Colorware History & Design

The Maximalist

Gladding-McBean

Gladding McBean El Patio Banner

Gladding-McBean Franciscan Ware

Gladding-McBean (GMcB), California’s oldest and largest pottery, was founded in Lincoln, CA in 1875 by Charles Gladding, Peter McBean and George Chambers. As with many other pottery manufacturers, they specialized in architectural tile, brinks and other building materials in support of the California housing boom of the late 19th and early 20th century. In 1923, the company acquired a majority holding in Tropico Potteries, which gave GMcB access to additional plant and mining facilities, as well as new product lines. At the time of the acquisition, Tropico’s focus was faience and floor tile production. More importantly, Tropico’s location in Glendale gave GMcB a stronghold in Southern California. The expanded company continued to produce ornamental tile for commercial and residential buildings. In 1924, garden pottery was added to the product lineup, with products being sold through wholesalers or pottery yards. As demand for clay building materials increased in Southern California, GMcB continued their acquisition spree in the 1920s, purchasing Calco Tile Manufacturing, Pomona Tile Manufacturing, Northern Clay Company, and Los Angeles Pressed Brick Company (and several others!).

Like all other pottery producers in the area, the 1927 Southern California real estate crash and the subsequent 1929 stock market crash started to hit the company’s bottom line and demand for building materials dramatically declined. By 1931, the company was teetering on bankruptcy and needed to find new products to bring to market. In 1932, seeing the success of Bauer Pottery and Pacific Pottery‘s consumer pottery, they began experimenting with making dinnerware, but found that in testing the pieces crazed badly. They were able to resolve this issue by switching to a patented clay body type called “malinite.” Malinite’s one fire clay body resisted crazing, a point the company used in marketing the wares. Adding to their production capability, GMcB purchased the west coast properties of American Encaustic Tiling Company. As part of that purchase, they acquired Prouty tunnel kilns essential for the efficient production of dinnerware in 1933. American Encaustic had purchased Proutyline Products of Hermosa Beach in 1926. GMcB established the Hermosa Beach plant as the headquarters for their tile production under the trademarked Hermosa Tile brand until 1937.

With the launch of their first dinnerware line in 1933-34, nine colors were approved:

  • Gloss: Pigeon Blood Red, Ming Red, Naples Yellow, Apple Green, Turquoise Blue, Mexican Blue, and Autumn Brown
  • Matte / Semi-Matte: Celestial Ivory, Verde Green

The company began producing dinnerware under their Franciscan Ware brand in the Glendale plant in 1934 under the leadership of Frederic J. Grant. His wife, Mary K. Grant, a former art director at Macy’s Department Store in New York City, is credited with the design of the art pottery and dinnerware sets produced by the company.

Franciscan Ware Logo

Franciscan Ware Logo

The first colorware line, El Patio, was initially produced in eight glazes (White, Golden Glow, Redwood, Glacial Blue, Mexican Blue, Tahoe/Dark Green, Flame Orange, and Yellow). GMcB quickly followed with their Coronado ware line in 1935 (both artware and tableware), featured in both matte and gloss glazes and characterized by a swirl pattern around the rims of the pieces. Coronado was produced between 1935-1954. Other notable dinnerware lines of the 1930s include the solid-colored Montecito, along with pattern derivatives of that line, and the 1940 introduction of Metropolitan.

The dinnerware lines were marketed under the “Franciscan Pottery” name, which was officially changed to “Franciscan Ware” in 1936. GMcB is also credited with marketing the first “starter sets” of dinnerware in 1936: four place settings bundled together in a single package. The sets were popular as wedding gifts. A wide variety of accessories and additional place setting items were available as open stock. By the end of its long run in 1954, El Patio was glazed in approximately 20 different colors. By 1937, GMcB introduced patterns to the El Patio line, including Padua, Del Mar and Mango (1937) and Hawthorne (1938).

1937 was also notable for GMcB: They purchased Catalina Pottery, the pottery division of the Santa Catalina Island Company. The purchase included all of the master molds, existing inventory, “Catalina Pottery” brand name, and plant assets. GMcB continued to produce many of the dinnerware pieces and added new table- and decorative ware under the Avalon, Aurora and Encanto art ware lines. The dinnerware line was relaunched as Catalina Rancho, which they produced at the Glendale plant from 1937-1941. The GMcB Catalina pieces can be differentiated from original Catalina pottery by the backstamps and marks: GMcB often included a “Made in U.S.A” mark, and “Catalina Pottery” brand; original Catalina pieces are marked “Catalina Island Pottery.” GMcB Catalina pottery is not as collectable or desirable as original Catalina pottery.

Facing hard times, GMcB sold the Franciscan division to English pottery company Wedgwood in 1979. By 1984 all Franciscan ware was being produced in England, specifically the popular Desert Rose (1941-) and Apple patterns, still made today. GMcB exists today as a producer of clay tiles, terra cotta, garden pottery and pipe.

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