Homer Laughlin

Homer Laughlin (March 23, 1843 – January 10, 1913) was an American businessman and potter who, with his brother Shakespeare, formed the Laughlin Pottery Company in 1871 in Newell, West Virginia.[1][2]

Engraving of Homer Laughlin 1915


Homer Laughlin

Homer Laughlin was born in Little Beaver Ohio on March 23, 1843, the son of a miller, merchant and postmaster, Matthew Laughlin (1799–1876),[3] of Scotch-Irish descent, and Maria (née Moore; 1814–1888),[3] Homer Laughlin was educated at public schools and later at Neville Institute (now defunct). He did Civil War service from 1862 to 1865.[2] A large part of his service was on detached duty as expert recorder of important military tribunals and he participated in the engagements around Murfreesboro.[4]

After he was mustered out of the army, he worked in retail in Pittsburgh for a while, and later he worked in petroleum development in Pennsylvania for a year, boring twelve oil wells.[3] He then became a travelling salesman of Rockingham style crockery throughout the Midwest.[4]

Homer then moved to New York where he worked with his brother Shakespeare Moore Laughlin as an importer of English earthenware. In 1873, they built a pottery in East Liverpool, Ohio, which they ran as Laughlin Brothers until 1879, when Homer bought out Shakespeare.[2] Their crockery became so popular that the company was accused of counterfeiting English trademarks by British manufacturers. In response to this accusation, Laughlin devised an anti-English trademark of a lion supine mounted by a rampant eagle standing on the lion's belly.[4] The company became the largest manufacturer of crockery in the country.[4]

Laughlin Pottery then became the Homer Laughlin China Company. In 1889, William Edwin Wells joined Homer Laughlin, and seven years later the two incorporated the company. Laughlin sold his interest to Wells shortly thereafter. The company moved operations across the Ohio River to West Virginia land purchased from the Newell family. Laughlin moved to Los Angeles in 1897,[5] where he developed the Homer Laughlin Building on Broadway, the first fire-proof office building in Southern California.[6] It was also the first reinforced concrete building erected in Southern California.[2] Laughlin was an intimate friend of President William McKinley for over thirty years and presided over the reception committee when McKinley visited Los Angeles.[2][7]

Laughlin was president of the U.S. Potters' Association for many years. He was a member of the Republican Club of New York, the California Club, Los Angeles, the Allegheny Commandery No. 35, Knights Templar, and an honorary life member of the Girvan Encampment of Glasgow,[8] Knights Templar of Scotland.[2]

The Homer Laughlin China Co. moved all operations to Newell, West Virginia, in 1907. Operations continue in that location today.


Laughlin mansion c. 1906

On June 18, 1875 Laughlin married Cornelia Battenberg (1846-1907)[1] at Wellsville, Ohio. They had three children, Homer, Jr., Nanette (1883-1891) and Gwendolyn (1886-May 19, 1942).[2][Note 1] Gwendolyn lived in Los Angeles from the age of 10 when her parents retired there. They bought a large mansion, now demolished, at 666 West Adams Boulevard.[7] At one time Gwendolyn was on the board of directors of Children's Hospital Los Angeles.[9] Homer Laughlin Jr. attended Stanford University, where he married Ada Edwards, a physical culture instructor, in the university chapel.[10]

Homer Laughlin died of pneumonia on January 10, 1913 after an operation for appendicitis. He is interred in Inglewood Park Cemetery.[1]


  1. ^ There are a number of varying spellings of the children's names in publications of that time from Ohio and California.


  1. ^ a b c "Man of Parts Passes Beyond: Pneumonia Closes Career of Sterling Citizen; Capitalist, Humanitarian and Lover of Beautiful". Los Angeles Times. January 11, 1913. p. 18. Retrieved March 29, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Press Reference Library : Portraits and Biographies of Progressive Men of the Southwest (1912) Los Angeles Examiner
  3. ^ a b c A History of California and an Extended History of Los Angeles and Environs (1915) Historic Record Co., Los Angeles
  4. ^ a b c d The National Cyclopædia of American Biography Vol. 12 (1918)
  5. ^ "Sale of Homer Laughlin's Ohio Home". Los Angeles Times. East Liverpool, Ohio. December 5, 1897. p. 38. Retrieved March 29, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  6. ^ "The Laughlin Building: California's Finest Office Structure as It Is". Los Angeles Times. July 5, 1898. p. 40. Retrieved March 29, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  7. ^ a b "Brilliant Reception for the President: Mr. and Mrs. Homer Laughlin the Hosts. Prominent Los Angeles Society People Attend One of the Most Elaborate Functions Ever Held Here". Los Angeles Times. May 10, 1901. p. 14. Retrieved March 29, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  8. ^ "Knight Templar Encampments" (March 2015) The Cross Keys Masonic Magazine, No. 183, p. 15, Johnstone, Scotland
  9. ^ "Obituary: Miss Guendolyn Laughlin". Los Angeles Times. May 21, 1942. p. 24. Retrieved March 29, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  10. ^ "Edwards-Laughlin". Reno Evening Gazette. January 2, 1905. p. 4. Retrieved March 29, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.

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