North Dakota Pottery Collectors Society




Little Heart Ceramics

                     by Jim Wiege and
                    Audrey and Darrel Spencer
Tony Helbling, the owner and founder of L & H Manufacturing, originally was successfully selling branding irons all over the United States and Canada. He thought that the ranchers would like to have their brands on a ceramic figure of their prize cattle. Little Heart Ceramics was started because of this concept during 1959. Little Heart's main business consisted of specialty advertising items.

Mr. Helbling was very fortunate indeed to be able to buy the original Messer moulds from Joe Messer of Bowman, North Dakota. Included among the molds were cattle molds in four different sizes in breeds such as Herefords, Holsteins, and Black Angus. Joe and Eunice Messer had ceased their production during 1956.

While calling on his distributors, Tony would show customers a sample of the ceramic cattle and many sales were made this way. Many orders came in on a regular basis from retailers for the cattle and other figurines.

It is probable that Little Heart Ceramics were also sold through L & H Manufacturing using dealers located in other states as well as Canada.

Jerry Schuch was sales manager for Little Heart Ceramics and in charge of production of the Little Heart Ceramics. He also drew out designs for their specialty advertising items.

A variety of ceramics were sold; including figurines of animals, ashtrays, paperweights, vases, salt & pepper shakers, and even an attractive 18 piece nativity scene.

Their clay was supplied by a firm in Fargo, North Dakota, then mixed with water and other chemicals in preparation for making ceramics.

Several people were instrumental in the process of creating and selling Little Heart Ceramics. Bill Helbling, Tony's brother, would carve an original sculpture then create a Plaster of Paris mold from the pattern. Each mold would take about a week to dry. After the mold was finished, Mrs. Francis Braun and Mrs. Ida Lanz would complete the casting and trimming of the greenware which would then be fired for about 6 hours and then allowed to cool for another 8 hours.

Both Mrs. Braun and Mrs. Lanz would then use either an airbrush or delicate brush strokes to glaze the whiteware which was then ready for a final firing. All of the employees learned their trade the hard way, on the job.

Little Heart Ceramics was finally discontinued in 1968.

From "Little Heart Ceramics" by Jim Wiege and Audrey and Darrel Spencer, copyrighted 1999.



Various Little Heart Pieces

Photos courtesy of George and Lorraine Williams


Little Heart Ceramics,Copyright 1999 by Jim Wiege and Audrey and Darrel Spencer. $10.00 to Darrel Spencer, 916 Couch Street, Bismarck, ND 58501.
America's Salt & Pepper Shakers,
Copyright 2000 by Sylvia Tompkins and Irene Thornburg. $33.95 postpaid to Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 4880 Lower Valley Road Atglen, PA 19310. 610-593-1777.
Earth, Water, and Fire - The History and Uses of North Dakota Clay
, 1998 Spring/Summer Issue North Dakota History - Journal of the Northern Plains, Volume 65, No. 2 & 3. $10.50 postpaid to State Historical Society of North Dakota, 612 Boulevard Avenue, Bismarck, ND 58505. 701-328-2666.


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Copyright 2002 North Dakota Pottery Collectors Society
Last modified: 07-15-2019