Early 20th Century
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 Sèvres, 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.
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.
Lenox China Today
Lenox is still the only major US manufacturer of bone china today. Along with the modern pieces the company produces, antique Lenox china is a hot commodity with collectors. If you're considering collecting Lenox china, there's plenty to explore.
Dating Antique Lenox China
As with many antiques, the older pieces of Lenox china hold the most value. The antique pottery marks and 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.
Notable Antique Lenox China Patterns
There are hundreds of antique Lenox china patterns that have been popular during the company's more than 130 years in production. However, certain patterns are notable and are especially prized by collectors. Most of these patterns are discontinued, which can add to the value. Identifying antique china patterns usually involves examining the pattern details and matching them to other pieces Lenox has made over the years.
Lenox China Patterns From the 1910s and 1920s
Some of the oldest Lenox china patterns are the most valuable and important. These are a few to watch for as you shop in antique stores or online auctions:
- Autumn - Released in 1918, Autumn also has an ivory background, but the floral details are multicolored. A central floral motif decorates each piece. This pattern is still in production.
- Fountain - One of the most collectible antique Lenox porcelain includes patterns by Frank Holmes, the 1926 Fountain pattern, features bright colors and geometric lines coupled with floral designs. This Lenox pattern was discontinued in 1948.
- Florida - This unique pattern debuted in 1922 and is now discontinued. It has a purple band and two tropical birds gracing the rim.
- Lowell - Dating from 1917 and discontinued in 2021, this simple pattern has a gold rim and a delicate design. The background is ivory.
- Monticello - This multi-colored floral pattern debuted in 1928 and is now discontinued. It features gold trim and teal accents.
Lenox China Patterns From the 1930s and 1940s
During the 1930s and 1940s, Lenox rose in popularity to become a major player in the American china industry. The company released dozens of beautiful patterns, but these are some of the most popular:
- Belvidere - Dating to the wartime years, this 1941 pattern has no gold trim. Instead, it features a simple ivory background with blue flowers and pink ribbons. It was discontinued in 1978.
- Cretan - With obvious Art Deco influences, this simple pattern from 1938 has gold accents on an ivory ground. The rim is fluted and accented with a gold geometric border. It was discontinued in 1985.
- Harvest - Another notable Lenox china pattern designed by Frank Holmes, Harvest has a simple ivory background with gold trim and a gold wheat motif. It debuted in 1940 and is currently discontinued.
- Lenox Rose - This gorgeous, classic pattern first began production in 1934 and continued until 1979. It features multi-colored roses on an ivory background with gold trim.
- Rhodora - This 1939 pattern designed by Frank Holmes has a feminine style with a pink rose in the center and an ivory background. A gold rim and gold leaves accent each piece. The pattern was discontinued in 1982.
- Rutledge - First released in 1939, this delicate floral pattern was in production for more than 80 years before being discontinued. It features an ivory background, fluted rim, and tiny flowers in several shades.
Lenox China Patterns From the 1950s and 1960s
Styles changed during the 1950s and 1960s, and antique Lenox china patterns from this era have simpler designs and more modern motifs. You'll see soft colors, gold and platinum accents, and sweeping lines.
- Caribbee - A soft pink rim, gold accents, and a rope design grace this simple pattern. It debuted in 1954 and was discontinued in 1970.
- Kingsley - This distinctive china pattern began production in 1956 and continued through the 1970s. It has a teal rim and a spray of flowers in the ivory center, as well as platinum accents.
- Musette - Gray flowers, pale green foliage, and platinum accents grace a simple swirled ivory background in the pattern that began in 1961 and was discontinued in 1982.
- Princess - A very simple design with a neutral platinum and gray floral motif in the center of an ivory ground, this pattern debuted in 1954 and was discontinued in 1981.
- Roselyn - Featuring a single pink rose on a plain ivory background, this pattern from 1952 has a gold rim. It was discontinued in 1980.
Ideas for Collecting Antique Lennox China
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, Replacements Ltd. is a good resource. 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.
- Choose a single item to collect, such as antique teacups made by Lenox.
- Collect patterns with a common theme such as floral designs.
- Consider your collection an investment. Discontinued lines of Lenox porcelain are more sought after than lines that are still in production.
Antique Lenox China Is Special
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. Buying antique porcelain and china is a wonderful hobby, especially if you're collecting special pieces like those made by Lenox.