This company started in 1942 with a very different focus than the modern-day JO. The founder, Muriel Joseph George, used to make lucite jewelry, selling it under the company name of "Muriel of California." When World War II made the purchase of lucite nearly impossible, she turned to making her jewelry in ceramics. This marked the turning point towards making figurines, as Muriel fell in love with the feel of clay. She let her hands do the sculpting, and began creating everything from little girls to pixie children, and of course, animals of all kinds!
At the end of World War II, Muriel and her fiance, Tom, decided to begin their own pottery business, working out of their basement until they could afford to rent a studio. That was when the name, "Josef Originals" came into being. It was a mistake of their label printer that forever changed the spelling of the company from Joseph to Josef; as is often the case in business, they had no time to fix the error, so the mispelled name was embraced as the company name from that day forward.
Muriel enjoyed sculpting children and people the most it seems and took pride in updating the hairstyles of her creations to stay current.
In the '50s, Murial began sculpting beautifully detailed pieces in response to discovering that Japan was selling cheap copies of her earlier pieces; it was hoped that the new pieces would not be so easy to duplicate. However, the higher prices of her new pieces, coupled with Japan taking a bite out of the sales from her other pieces, really hurt the business. Their reputation was also tarnished because people mistook the inferior Japan copies as Josef Originals.
Then, in about 1954, Muriel and Tom met a man who convinced them to go to Japan and have their figurines made there, which would cut their costs a great deal. Thus, Josef Originals operated under the name "George-Good Corporation"--George standing for Muriel's newly married last name, and Good for George Good, the man who became their new partner. Muriel went to Japan for six weeks to teach the talented workers how she wanted things done. From then on, she would create designs at home and send colored drawings and instructions to the factory to be produced, and then sent back for approval. Josef Originals was back in the competative market again!
Without having to produce the finished pieces, Muriel was free to create to her heart's content, and did so with great zeal! The company was doing fabulously, and Muriel responded with more and more new designs--dolls of all types, music boxes, and lots of animals, including dogs, cats, frogs, elephants, monkeys, ostriches, owls, and her famous mice! She made more than forty different ones have been documented. One company ordered $40,000 worth of mice for a cheese promotion giveaway!
In 1980-81, Muriel decided to retire and George Good bought the company from her. She did continue to create new designs for the company until about 1985. Her daughter Diane, helped Muriel from 1973 to 1986. In 1985, George Good sold the company to Applause, Inc., no new designs being made under the Josef Originals name, and are not currently marketing the JO pieces. JOs were also made in Taiwan, Korea and Mexico, as early as the 1970s, but the duration was not noted.
Muriel Joseph George died in 1992, but she lives on through the many charming creations she made. She has countless fans who collect her pieces avidly, and she will not soon be forgotten.
When identifying JO's, look for an incised 'Josef Originals" and the "C" in a circle on the unglazed bottoms. Small figurines carry a round or oval sticker, black with gold lettering and border, and a quarter inch oval sticker which says "Japan". Her earliest pieces bear the mark, "M.J. George." (Information for this write up was obtained from the Josef Originals book, "Charming Figurines," published by Schiffer Pubishing Co.)
Top: Two variations of J-O's Appaloosa. The horse on the right with darker spots is more common. Both horses owned by Barrie Mayse.
Bottom: Standing Foal, owned by Barri Mayse (Norcrest also made this mold in chestnut)
Morgan in Dapple Grey
Photo provided by Lissa Wickham
Morgan in palomino
7" tall. His show name is Amber Twist. Image provided by Vanessa Brown
Thoroughbred Stallion in Dun
Photo provided by Teresa Rogers-Worrall
Thoroughbred in bay
Stands 6.75 inches tall. Image provided by Vanessa Brown.
6", shown as "Chief Early Eagle," Appaloosa stallion owned by Barri Mayse (this is yet another version of the two Appaloosas above!)
Standing Horses (6" tall)
Left: Norcrest (#A285) copy with white markings added, owned by Barri Mayse
Right: Josef Original, owned by Kim Fairbrother
Mini Arab Family
Owned by Barri Mayse
Mini Thoroughbred Stallion & Arabian Mare
Owned by Barri Mayse
Mini Thoroughbred Family
Owned by Barri Mayse
Owned by Debbie Moore
Prancing Gaiter in Palomino
Shown as "Starshine Kansas Amber," Missouri Foxtrotter mare owned by anonymous
Laying Foal in Palomino
Photo provided by Aliyah Ahmed
Standing Horse in Bay
Shown as "Quarter Deck," TB/QH gelding owned by Traci Durrell-Khalife
Standing Horse in Palomino
Owned by Vanesssa Brown