Beatrice Miller established Royal China Company in Sebring, Ohio in 1934–a bold move for a single woman and her 2 male business partners during the Great Depression. In 1950, she still held the singular distinction of being “the only woman president and founder of a dinnerware pottery in the ceramic industry” (Beatrice Miller, President of Royal China at Sebring, Spark-Plugs Pottery’s Success. By Pearl Walker. The Salem News, March 29, 1950, p. 1). In October 1934, the company had 125 employees. Miss Miller became president in 1946, and by 1950, the 125 had increased to 700 employees.
I discovered this fascinating tidbit whilst searching for the name of the pattern pictured above. I found this cup and saucer on a shelf one day, having forgotten that I had it. Because it is unmarked, it took a lot of sleuthing to figure it out, and frankly my work week has been too overwhelming to have the energy to do much during my limited “free time”–which is also spent working on those fun things like laundry, dishes, cooking, and the occasional trip to pick up an essential item–bread seems to disappear the most around here at the moment. I was really happy to see Friday night arrive, even if it came with a second electricity outage this week.
This shape design was named Royal’s “Regent Shape” and was used in several of their patterns dating at least as early as 1936 and continuing up until the 1940s. Several different patterns were made, such as Red Mill, Elaine, and Blue Gables, along with the unnamed design pattern above. They all bear the exact same ribbed design between the center and edge of plate, ribbed lower portion of cup, and square shaped ribbed cup handle.
The floral design on this cup, which look like poppies to me, was also found in Royal’s design Gold Moderne (same floral design with a gold filigree pattern edge). In 1936, Royal China became the first dinnerware company to affix the label of the National Brotherhood of Operative Potters Union to tableware manufactured in the United States (Royal China Co. Adopts Union Label, The News-Review, April 23, 1936, p. 7). The Royal Moderne design is also often associated under the name of the union. In 1941, Royal China along with others began to supply dishes for the war department (Prosperity Comes Back to State’s Pottery Industry, The News-Messenger, January 25, 1941, p. 5). During that period, some of the Royal designs were unlabeled or stamped only USA, and also featured simpler designs with less ornamentation. Their tableware was marketed through Montgomery Wards catalogues, and for supermarket and other giveaways.
Miller was educated as an attorney, but gave up the law profession, saying
…she decided that this is a man’s world. She thinks any woman who is smart recognizes that fact, although she admits she once hired a man for a “front.” (The Salem News, March 29, 1950, p. 12)
Miller was elected president of the Sebring Manufacturing Association in 1950 as well. Now about that “this is a man’s world” thing, I enjoyed reading some long overdue acknowledgement of what a woman’s world could look like this morning. It is called compassionate, collaborative, and caring leadership: something the world and the US could use a lot more of.