Colorware History & Design

The Maximalist

Metlox

Metlox Potteries 1920 – 40s

Metlox Poppytrail Logo

Metlox Poppytrail Logo

Metlox Potteries of Manhattan Beach, California, operated between 1927 and 1989 as a manufacturer of a wide range of dinnerware and artware products. An early iteration of the company, Proutyline Products Company, was founded by the Prouty family in 1921. Proutyline built a manufacturing plant in Hermosa Beach, California, and produced architectural tile under the brand Hermosa Tile. Theodor (T.C.) Prouty and his son Willis were avid inventors with over 70 patents credited to them. Among their patents was a design for a tunnel kiln in 1925, which allowed them to dramatically increase tile production. In 1926, the Proutys sold their factory to Ohio-based American Encaustic Tiling Company.

Metlox Poppy Trail Brochure, 1935

Metlox Poppy Trail Brochure, 1935 – featuring Metlox 200 Series pottery

In 1927, they founded Metlox Manufacturing Company as a division of Proutyline. The name Metlox is a concatenation of “metal oxide,” a generic term for materials used in the ceramics process. Metlox began production in a new plant at 1200 Morningside Drive near downtown Manhattan Beach (the location has since been turned into a shopping mall that retains the Metlox name). While the plant was later deemed an eyesore, the Manhattan Beach was once a relatively isolated beach community and the plant brought much needed jobs and tax revenue to the town. Metlox’s early production included ceramic bases for neon signs: the famous Pantages theater in Hollywood boasts a Metlox manufactured marquis. Like many potteries specializing in commercial production, business began to dramatically slow in the early 1930s. Looking for ways to stay in business, Metlox cast their eye on the popular colorware dinnerware lines being produced by J.A. Bauer & Sons. The manufacturing facility was retooled for dinnerware production. Metlox launched their first dinnerware line, “California Pottery,” in 1932. Several other lines followed: 200 Series (also known as “Poppy Trail”) in 1934, Mission Bell (300 Series – 1935), Yorkshire (400 Series – 1937), and Pintoria (500 Series – 1937). Artware lines followed in 1938.

QwkDog Metlox Cubist Dogs

The dinnerware production halted in the early 1940s at the plant while Metlox produced a variety of metal shell casings and machine parts to support the war effort, and after the war, the company returned to dinnerware production. The lines that followed in the early 1940s catered to the craze for hand-painted dinnerware (following the success of Franciscan Desert Rose) with lines like Camellia and Ivy. Willis Prouty sold the firm in 1946 to Evan K. Shaw. Shaw was no stranger to the ceramics business. During the late 1930s he worked for a small company that purchased pottery factory seconds and closeouts as promotional giveaways at movie theaters. He developed relationships with most of the Southern California potteries and became good friends with Fay Bennison, the president of Vernon Kilns.

Faced with changing consumer tastes, increased foreign competition (copying!) and rising production costs, Metlox closed their doors in 1989. Metlox managed to last longer than any of the other Big 5 potteries (although Gladding-McBean and Pacific Clay still exist today as commercial architectural potteries).

Reference: Gibbs, C. (1995). Collector’s Encyclopedia of Metlox Potteries. Paducah, KY: Collectors Books

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