Dr. Albert Victor Bleininger (1873-1946) was in charge of the research department at the Homer Laughlin China Company in Newell, West Virginia from 1920 until his death in 1946. He played an important role in the development of clay bodies and glazes for many sought after Homer Laughlin wares including Fiesta, Harlequin, Wells, Century, OvenServe, Kitchen Kraft, and many more.
Dr. Bleininger inspecting a Fiesta bowl, circa late 1930s
Pencil sketch of Dr. A. V. Bleininger, circa 1940
Bleininger was born in Bavaria on July 9, 1873 to Francis and Lina Bleininger. He and his parents came to the United States in 1887. He earned his degree in chemistry from Ohio State in 1901. His education and work history were summed up in his obituary:
Because of his outstanding record as a student, he was appointed instructor at Ohio State following his graduation and in 1905 became an assistant professor. A year later he was promoted to associate professor.
In 1907, Dr. Bleininger was appointed assistant professor of ceramics at the University of Illinois at Champaign. About the same time, he became chief of the clay products section of the United States Geological Survey, which he served from 1908 to 1910, when he became connected with the United States Bureau of Standards for a year. In 1910, the University of Illinois appointed him professor and director of the department of ceramics, a position he held for two years.
In 1912, Dr. Bleininger went to Pittsburgh to take charge of the ceramics division of the Bureau of Standards. He remained there until 1920, when he came to Newell to head the research department of Homer Laughlin.
Bleininger was married twice. First to Hulda Gerturde, who died in 1938, and then to Helen Thomson. He was survived by his daughter Viven Crawford. His son, Edward Orton Bleininger died in a house fire in Newell in February 1946. Like his father, Edward was also a chemist at the Homer Laughlin China Company.
The following two pages are from a 1925 Newell High School yearbook, The Rhododendron.
On Wednesday, October 20, 1920, a special dinner was held to welcome Bleininger to the firm. It was also a goodbye dinner to Joshua Poole (c.1852-1925) who had served as general manager for sixteen years. A write up on the dinner appeared in The Evening Review on October 22, 1920:
Laughlin Firm Dinner Host
Department Heads Guests at Affair Complimentary to A. V. Bleininger.
By M. K. Zimerman.
In the action of the Homer Laughlin China Co. giving a dinner complimentary to A. V. Bleininger, in charge of the research department of that firm, a precedent has been established, which, it is believed, will be far-reaching in its effect.
Details of the event were arranged under the direction of W. E. Wells of this firm.
For many years, it has been the policy of many firms to bring heads of departments together about the festal board, so that one might know the other better. Where organizations have similar plants located away from each other, and the same work is being performed, a department head in one plant may not know personally the one who is doing the same task in a companion plant. Hence, it is only proper that two such men should be brought together, as the problem of one is the problem of the other.
When the suggestion of such a meeting dwelt upon the mind of Mr. Wells, the more it appealed to him. Then, when Joshua Poole, one of the older members of the organization retired, and a new research department created, the dinner for the organization heads in the Elk's club last Wednesday night served two purposes: a farewell to Mr. Poole and a compliment to Mr. Bleininger.
The dinner also brought out the fact that over three fourths of those about the table had been with the Homer Laughlin China Company over five years. Two were there who had been with the company for 30 years or thereabouts. There were still others who have been with the organization for over 25 years.
Introductions were numerous, although the folks were identified with the same organization.
The event proved one outstanding thought, and that was the wonderful spirit of harmony which exists within the organization. This phase of the dinner was well worth its panning. It seemed like just one happy family, each working in daily communion one with the other, and for the benefit of the whole.
Shop talk, as the phase is considered in the ordinary term, was omitted during this dinner. [snip] At the head of the table, over which Mr. Wells presided, were Messrs. Bleininger, Poole, and Marcus Aaron.
Nearly four score guests attended. Music was furnished by Stillwell's orchestra. A number of vocal selections were rendered by Attorney Blaine H. Cochran, who was accompanied by Mrs. Danks Cochran.
The dinner began with the singing of "America" and during the serving of the menu, popular songs were sung.
Here is a portion of the song book from the 1920 dinner: