2011 44¢ Pioneers of American Industrial Design –
Frederick Hurten Rhead
Issue Date: June 29, 2011
City: New York, NY
Printed By: Avery Dennison
Printing Method: Photogravure
Frederick Hurten Rhead (1880-1942) gained national renown as a designer of some of the most popular lines of ceramic dinnerware. But it was the famous 1906 San Francisco earthquake that influenced one of his most creative outlets.
The dust and ash in the air from the quake that flattened much of California’s Bay Area helped prompt a tuberculosis outbreak. The Arequipa Sanitarium was founded to help treat infected women. With Rhead as director and instructor, the patients learned how to craft ceramics as part of their therapy, and experimented with glazes and designs.
One such experiment by Rhead, called “mirror black,” earned him the gold medal at the 1915 San Diego Exposition. He also introduced the practice of “slip trailing,” where lines of colored clay are used in decoration. It became the decoration style most often identified with Arequipa pottery.
Rhead later worked with the Homer Laughlin China Company. While there, he designed the “Fiesta” style of dinnerware, one of the most popular patterns in the U.S. from 1936-73. Fiesta was offered in bright colors like red, green and blue, and quickly became a standard in homes. Rhead’s work with both industrial ceramics and studio pottery made a dramatic impact on American lifestyle.