For more than 60 years, Lefton China has been an importer of fine china products. Lefton China has been widely distributed, with more than 10,000 retail locations in the United States at one time. A number of pieces are popular collectibles, particularly during the period in which Lefton's products were made in Occupied Japan. Today, Lefton produces a collection of popular lighthouses, among a number of other figurines and collectibles.
George Zoltan Lefton
George Zoltan Lefton left his native Hungary in 1939 and moved to Chicago, Illinois. While he had no professional experience with porcelain or china, he was an avid collector. He founded Lefton China in Chicago in 1940, taking advantage of a move to a new country to explore his passion for fine china.
The Impact of World War II
When Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, many Japanese-owned businesses were looted in Chicago. Lefton helped board up a business owned by Nunome, a Japanese-American friend. After the war, Nunome assisted Lefton in developing essential relationships with china producers in Occupied Japan. The first pieces of Lefton China with the "Made in Occupied Japan" mark reached the United States in 1946.
Lefton China produced in Occupied Japan included a wide range of pieces, dating from 1946 to 1952. Designs ranged from delicate, formal pieces with gold edging and soft floral patterns to the whimsical and playful designs of the 1950s. Many of the pieces of Lefton China from Occupied Japan were produced by the Miyawo Company during this period. The quality and price were both good on Lefton China pieces from this period; many of these pieces are collectibles today.
Lefton China in the Modern World
Lefton China continued to be produced in Japan until the 1970s. Production in the 1980s and beyond moved to Taiwan and Malaysia. Most importantly, the quality remained high. The family sold Lefton China in 2001, but production under the Lefton China label continues today.
Lefton China Marks
Lefton China can be identified by the marks on the base of each piece. Identifying marks vary, but they may include "Lefton's," "Lefton China," "Geo. Z. Lefton," "G.Z.L.," or just a letter "L." Many pieces were marked by both a maker's mark and a paper label. Those made from 1946 to 1952 will also include "Made in Occupied Japan" as a part of the identifying markings.
With a master's degree in art history from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Michelle Powell-Smith has been writing professionally for more than a decade. An avid knitter and mother of four, she has written extensively on a wide variety of subjects, including education, test preparation, parenting, crafts and fashion.