Brief Hagen Renaker History
I wrote this article for the 2007 Schroeder's Antiques Price Guide. I did revise the article a little for my webpage.
Hagen Renaker Potteries was founded in a garage in Culver City, California in 1945. By 1946 they moved to a Quonset Hut in Monrovia, California, where they continued making hand painted dishes - decorated with fruit and vegetable, or animal designs. These dishes were usually signed HR Calif in paint on the back. By 1948, Hagen Renaker began producing miniature animal figurines. This group of mini animals quickly became their best selling line. Remarkably, this is still true today. Many of the old miniatures from the 50's are still being produced today.
In 1952 Hagen Renaker introduced a new larger line of animal figurines called Designers Workshop or DW for short. These pieces were produced by many remarkable artists. A few of the more reconizable names were; Maureen Love, Tom Masterson, Nell Bortells, Martha Armstong-Hand, Helen Perrin Farnlund and Don Winton. Their design, attention to detail and painting are amazing. Hagen Renaker made hundreds of different DW pieces; birds, cats, dogs, farm animals, horses, insects and wildlife. These pieces look more like real animals than pottery renditions. The horses are particularly prized by collectors.
When Disneyland opened in 1955, Hagen Renaker made many different Disney pieces. They made these pieces until 1960. Walt Disney was particularly impressed, saying that Hagen Renaker made the finest 3 dimensional figurines he had ever seen. Hagen Renaker made over 100 different Disney figurines. The sets produced were; Alice in Wonderland, Bambi, Cinderella, Dumbo, Fantasia, Mickey Mouse & Friends, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, some miscellaneous pieces and 2 sizes of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Most of the Disney pieces were minis but they also produced larger pieces, including banks and cookie jars. A chamber pot was also produced that Walt Disney would give to employees with new babies, pink for girls and blue for boys. A second larger set of Fantasia pieces was made in 1982.
The late 50's and early 60's was a very difficult time for all US potteries. Most were forced to close due to cheap Japanese imports. Many of these imports were unauthorized copies of US made pieces. Hagen Renaker tried new lines and cost cutting measures in an attempt to compete with these imports. They introduced several new lines including Little Horribles, Rock Wall Plaques and trays (faux Arizona Flagstone decorated with brightly colored primitive animals similar to cave drawings), Zany Zoo pieces and Black Bisque animals. They also tried a new Aurasperse paint. Aurasperse paint is a cold paint that ddoesn't have to be fired in a kiln, which saves time and money. The problem with this paint is that it washes off easily, so Aurasperse paint wasn't used very long. These cold painted pieces are generally more valuable because of their scarcity. Even with all the new lines and paints, Hagen Renaker was forced to shut down. However, this shutdown lasted only a short while. In early 1966, Hagen Renaker opened a new more efficient plant in San Dimas, California, where they still operate today. Spring of 1966 is a transitional period. Some pieces produced in the Spring of 66 are Monrovia era pieces while others are San Dimas pieces.
In 1980, Hagen Renaker bought the Freeman McFarlin factory in San Marcos, California and operated it for 6 years. This factory specialized in making large Designers Workshop pieces. Some of these pieces were new designs, some were Freeman McFarlin designs, but most were reissued DW pieces. Many of the old molds had to be reworked, so some of the pieces from the San Marcos era vary slightly from earlier pieces. Hagen Renaker continued to produce Freeman McFarlin pieces using the same glazes and colors, usually white or gold leaf. They also produced some of these pieces in new colors. In many cases, it is impossible to tell which company made a particular piece.
In the late 80's Hagen Renaker introduced Stoneware and Specialty lines, which are larger than the minis and smaller than the DW pieces. The Stoneware line was short lived, but they still make the Specialty pieces. Recently, Hagen Renaker issued a new Specialty line of dogs called their Pedigree line. The Pedigree dogs are mostly redesigned DW pieces. The current HR line consists of 45 Specialty pieces, 13 Pedigree dogs and 206 miniatures. Also, Hagen Renaker is currently releasing some large DW sized horses. Some are new designs, but most are new versions of the old DW horses. There are currently 14 of these DW horses available in various colors with more to come.
I'll always glad to answer more questions. Feel free to E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ed & Sheri Alcorn