Sam Weller, who was born in 1851 established a pottery at Fultionham, Ohio in 1872. In the beginning his production consisted of functional earthenware for everyday use by the local population. Rich clay deposits in the Muskingum county area would be a major contributing factor to making the region a major center of Art Pottery manufacturing for some 60 plus years. In 1889 Weller moved his pottery to Zanesville and before long, he had added umbrella stands, jardinieres, hanging baskets, flowerpots and more to the practical line of wares he started with. Over the next few years, his salesmanship and quality pottery generated substantial demand which required further additions to the pottery. By around 1895, Weller Pottery had a staff of nearly 200 potters.
At the World's Colombian Expo in 1893, a display by the Lonhuda Pottery caught Weller's eye. Like the Rookwood Standard line, Lonhuda ware was amazingly similar with graduated shades of glossy brown and gold and hand-painted slip decorations in Art Nouveau inspired florals, animals, portraits and other nature scenes. Where Rookwood employed fine artists, Lonhuda used commercial talent to produce an art ware with a similar look but without quite the same artistic flair as Rookwood. With that said, Lonhuda ware was less expensive to produce and a highly marketable product.
Weller quickly realized the potential of Lonhuda ware and he convinced William Long, founder of the Lonhuda group to relocate his company to Weller's Zanesville operation. The joint venture was short lived. In about a year the partnership was dissolved with Weller keeping all rights to the Lonhuda ware, which he renamed "Louwelsa" - "Lou" for his daughter Louise, "wel" for the first three letters of his last name and "sa" for his first two initials.
From that point forward, new lines of art pottery flowed freely from the kilns of the Weller Pottery. The first of many successful Weller art directors, Charles Babcock Upjohn, designed a highly successful series of art ware for the company called "Dickensware." You'll not only find Dickensware items with scenes from Dickens stories on them, but also portraits of Native Americans, animals and monks. Many earlier Dickensware patterns were etched into each piece with sgraffito and hand-colored with slip, but later patterns were molded into each piece before painting, making it less labor-intensive to produce.
Other early lines were Turada, Aurelian, Corleone, Auroral, Eocean, Etna, Jap-Birdimal, Dresden, Floretta, Etched Matt, Perfecto, Woodland, Oriental, Hunter and the soft, natural flowing lines of L'Art Nouveau. And all of these came out within just a decade or so. Around 1900, Weller acquired a second manufacturing plant to accommodate his thriving business. This new plant dealt with more practical wares, while the original one focused on the art ware lines.
One very unique line for its time was Sicardo, whose brilliant flashes of jewel-toned metallic luster received a great deal of acclaim. The methods used to create these lovely wares were much like that of modern American Raku pottery, but at the time, its French creator Jacques Sicard held the secret close to his heart.
Weller even built his own "model" pottery on the site of the 1904 St. Louis Exposition, where visitors could see his workers produce Weller pottery up close and personal. It was at that same Expo that Weller unveiled the "World's Largest Vase," a 7 1/2-foot-tall Aurelian vase that cost roughly $2,000 to create.
After WWI, Weller Pottery began to turn away from making such labor-intensive hand-decorated pottery lines. Art ware was still a major focus, but Weller Pottery needed to change with the times and move toward more affordable mass-production techniques in order to keep up with competition.
Though mass-produced, Weller's later lines are highly collectible, too. For more than 30 years, delightful line after delightful line with molded relief details and special glaze treatments emerged from Weller Pottery. Burnt Wood has the look of real wood decorated with Pyrography, while Barcelona has molded ridges meant to give it the look of hand-turned pottery. The Graystone gardenware line looks like it was chiseled from granite. Coppertone has a weathered bronzy glaze and figural frog accents. Reminiscent of Roseville, Weller's Pinecone has raised pinecone accents set off with a matte glaze. Other later lines include Arcola, Barcelona, Bedford, Blossom, Bouquet, Breton, Chase, Forest, Hobart, Racene, Silvertone, Sydonia, Velvetone, Zona and many, many more.
Sam Weller passed away in 1925 following a sudden illness. The pottery passed on to his nephew, Harry, who'd worked there with him for years. Sadly, Harry Weller died in a traffic accident in 1932, leaving the company in the hands of two of Sam Weller's sons-in-law. Though two of Weller's plants closed during the Depression, the company was able to hang on until the late '40s. Then, like so many other potteries, Weller was unable to compete with the changing marketplace and foreign competition, closing for good in 1948.