Pasadenan Florence Ward (1898-1991) began taking art classes as a way of coping with the death of one of her sons in 1939. Encouraged by a professor, she began making ceramics out of her garage in 1942. Most of these early “garage” pieces were of children. Initially begun as a hobby, it turned into a business when Florence received a surprising order for eighty-four figurines. Her husband Clifford and oldest son Clifford, Jr. joined the business after they returned to Pasadena following World War II. By 1946, the business outgrew her garage and moved to a facility on the east side of Pasadena. The business moved again in 1949, this time to a modern factory at 74 South San Gabriel Boulevard in Pasadena.
The company produced a selection of home products, but is best known for the “Florence Collection”- authentic, detailed reproductions of historical and fictional characters, including figures from two well-known paintings at the Huntington Library—Thomas Lawrence’s Sarah Barrett Moulton: Pinkie and Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy. She also drew inspiration from Godey’s Ladies Book. Florence often produced figurines embellished with slip-coated lace, which burned away during the firing leaving the delicate ceramic replica. Delicately articulated fingers were another defining feature of Florence Ceramics figurines, and twenty-two karat gold accents provided the final touches.
Following court battles with the Lefton Company over copyright infringement and the death of Clifford Ward, Sr. in 1964, the production plant—but not the copyright to any Florence figurines—was sold to the Scripto Corporation, which specialized in advertising ware. That company closed in 1977.
Pasadena Museum of History has a collection of Florence Ceramics, many of which were on view in the 2016 exhibition, Cast & Fired: Pasadena’s Mid-Century Ceramics Industry. To see more examples of Florence Ceramics as well as other Pasadena-produced ceramics from the museum's collection, view our video History At Home - Mid-Century Ceramics.
- Michelle L. Turner