1894 - 1991
The Hartford Faience Company
Hartford, CT, U.S
I found out about Hartford Faience while I was researching another unrelated product which was also made in Hartford, Connecticut. As I was examining each page of an old periodical when the advertisement below caught my eye. I found myself staring at it, wondering why she was so melancholy. Then I noticed that it was made in Hartford, my hometown, and that made it so much more interesting.
The tile was created ca.1910 by English-born designer Francis George Afrian Plant (1882 - 1940). Francis joined Hartford Faience in 1908. The tile was made in the "'Hartford' special mosaic method." It was called Eventide.
Hartford Faience was incorporated on August 7, 1894 although it hadn't officially adopted that name until January 9, 1900 when it went through a restructuring. Prior to then it was known as the Atwood Faience Company, named after its founder, Eugene Richard Atwood (1866 - 19??). The restructuring was necessary because, as early as 1897, the company was showing signs of underperformance.
When it comes to tiles, size matters. Bigger is better. The size of the Eventide mosaic tile at the top of the page is 13" x 7-3/4". The owl panel below is an amazing 35.75" x 9.25" and it could have been ordered at double that size. That's not to say the smaller tiles aren't as gorgeous, too.
The factory was always located at the corner of Hamilton and Bartholomew Streets in the Parkville section of town. The original building was, however, expanded several times during the first half of the 20th century. I'm not sure who had the idea to nickname the section of Hamilton Street where the factory was located, between Bartholomew Street and the railroad tracks, to Faience Street. My presumption is that it was Eugene Atwood's.
The products that the company produced varied from concrete embellishments to electrical insulators, from standard tiles to decorative tile panelings, and from porcelain cameos for door knobs to porcelian light fixtures. Hartford Faience flourished in the 1920, '30s and '40s but, after WWII, public interest subsided and the company closed permanently in 1991. Today, it is the tiles, especially those produced under the direction of Francis G.A. Plant, that really standout as the company's crowning artistic achievement.
The Hartford Faience legacy is unheralded even though lots of examples are in plain sight. The company's specialty tiles, panelings and cement embellishments adorn subway walls in New York, fountains in Seattle, skyscrapers in San Francisco and the mantles in countless homes.