Pacific Clay Products - Plant #4 Company Photo - 1935

Pacific Pottery Employee Photo 1935

California pottery Jedi and artist Jack Chipman sent me a photo yesterday from Pacific Clay Products’ company photo from plant #4 – the Lincoln Heights (east LA) facility where Hostess Ware and other art and garden pottery was produced. I took the image, fixed some of the ravages of time (creases and folds), and lightly colorized the people to help them stand out (the original image was very white-washed).

Something that collectors tend to forget – especially as we romanticize these pottery companies – is that even the “big” companies didn’t employ a lot of people. I discovered this when doing some rigorous searches through the Los Angeles Times newspaper archives from the period – I expected to find tons of articles about the vibrant Southern California pottery industry, but actually turned up very little. Almost all of the companies (Pacific excepted) were privately held, and employed on average less than 200 people. So while the area was a hotbed for pottery production, the total number of workers employed relative to the overall population was pretty low. For comparison, industry giant Homer Laughlin employed roughly 800-1000 people in their good years – which speaks to why Fiesta is easy to find and other potteries’ lines not as much.

The Pacific photo has around 100 employees. Also of note, compared to other pottery company employee photographs from the period, it’s nice to see some workforce diversity in this photo: There are 15 women, 2 African Americans and several Latino employees. Even the annual reports from the period don’t provide any detail on the volume of Pacific Pottery produced during the 1930s, but given the relative lack of available pottery today, their production numbers were low in comparison to their local competitors: Bauer, Vernon Kilns, and Gladding-McBean in particular (Metlox didn’t really ramp up production until the 1940s). Again, it’s important to keep in mind that Pacific’s primary business during this period was still commercial pipe and tile. Bauer, Vernon and Metlox were all dedicated to consumer production.

1 Comment
  • Susan Wind Simpson

    August 25, 2016at12:33 am Reply

    I was excited to read your history of Pacific Clay Products. My grandfather, Fred Wind, was hired as a pottery supervisor there in 1932 and oversaw the production of their dinnerware and artware lines until they were finally phased out in 1942. He stayed on as a tile supervisor for another year or two. He at one time hired my dad as a caster (both my grandfather and father are in the 1935 employee photo) and later my aunt as a tile inspector. After he left Pacific, he and my dad went into their own business…Fred Wind Ceramics. It lasted until about 1960. I have a photo of my dad pouring into a mold at Pacific and I also have a LOT of Pacific pottery!

    Would love to have the original photo. Years ago, Jack Chipman promised to send it to me if he ever located the original in his mass of stuff. He never did, but maybe you have it now? Contact me any time, I would be happy to provide any info I have from a family member’s point of view. My grandfather was always extremely proud of his Pacific years.

    Susan

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