Shenango China

Shenango China

Shenango China

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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13Comments

  • Dennis Shaffner / 3 June 2013 10:41

    Perhaps they will follow Bethlehem Steel and create a casino out of it.

  • Kevin Morrow / 2 August 2013 11:21

    I would like to get my hands on some of those plates. Any idea who to contact?

    • james m rapose / 19 October 2013 7:45

      I would like to purchase some of those dishes my cousins worked in that factory please let me know I would a dish for rembrance thank you james rapose

  • Michele / 29 August 2013 10:52

    Just broke my Mom’s serving platter which I remember holding many delicious dishes in my childhood. The Shenango kneeling Indian logo prompted me to look up this website. Guess I won’t be replacing it…
    What will happen to all those lonesome dishes?

    • littlesquarelake / 2 November 2013 9:32

      you can find lots of it on eBay; check every week, it will eventually turn up.

  • Beth / 13 September 2013 7:53

    Can’t believe all that fire and insulation brick wasn’t reycled into other kilns! Those kilns have just tumbled and remain where they fell. Wonderful photos that document time, place, and our peculiar habit of use and throw away.

  • I run a soup kitchen and feed many homeless people. We could use plates, bowls and mugs. How can I find the contact information for this? / 12 October 2013 10:19

    I run a soup kitchen and feed many homeless and out of work people. We could surely use plates, bowls and mugs. Who do I contact for this?

    Thank you.

  • John Snyder / 12 November 2013 12:26

    These photos bring tears to my eyes. I worked at Shenango China as a Ceramic Engineer from 1976 – 1981. I worked in the lab developing ceramic bodies and glazes. I’m familiar with all these areas in the photos. I spent many hot days next to those kilns. It was a great place to work and I had good friends there.
    I’m now retired. I just moved from Sausalito California to Palm Springs.
    Thank you for the photos.

  • Barbara / 30 December 2013 8:52

    Can I come to PA to get some plates?

  • Ron Mele / 6 January 2014 10:26

    For anyone interested in looking through the abandoned Shenango China plant, I was there several years ago with the railroad crew who runs the line adjacent to the plant. We stopped there and just walked in. The place wasn’t guarded when we were there. It may still be accessible but you enter at your own risk

    • TB Photo / 17 January 2014 8:41

      Hey Ron, where did you enter from? I see a couple of intact factories around it.

  • S / 16 February 2014 9:52

    I learned over the past few months that a few, major ceramic/china/tile factories existed on the East Coast in the New York and Pennsylvania areas: Syracuse/Onondaga China, Buffalo China, and Shenango China. You can learn more about each on Wikipedia: Shenango China under Franciscan Ceramics; Syracuse China under Syracuse China. You will need to do a search for Buffalo China but I believe they are currently owned by Oneida Limited. Very interesting to learn that these china companies put out so much quality restaurant and railroad china. If you have an appreciation for American made earthenware, ironstone, and stoneware, like I do, then the histories of these china companies will make you simultaneously sad to learn that these companies no longer exist, and proud to know that American quality products were produced in these places. Unfortunately, the pursuit of lower labor costs and higher profits led to the selling, merging, and eventual closing of many of these fine companies. If I had money, I would buy these types of places and jump-start American manufacturing.
    P.S. Anyone else have difficulty seeing these pics? I can only see the top one.

  • Ann / 22 May 2014 4:53

    I have 2 sets of Shenango China for Restaurant and Intuitions I have had them since in the 70’s I have wondered if there was any demand or value in them l set is a sprinkled brown dots with brown rim, the other set is a stained glass pattern with a GOLD (metal) rim.

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