Shenango China
June 3, 2013 Explorations 13 Comments

Shenango China was once one of America’s great restaurantware and dinnerware manufacturers. Located in New Castle, Pennsylvania, Shenango produced Incaware, “Castleton China” and “American Haviland,” along with other brands and styles.

Shenango’s roots date to 1901, when several capitalists came together to construct a plant at Emery Street and the Erie & Pittsburgh Railroad, manufacturing plain and decorated semi-vitreous china. In January 1905, Shenango was forced into receivership and was reorganized as Shenango Pottery in 1909.

The company purchased New Castle Pottery in 1912, and all equipment was moved into New Castle’s facility by March 1913. New Castle was organized in 1901, when the company purchased the plant of the New Castle Shovel Works and an adjoining handle factory. It completed additions and buildings to house kilns, producing semi-vitreous hotelware and dinnerware.

There was pent-up demand for dinnerware and overglaze hotelware by the end of World War II. Shenango responded by expanding the plant, adding space for decorating and a new 200-foot tunnel kiln. In the 1950s, the plant was further modernized and saw the installation of the first fast fire kiln, which fire glost ware in one hour and ten minutes – beating a previous time of anywhere from 36 to 40 hours.

In 1959, Shenango acquired Wallace China and Mayer China in 1964. The company was sold four years later to Inerpace Corporation, who had manufactured Franciscan and fine china. Inerpace invested into Shenango, adding a cup manufacturing system, new bisque kilns and decorating kilns. It had also developed the “Valiela” decorating process, which reduced the cost of printing greatly.

Inerpace sold Shenango to Anchor Hocking in 1979, who spent considerable money installing computerized body batch making, and new clay forming, decorating and firing equipment. Anchor Hocking sold Shenango to Newell Company of Freeport, Illinois, in 1987 who then sold the plant to Canadian Pacific six months later. Canadian Pacific was the parent company of Syracuse China. Syracuse, citing labor costs, closed Shenango and reorganized; all former employees had to reapply for their old positions, and many did not return.

Canadian Pacific sold Shenango, along with Mayer and Syracuse, to the Pfaltzgraff Company of York, Pennsylvania in 1989. The Mayer operation was moved to Shenango, and plans were drawn up for an expansion, but consolidation in physical plants and a downturn in the economy led to the permanent closure of New Castle’s facility in December 1991.

An auction was held in 1992. Many finished goods did not sell. Two fires, both ruled arson, consumed parts of Shenango in June 2011 and May 2012.

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Written by Sherman Cahal
Sherman Cahal is a photographer who has specialized in abandonments and historical structures for over 15 years.