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The folks at the Larkin Soap Company needed a novel idea to boost soap sales in 1901, so company founders took a gamble and put certificates of redemption on soap packages, promising soap dishes in return for the coupons. The idea caught fire and the premium converted a multitude of soap buyers. What attracted fans was the design and quality of the pottery. Using his ingenuity, ceramics engineer William Rea went beyond his Larkin commission, pioneering a clay composition that still sends the pulses of antique hunters soaring. Rea's clay, an olive green mix that produced astonishing gradations of color in the finished product was unlike any existing pottery designs on the market. As the soap dish giveaway wound down, the Buffalo Pottery Company became the sole distributor of the newly-dubbed Deldare Ware in 1903.
The Buffalo Pottery Company expands its base
Seymour Eaton, acting head of the Buffalo Pottery Company, knew ceramicist William Rea had struck gold with his invention of Deldare, so he charged him with the responsibility for designing line extensions. The soap dish was followed by Rea-designed 8-inch pitchers that featured hand-etched wildlife designs. By 1908, wild game plates joined the growing gallery of product. Buffalo launched a commercial business in 1914 by making some of the first vitrified china on the market, created specifically for hotel dining rooms and restaurants. Buffalo Pottery's expansion grew by such leaps and bounds, a new facility was needed to meet demand. The location? Next door to the Larkin Soap Company, which happened to be designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. An innovator to the end, John D. Larkin used the proximity of his enterprises to launch yet another business: mail order sales. Unearth an early Buffalo Pottery mail order catalog and you'll own a piece of printed history.
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