Fulper to Stangl --
The Transitional Myth......

Robert C. Runge Jr.
(an edited version of this article was originally published in the Jan 1997 Stangl/Fulper Times – Vol. 2 Issue 4)

For years, we collectors have believed that there was a gradual change in Fulper Pottery Company's production from the Vasekraft type of glazed stoneware artware to solid-color glazed Stangl wares after William Fulper's death in 1928, incorrectly termed the "Transition Period".  This is a nice, simple story, but is very far from the truth.  Fulper actually DID have a transitional period from true artware production to a more commercial line of artware type products, but this took place during and immediately following World War One.  Several circumstances were involved in expediting this change.  Martin Stangl's direct influence as Vice President of the Fulper Pottery Company did not take place until 1924 ~ several years AFTER Fulper's actual "transition" took place.

There are usually two primary factors that will have an overall effect on the type of merchandise a company will produce.  These are economics and popular taste.  Both of these played a role in Fulper's production during the late 1910s.

Firstly, Fulper’s Vasekraft line of artware was not their primary product or source of revenue during the first two decades of the twentieth century.  Only one-quarter of Fulper’s production during this time can be attributed to artware; the primary income was from the highly successful Germ-Proof water filters, water coolers and cooking ware.  These items were in great demand and shipped worldwide. 

The development of inexpensive electric refrigeration and potable public water systems also cut greatly into Fulper’s product lines.  The demand for Fulper’s Germ-Proof stoneware water filters and coolers diminished greatly because of these modernizations.  The water filers and water coolers had been Fulper Pottery Company’s most profitable product line from the 1890s through World War One. The aluminum cookware craze during the1910s left a reduced market for Fulper’s stoneware cooking ware, causing that line to be discontinued by 1920.  The diminishing sales of the filters, coolers cooking ware AND artware threatened the very existence of Fulper Pottery Company during World War One.

Because Fulper Pottery’s Vasekraft artware had been grounded in the Arts and Crafts movement, demand for this type of artware was declining toward the late 1910s for the following reasons:  From 1915 through 1920, American popular taste was drastically changing.  There was a major war occurring in Europe – President Wilson declared we would not be involved, but there was a general air of nervousness across the land.  One way this nervousness manifested itself was in the type of home furnishings with which Americans were suddenly surrounding themselves.  No longer were they enamored with the “modern” Arts and Crafts style of decoration (many collectors consider the end of the Arts and Crafts movement to have roughly coincided with Gustav Stickley’s bankruptcy in 1915 and Elbert Hubbard’s death with the sinking of the Lusitania in 1916).  Americans were seeking familiar, comfortable, historic styles; things easily related to America’s past.  Consequently, Colonial Revival and Classical Revival furnishings became immediately popular (this same phenomenon occurred directly prior to the United States’ involvement in World War Two, and had a profound effect on Stangl production at that time also).  By 1918, Fulper dropped the Arts and Crafts inspired brand name Vasekraft, and thereafter called their stoneware artware line simply Fulper Pottery Artware.

All of these varied circumstances left Fulper with a need to develop new product lines to replace the ones no longer commercially viable.  Fulper found a temporary solution in the manufacturing of porcelain doll heads during the latter part of World War One.  Doll production kept things going until 1921, when less expensive dolls were again available from overseas.  During the 1920s, Fulper continued porcelain production in the form of Fulper Porcelaine brand lamps and novelties.  The Fulper Porcelaines and a lesser grade of Fulper Pottery brand stoneware artware were manufactured throughout the 1920s, but did not take up the slack left by the decreased production of utilitarian stoneware.

The economic depression of 1922-1923 made it obvious to William Fulper that if Fulper Pottery Company were to stay in business; less costly, desirable products would have to be manufactured.  In 1924, Martin Stangl (newly appointed vice-president of Fulper Pottery Co.) introduced the Fulper Fayence product line.  The Fulper Fayence brand name was designed to connect this new series of products with Fulper’s reputation of outstanding high quality.  The Fulper Fayence line consisted of nearly one hundred shapes, including vases, lamps, tea sets, dinnerware, smokers’ items, console sets and novelties.  All of these pieces were made of a white earthenware body and glazed in bright, solid-color glazes.  The principal glazes used on this line were Colonial Blue, Persian Yellow, Chinese Ivory, and Silver Green.  The Fulper Fayence line was available from 1924 through 1930, and was labeled with the Fulper Fayence brand name during that time.  After 1930, certain Fulper Fayence shapes continued to be produced, but were marked with the Stangl brand name instead.

In 1926, the Fulper-Stangl line of products was introduced. This line utilized the same body and glazes as Fulper Fayence, and consisted of various artware and dinnerware shapes as well.  The Fulper-Stangl shapes were distinctively fashioned in Modern, Art Deco and Primitive styles, while the Fulper Fayence shapes remained classically inspired.  Like the Fulper Fayence brand, Fulper-Stangl products were marketed under the Fulper-Stangl brand name through 1930.

Throughout the 1920s, Fulper Pottery Company was concurrently producing Fulper Pottery, Fulper Porcelaine, Fulper Fayence, and Fulper-Stangl lines, as well as a great assortment of special-order and private label products that did not conform to Fulper’s four primary brand name lines mentioned above.  In 1930, the Fulper Fayence and Fulper-Stangl lines were converged and became simply Stangl.   The Fulper Porcelaines had been dropped in 1929, but the Fulper Pottery brand artware line continued until 1935.  Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Fulper’s artware lines would often share shapes.  The Fulper Porcelaine and Fulper Fayence lines have several common shapes, as do the Fulper Fayence and Fulper Pottery lines.  Whenever a different type of finish or body was chosen for an existing shape, the customary practice was to change that shape number as well.  Several examples are the Fulper Pottery #850 round flower frog (introduced in 1923) and Fulper Fayence #909 round flower frog (introduced in 1924); the Fulper Fayence #962 and Fulper Porcelaine #369 bird wall pockets (both introduced simultaneously in 1925; and the Fulper Fayence #934 miniature vase (produced 1924-25 only), the Fulper Pottery #825 miniature vase (introduced 1927) and the Stangl Pottery #2016 miniature vase (introduced 1935).  

These, and similar items sharing a same shape but having different bodies and glazes, have often been mistakenly identified as “transitional pieces”, but are all separate, distinct pieces belonging to particular product lines.  Fulper’s actual “transitional period” occurred during the late 1910s.  It was not a transition from Fulper to Stangl as is commonly supposed, as both the Fulper and Stangl brands of products were produced simultaneously throughout the 1920s.  The real “transition” was simply a shift from utilitarian stoneware and high-end artware production to the the manufacture of brightly-glazed decorative artware and dinnerware products as dictated by a changing market…

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As an aside, Martin Stangl did not purchase Fulper Pottery Company in 1930, nor was the company name changed to Stangl Pottery in 1930, as is so often surmised.  During the 1920s, Fulper Pottery Company was owned and controlled by three primaries, William Fulper II, Judge George K. Large, and Martin Stangl.  These three men agreed upon all business decisions before any changes were made or new lines introduced.  Following William Fulper’s untimely death in 1928, his widow Etta continued in his stead, and remained a controlling interest in the company until the mid 1940s.  The company continued as Fulper Pottery Company until it was finally incorporated as Stangl Pottery Company on December 18, 1955, twenty-seven years after William Fulper’s passing….

 

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