Haeger Potteries, headquartered on the clay-rich banks of Illinois' Fox River just 45 miles northwest of Chicago, shares significant history with its giant neighbor, known as "the most American" of major American cities.
In 1871, the same year of the great Chicago fire, a young German immigrant named David H. Haeger founded the company originally known as the Dundee Brickyard.
Over the next 130 years under four generations of family leadership, this small town brickmaker was to become America's oldest and largest production pottery.
The Chicago Fire destroyed more than 17,500 buildings and made tens of thousands suddenly homeless.
The company that David Haeger founded fired the first of millions of bricks needed to help rebuild the great midwest metropolis. In this way, the young company helped a city rise from the ashes of mass disaster and restore its faith in itself. The volume brickmaker was destined to secure a special place in American artware history.
For both Chicago and David Haeger's growing company, the late 19th century was a time of new confidence, energy and vision. Over the next 25 years the city's lakefront was rebuilt on the solid planning of Daniel Burnham, the legendary architect who laid the seeds for modern Chicago's magnificent shoreline, once laid low by the fire.
At the same time, David Haeger, with the help of one of his sons, Edmund H. Haeger, began laying the groundwork for their company's transition from brickmakers to artisans. By 1900, the year of David H. Haeger's passing, the company was already making simple red clay flower pots for the florist trade. Edmund Haeger, with his artistic vision, was to complete the metamorphosis from Haeger Bricks to Haeger Potteries. In 1912 he introduced a more sophisticated line of glazed artware.
Adam and Eve, from the first Artware collection, were of classic Greek style and symbolized the enduring qualities of fine design and craftsmanship for which Royal Haeger is known today.
Haeger's famous glazes, frequently imitated but never successfully copied, have always been made by expert craftsmen. The glaze covering the artware must be perfectly mixed and blended; hard and durable when fired, without cracks. Above all, the color must be clear and lustrous. Careful dipping assures a uniform coating of the bisque.
Pottery designer J. Martin Stangl joined the company in 1914 to help Edmund Haeger develop a new line of commercial florist ware.
Haeger's first "milk bottle" kiln was in operation by 1916.
At the Chicago's World's Fair of 1934, the histories of Haeger and "that most American city" came together once more - near the very shore laid waste by the fire 53 years before. For the year-long fair, "Century of Progress," Edmund Haeger built a complete working ceramic factory which demonstrated both ancient and modern modes of production. More than four million visited this remarkable exhibit, which featured a fascinating primitive demonstration by southwest Indian potters.
Family leadership continued at Haeger under son-in-law Joseph F. Estes, who became general manager in 1938.
That same year, design genius Royal Hickman joined the company to introduce an extraordinary line of artware, called Royal Haeger. Hickman's work was daringly intricate with smooth, flowing lines and highly original glazes.
Public demand for Royal Haeger artware was immediate and strong. Royal Hickman's world-acclaimed designs included his famous black panther, a sleek elongated cat, first produced in 1941 and offered in three sizes.
Another distinguished chief designer was Eric Olsen, whose career with Haeger spanned 25 years (1947-1972). Olsen's many contributions to the Royal Haeger line included his magnificent bull figure, produced in 1955.
One year earlier, Joseph F. Estes was to become president of Haeger Potteries with the passing of Edmund H. Haeger. Early Royal Haeger artware, highly prized among serious collector's, was covered with a variety of original glazes. Gold Tweed was a unique glaze introduced in the 1960's.
The Royal Haeger ceramic lines continued to grow and evolve. At one time they included dinnerware, but became especially known for vases, figurines, miniature animals, birds, flowers and lamps - as well as other unusual and useful accessories of exquisite taste. The broadest and best-selling lines in American artware.
Haeger Potteries in 1971 celebrated its 100th anniversary under Joseph F. Estes, who led the company through tremendous growth in his more than 50 years at the helm.
In 1976 Haeger Potteries entered the Guiness Book of Records. An amazing vase, standing more than eight feet tall and weighing more than 650 pounds was created by Haeger Potteries. It rests in the museum at Haeger headquarters in Dundee, Illinois and according to the Guiness Book of Records, is the largest handthrown vase in the world.
In 1979 Joseph F. Estes' daughter, Alexandra Haeger Estes (Great granddaughter of the founder), became president of Haeger Potteries. In 1984, she became president of the parent company, Haeger Industries.
In the 1980's Royal Haeger represented broad lines of neoclassic and country designs, created for gracious living and covered with over 20 lustrous colored glazes.
Haeger Potteries, internationally known as the exclusive designers and craftsmen of Royal Haeger ceramic artware, produce the most collected accessories for the home - destined to continue into the 21st Century and beyond.
"Through the decades, all Royal Haeger ceramic accessories have been graced with timeless design, color and texture. We hope you will discover that, like Royal Haeger lines of our proud past, future Royal Haeger lines will offer exceptional value for you, our customers."
"Four generations of family tradition stand behind David H. Haeger's original commitment to fine craftsmanship, consistent quality, service and value."
"As always, we pledge to please you."