Looking into the history of the many TV lamp makers can be an exercise in frustration, with even the original location of manufacture often proving elusive. While TV lamps marked "Claes", "Lane & Co." or "Royal Fleet" may be familiar to many collectors, the identity of these companies is vague at best. These makers, and so many like them, are quickly fading from history. Time has made research difficult, and today many TV lamp manufacturers are little more than a name.
Having collected for years, I've always had an unshakable curiosity in regards to the TV lamps marked KRON. Various theories circulated regarding the company and their place of manufacture, but I could never find any verifiable data, only vague speculation. It was generally agreed that the company had a Texas affiliation of some sort, although one persistent notion suggested that they were made in Illinois, the source of which would later become clear. With "Texans Inc. Bangs, Texas" stamped in the bottom of many examples, an attribution to an Illinois pottery didn't fit. I was intrigued by the notion of a Texas/TV lamp connection and decided to do some research, so on July 10th, 2004 my wife and I went on a fact-finding trip to Bangs, Texas. Although I doubted that this town of 1620 inhabitants would produce any revelations, an interesting story soon began to emerge.
With the help of many local residents, I learned that Kron referred to designer Howard Kron, and the Gunter or RAG marking sometimes found along side of the name referred to co-designer Richard Gunter. For over 25 years the pair were the creative minds behind the products of Texans Incorporated, a lamp manufacturer that was formed in 1952. Unfortunately Howard Kron passed away in August of '91, but I was able to learn about his life through Richard Gunter, who was still a resident of Texas. With considerable help from Mr. Gunter and through interviews with numerous former Texans employees I compiled sufficient data to write Pedlar of Dreams, The Story of Howard Kron and Texans Incorporated. I learned that Howard Kron worked for other potteries prior to his association with Texans Inc., including Haldeman Potteries in California and Midwest Potteries in Morton, Illinois. Kron relocated with Midwest Potteries to Tyer, Texas where he began a 30 year creative association with Tyler native Richard Gunter. After the collapse of Midwest, the pair created giftware for Gilmer Potteries (in nearby Gilmer, Texas) for a time, but soon shifted their efforts westward, 200 miles away to the fledgling Texans Incorporated. The Kron/Gunter team showed more creativity than was often exhibited by the ceramics designers of the time, pushing the limits of the medium to meet their goals. More Kron designs were produced than is commonly known, many being rare or even one-of-a-kind.
One of my most interesting finds was the location of the Texans Incorporated manufacturing plant on Gantt Street. It wasn't the original building, mind you, as the first Texans Inc. building had fallen victim to a 1971 lightning strike that resulted in a total loss of the factory. Fire was an unfortunate fate that befell many ceramics manufacturers, Gilner of California coming first to mind, but lightning wasn't the usual culprit. The facility was rebuilt in 12 months, and Texans Inc. remained in business for about ten more years. After the sale of Texans Inc. the plant became Challenger Lighting and, still later, American Quality Ceramics.
Several significant questions had been answered, and numerous points of confusion have, for the most part at least, been resolved. I was pleased to find that a bit of sleuthing resulted in so many great finds, not the least of which is several new friends. The people I met in the Texas towns of Bangs and Brownwood have been extremely helpful, and genuinely interested in preserving an important piece of the towns history. They are obviously proud of their Kron/Texans Incorporated legacy, and pleased to see interest shown in the company that affected the lives of everyone in Bangs. I've stayed in touch with the terrific people who helped so much in my research and often return to Bangs, the home of Texans Incorporated and "Kron" TV lamps.
- Mark Stevens