Jean McClelland: Wyllie China part of Huntington’s past
When one thinks of tableware once produced in the Tri-state area our minds immediately go to all the glass companies that once cranked out goblets, platters and more. Names like Viking, Pilgrim, Kerr, Blenko and even Owens-Illinois come to the forefront however our town was also a home to fine china as well.
Huntington’s Ceramic Subdivision was located south of the railroad tracks near Cabell Huntington Hospital? This little community was established in the early 1900s and many of the street names are china patterns or companies. Names such as Doulton, Minton and Charleston bring to mind fine table settings. Hence the name, Ceramic Subdivision.
Long ago these streets bounded the Huntington China Company that was once located in the area of present day Hal Greer Boulevard and Doulton Avenue. The potters, W.J. Harvey and George Fowler built The Huntington China Company in 1904 on this tract of land. They then sold the remaining property to Huntingtonians who wanted to build homes. The idea being that the extra land sales would pay for the building of the factory plus furnish them with a work force close at hand.
These fellows like the glass entrepreneurs were lured here by the promise of cheap natural gas plus river and rail avenues to market. After setting up shop with a very modern kiln the men ran into financial difficulties and were forced to sell their budding factory in 1907. Harry R. Wyllie purchased the business and promptly renamed it for himself. The H.R. Wyllie China Company employed over 300 workers to make its wares. It existed until the mid 1930s and produced many pieces of table china.
Mr. Wyllie was quite successful in producing his porcelain that included not only tableware for the home but double thick porcelain for hotel use as well. It is often presented with a blue border and a white background although there were many other patterns.
Wyllie porcelain can be readily found in local antique shops and online with prices floating well below fifty dollars per piece. Some will be a little more and some a little less. Two prominent markings of the china include an eagle silhouette sitting on a crown with the H R WYLLIE imprinted below. Another mark commonly found is written on and under a curvy line, H R WYLLIE is above the line and CHINA is underneath. All of the letters would be capitalized.
Jean McClelland writes about antiques for The Herald-Dispatch.