In the coming months, when visitors enter the West Virginia Culture Center they’ll be greeted by some colorful dinnerware.
Plates, lots of them, are mounted on a large exhibit wall, surrounding the word “Fiesta,” which is spelled out in broken Claret-colored plates. They’ll find 80-year-old china produced in 1936 in light shades of yellow and green enclosed in cases. Even a large raspberry-colored bowl valued at over $20,000 is on display.
Fiesta, a famous line by the Homer Laughlin China Co., is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. To help mark the occasion, the West Virginia Division of Culture and History is hosting a special exhibit at the Culture Center.
The exhibit showcases Fiestaware over the decades, starting with its earliest pieces produced in 1936 and going up to the current colors and designs for sale.
The exhibit opened Tuesday and is located on the main floor of the Culture Center, which is located at the Capitol complex in Charleston. The exhibit is free and will be on display for the next six months, according to Charles Morris, director of museums for the Division of Culture and History.
“We have, in this exhibit, every color of Fiesta that they have made since 1936. Every one,” Morris said.
Homer Laughlin China Co., which originally formed in East Liverpool, Ohio, in 1872, began building plants in Newell in 1907. The first Hancock County plant, Plant 4, was located just across the river from the original HLC plants, according to the Culture Center’s exhibit.
In the early 1900s, HLC continued to build more plants in West Virginia, and eventually abandoned the older plants in Ohio by 1927, leaving the company solely located in West Virginia.
The Art Deco-designed dishware with its circular patterns and bright colors were created by Frederick Hurten Rhead, HLC’s then-design director in the late ’20s and ’30s. By its second year in production, more than 1 million Fiesta pieces had already been produced.
The current exhibit includes examples of limited-run colors, like the sapphire color made especially for Bloomingdale’s in 1997, and showcases a diverse collection of Fiesta dinnerware, ranging from disc pitchers, to teapots, to bowls.
After the exhibit closes, all of the pieces on display will go into the state’s museum collection.