Abingdon Sanitary Manufacturing Company, in Knoxville, Illinois, was founded in 1908 and remains in business to this day. Their initial business was making plumbing fixtures—sinks, toilets, urinals, water fountains—and their exceptional quality made them the gold standard for the industry. They used a dense, heavy white clay (some of it imported from England) which created very durable and watertight fixtures with beautifully smooth surfaces. In 1928, they became the first manufacturer to produce colored fixtures. In 1933, they were chosen to produce all the plumbing fixtures for the World's Fair in Chicago.
But the Depression was not kind to Abingdon. House construction came to a standstill and the company began to shut-down much of its production. At this point, the new company president decided to start making "artware"—that is, decorative consumer items which could be sold in fine department stores and gift shops. Vases, sculpture, cookie jars and a few bookends were designed and produced—all using the same Abingdon vitreous china and sublime glazes. Because of the higher-quality clay, Abingdon ceramics were heavier and less prone to chipping—and their vase were less likely to leak. The company was very successful making "affordable luxuries" during an otherwise bleak economic period.
After World War Two, when the economy boomed and many in the new middle class were ready to build houses, Abingdon stopped producing decorative items and returned full-time to plumbing fixtures. They continue to produce such products to this day (under the "Briggs Industries" moniker).
The bookends, shown above, were made during a 12 year period (1938-1950), before Abingdon discontinued its artware line. They have a very heavy weight and silky touch (thanks to the high quality clay). And their wonderful satin-white glaze is a beauty to behold. Click on the photo above to learn more about them.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248