While the company utilized at least four designers over the years, Howard Kron is the one usually associated with Texans Incorporated. Small wonder, as Kron dedicated roughly thirty years to the company, creating hundreds of products in the process. Howard came onto the scene just after Texans severed ties with Hugh Gantt, at a time when the company struggled to regroup. Howard's broad knowledge of ceramic engineering was welcomed, but his skill as an artist/designer was of paramount importance. Having over twenty years experience, Kron had developed a unique style, one that would impart a consistent, distinctive look to Texans' products.
Howard James Kron was born on May 10th, 1914 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At an early age Howard showed an aptitude for the arts, honing his skills in drawing, singing and acting. The Milwaukee Drama League was of particular interest, and upon high school graduation the enthusiastic Kron took a bus to Hollywood. His destination was the Pasadena Playhouse, a school renowned for producing talent, and where Howard would pursue his dream of acting. Although his performances were well received, in time Howard began to question the merits of an acting career. Short in stature, he felt ill-suited for leading rolls, and wasn't interested in settling for a career as a character actor.
It was during this period of doubt that Kron made the acquaintance of Remo Cortesi, a popular west-coast tenor. Cortesi, born Reede Curtis in 1882, had studied voice extensively in Europe and was also a skilled composer of music and poetry. He encouraged Howard to develop his voice, training him in opera and, ultimately, the singing of popular music. Kron adopted the stage name Howard George and left the Pasadena Playhouse. The pair began touring the west coast, Howard "crooning" at assorted nightclubs, and before long Howard was doing club performances and radio shows coast-to-coast. He performed the popular songs of the day as well as Cortesi's own compositions, one of which, Pedlar of Dreams, became Howard's calling-card. (scroll down to hear the song) As well as performing the song on a regular basis, he also created the artwork for the sheet music, a monochrome drawing done in Howard's imaginative style. Never forsaking his other artistic talents, Howard found a number of avenues for making an income when not touring. One of these, a dairy sign in the form of a cartoon-like cow, caught the eye of someone from Haldeman Pottery, who suggested that pottery design might interest him. This led to a number of designs created for Haldeman on a freelance basis, and added yet another skill to Howard's arsenal.
Kron's singing career was progressing nicely, the travel and accolades making for a thrilling lifestyle. But all that came to an end on April 24, 1942, when Cortesi succumbed to a stroke at the Hotel President in Waterloo, Iowa. Remo Cortesi had served as voice coach and business manager, and his absence would prompt Kron to reevaluate his career yet again. While staying at a Chicago hotel Howard happened upon a trade show, and struck up a conversation at a display of pottery by the Midwest Pottery Company, a manufacturer in Morton, Illinois. Struck by their overly-simplistic figurines, Howard commented, "you need a designer", a blunt, and accurate, statement that ultimately resulted in his employment with the company. Midwest's owner, Sherman Deutch, had enlisted in the army, with Richard Dunn running the operation in his absence. Howard and Richard got along well, establishing a working relationship that would endure for years. The new "Kron Line" of decorative figurines was a success, and a significant departure from the other products Midwest sold. Reflecting Howard's mastery of the medium, these pieces solidified his commitment to a career in ceramic design. Unfortunately, the forward progress enjoyed at Midwest Pottery came to an abrupt halt on March 19, 1944 when the facility was ravaged by fire. The pottery was not rebuilt. Instead, a facility in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin was purchased, formerly the Continental Faience and Tile Company, and Midwest Pottery resumed production. During this period Howard also designed and marketed his own products, probably under the names Castle Lamp Co. and Ceramics Unlimited. These wares were sold at local shows, and it is unknown whether they were fired in Midwest kilns or at Howard's own facility.
For reasons unknown, Midwest relocated yet again in 1950, this time to Tyler, Texas. This incarnation of the company was short-lived, as someone inside the company embezzled funds over a period of time, resulting in its closing a year or so after the move. Howard then did design work for nearby Gilmer Pottery, sculpting a line of giftware from a workshop in Tyler. These products included figurative planters targeting florist shops, ashtrays, as well as a series of four cookie jars. It was also in Tyler that he met Richard Gunter, who was later to become Howard's co-designer at Texans Inc.
In 1954 Kron got wind of a lamp company in Bangs, Texas that was in need of a designer, and he, along with Richard Gunter, made the trip to survey the facility. The new plant was a sizable operation in need of a consistent flow of new products, and the upstart company could provide Howard with the career stability that had proved so elusive. He threw himself into the task, designing from his Tyler workshop and making the drive to Bangs as needed. The distance to the factory had its advantages, not the least of which was the solitude to work, but in time Kron decided to move to Bangs. Richard Gunter, who had learned the craft from Howard in Tyler, moved as well, the two men forming a team that would handle all of Texans' design needs for the next twenty-five years.
Howard suffered a heart attack following the completion of Texans' Del Rio factory in '71, and though his failing health slowed production, he continued for the duration of the companies existence. Richard Gunter departed following the 1982 sale of the plant to Sam Obert, but Howard stayed on, designing for what had become Challenger Lighting until 1986. Howard Kron passed on August 11, 1991 following a fight with leukemia and an inoperable aneurysm.
Corey Ash, Band Director at Howard Payne University and Music Minister at the First Baptist Church in Bangs, was kind enough to record his performance of Pedlar of Dreams for inclusion here on texansinc.com.
Pedlar of Dreams
by Remo Cortesi,
Performed by Corey Ash
(single-click to play)
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