November 2, 1942: Ceramist Frederick Rhead Dies at 62

Frederick Hurten Rhead (at far left) and others at the Art Academy of People's University (now the Lewis Center) in University City, Missouri, celebrating its first high-firing kiln in April 1910.

Ceramist Frederick Rhead died on November 2, 1942, at age 62. He learned the pottery trade in his native England before emigrating to the United States in 1902. Rhead’s pottery skills were honored with a gold medal at the 1915 San Diego Exposition.

Rhead was at the top of his profession in 1927, when he joined the Homer Laughlin Company at Newell in Hancock County. At the time, Homer Laughlin was the third largest producer of pottery or chinaware in the world. Rhead made pottery, taught, wrote, and created glazes and shapes.

But he and the Laughlin Company will be forever associated with a pattern he designed in 1936. Genuine Fiesta was a cheap, attractive dinnerware that included four colors and 54 individual items in a streamlined Art Deco style. After being discontinued in 1973, the original Fiesta became one of the most collected pottery designs in history. Homer Laughlin revived the Fiesta line in 1986.

Rhead created other Laughlin tableware designs, including the popular Virginia Rose and Harlequin, but nothing so successful as Fiesta. Frederick Rhead remained at Homer Laughlin for the rest of his career.