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Homer Laughlin History

 

The Laughlin Brothers, Homer and Shakespeare (from an obviously literary family), began making pottery in 1871. A pottery factory was erected in East Liverpool, OH by the brothers and placed in operation as Ohio Valley Pottery.

Shakespeare left the business to pursue other interests in 1877 and in 1897 Homer Laughlin sold his interest in the company that by then bore his name. The new owners were W. E. Wells, Louis I. Aaron and Aaron's sons, Marcus and Charles I. Aaron. Today, over a century later, the Wells family continues to own and operate the Homer Laughlin China Company. Several detailed accounts of Homer Laughlin, his family and the early history of the company exist and retelling would not improve or expand on those accounts. Briefly, the original Homer Laughlin Factory was on River Road in East Liverpool, OH. After Homer Laughlin sold his interest in the factory in 1897, he relocated to Los Angeles, CA. However, he retained a position on the corporate board for several years.

By 1903, the new owners had expanded to operate three factories in East Liverpool. By 1907, a new factory, Plant No. 4, was opened in Newell, WV. Plant No. 5 followed in 1914. 1923 saw the addition of Plant No.'s 6 and 7. Plant No. 8 was built in 1929, all of these in Newell, WV. Plant No. 8 was constructed largely to make products for a single account, the dime store chain Woolworth. 1929 also saw the closure of all production facilities in Ohio.

The family history of the Aaron and Wells families merit retelling, however briefly, as they illustrate the long and direct involvement of these two families in the success of the company.

William E. Wells (1863-1931) began working at Homer Laughlin in East Liverpool, OH as a bookkeeper in 1889. He was one of the four who purchased the factory in 1897. He held various positions at the company and served as general manager and secretary at the time of his retirement in 1930. His son, Joseph M. Wells, assumed his duties at the factory. Joseph M. Wells (1889-1970) served as general manager and secretary until his retirement in 1959. Joseph M. Wells, Jr. (b. 1915) assumed the duties of general manager from his father in 1959. Joseph M. Wells, III (b. 1941) became the fourth generation of his family to serve as president and general manager of Homer Laughlin, a position he continues to hold today.

The Aaron family acquired their interest in Homer Laughlin at the same time as William E. Wells, in 1897. Louis I. Aaron (1857-1919) served as president until 1910. Louis had two sons, Marcus (1869-1954) and Charles I. (1872-1947). Marcus became president upon the retirement of his father in 1910 and served until 1940. Charles I. never married and served as vice president from 1910 until his death. Marcus L. Aaron (1900-1994), son of Marcus Aaron, claimed his father's role as president and continued in the leadership from 1940 until 1989. Marcus Aaron, II (b. 1929) succeeded his father as president in 1989.

In 2002, the near 105 year old two-family partnership ended when, in a friendly acquisition, the Wells family acquired the interest of the Aaron family. Both families had actively worked together for over a century and four generations. Amazingly, Joe Wells, III was quoted as saying "Our families have never had an argument, ever, as far as I know." An amazing testimony and perhaps part of the "secret to their success." With this June 2002 transfer, Joe Wells, long the Executive VP and company General Manager, became the new President of Homer Laughlin. With assurances of continued quality, American owned, and American manufactured products, the Homer Laughlin China Company is poised for success well into the future! Please click here to view all Homer Laughlin china patterns carried by Replacements, Ltd.

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