Early Art & Gardenware

Pacific Art & Gardenware

“If you can’t sell what you make, make what you can sell.”

In the early 1930s, as production from their commercial pipe and tile business was slowing down, Pacific Clay Products began to produce architectural terra cotta and expand their offerings for garden and artware. 

“Manufacture of architectural terra cotta was begun shortly before the beginning of the past year and while the volume of business has not as yet been large, the product has been excellent and is growing in popularity. The line of garden pottery and artware has been considerably enlarged. These products are manufactured in the same department and it is believed that with the return of normal conditions, will prove important additions to your company’s lines.”

According to a 1992 interview with Ken Barrette, Pacific Clay’s accountant and Secretary to the Board, Pacific attempted to use a hand-painted glaze on their stoneware body (used to make crockery). However, they found the stoneware to be too heavy and prone to crazing. Their ceramics lab began to add talc to the clay to make it less absorbent. This change also resulted in the creation of lighter-bodied ware, paving the way for their dinnerware lines.

Many of the early Pacific Pottery early artware designs may be one of a kind. According to Ken:

“We had a man who had a potter’s wheel. When there was a convention of potters, independent salespeople could come and see it [the pottery], we would always have this man take his potter’s wheel down there and make whatever anyone asked for. Somebody could come along and say “Can you do this” and he’d do it…The man [whose name was forgotten] wasn’t an employee of ours, he was hired as a contractor for this type of work. No employees made hand thrown pottery on a full-time basis.”

“One of our jiggermen could operate a wheel in a rough sort of way, but we never made anything commercially that was produced on the potter’s wheel. He would produce a sample or two, a glaze would be selected, and the item would be shown around to stores and buyers. If there was any interest in it, we would make molds for it, and either jigger or cast it.”

Bauer Art Pottery

Bauer Pottery, like several other area potteries, got their start in gardenware and artware before entering the dinnerware market. A typical lineup might include vases, jardinieres, flower pots and planters, sand jars, urns, bowls and other household and kitchen items. Bauer started their first production of artware around 1915 and showcased their new wares at the 1915 San Diego Panama-California Exhibition. Early Bauer art pottery pieces used a redware clay body and were either slipcast or hand-thrown: Later pieces were produced in stoneware and then glazed earthenware.

Bauer Pottery Rebekah Vase Print - CLICK FOR PRODUCT INFO AND ORDERING

Among the more famous and desirable Bauer artware forms is the Rebekah vase. Bauer produced the vase in nine different sizes, from 8″ to 24″ tall in even increments. While the design is sometimes attributed to Victor Ipsen and Matt Carlton, many of the now iconic shapes popular with collectors predated their arrival at the company. Even as dinnerware production began to take off, Bauer continued producing a wide variety of artware pieces. In fact, they began to glaze many of the early forms in the brightly colored glazes.

Production of larger gardenware items wound down in the late 1930s, and post-war, Bauer continued their artware lines with a focus on smaller household items through the 1950s, including flower vases, ash trays, bowls and figurines produced by notable designers. In fact, Bauer considered abandoning dinnerware altogether in the 1940s due to increased competition from highly automated and efficient companies like Homer Laughlin. So in 1945, Bauer partnered up with designer Russel Wright to create a line of modern-style artware. The resulting “Russel Wright Line” while beautifully designed, was a disaster to produce: Firing and glazing the items created havoc with the kilns. The heavy pieces (some of which weighed close to 10 pounds) were difficult to sell to distributors and consumers and Bauer lost a significant amount of money on the venture. However, these pieces are extremely desirable for collectors today.

In the 1950s, Tracy Irwin led the design helm at Bauer, launching the Cal-Art floral line as well as the Monterey Moderne dinnerware line. Bauer also acquired Cemar Potteries and included items from the Cemar molds in their lineup.

Franciscan Coronado

Franciscan Coronado Advertisement

Franciscan Coronado Advertisement

Gladding-McBean’s second dinnerware offering, Franciscan Coronado, followed shortly after the introduction of El Patio in 1935. Featuring an elegant swirled pattern (a style Metlox copied for their Yorkshire line in 1937), Coronado was initially offered as a limited short set in matte ivory, green, and blue. As the line grew in popularity, additional pieces and colors were were added, including satin turquoise, yellow, and coral, as well as gloss yellow, turquoise, coral, and maroon. By the end of its long run in 1954, the entire line only included roughly 40 pieces. Tea and coffee services were very popular and are easily found today.

Franciscan Coronado Place Setting

Franciscan Coronado Place Setting (click to enlarge)

Metropolitan

Franciscan Metropolitan

Modernist architect and industrial designer Morris Sanders designed Franciscan Metropolitan for a 1940 exhibition, 15th Contemporary American Industrial Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The Museum began this series of exhibits in 1917, featuring the work of notable “designers and makers.” The committee responsible for the exhibit in 1940, included luminaries such as Gilbert Rohde, Walter von Nessen, Russel Wright, and Raymond Loewy.

This year the Metropolitan Museum will present its fifteenth comprehensive exhibition of Contemporary American Industrial Art. Like the others in the series, which began in 1917, the exhibition will consist of house furnishings. All the pieces included by been designed and made in the United States by permanent residents of this country and, with the exception of structural materials and plain goods, none has been publicly shown before.

It is always of decided interest to the Museum to show the work of as many designers and craftsmen as possible. Though the Co-operating Committee numbered only twenty-two, the unselfish assistance of its members brought the total of designers and craftsmen to 170. The objects and materials exhibited total far in excess of a thousand and were produced in twenty-one states by 409 firms and individuals…The exhibition of 1940 shows together, as they are used in daily life, the products of craftsmen and those of quantity-producing industry.

The exhibition brochure lists three “Metropolitan” pieces in the display: a teapot and two plates. Each plate featured a design, one by Witold Gordon and the other by Joan Kahn. Unfortunately, no detailed photos are available. In the photo, you can see the dinnerware on the left hand side in the middle display. Also featured in the display is a bowl and platter designed by Mary K. Grant with a glaze by Max Compton for Gladding-McBean.

GMcB made the line available for regular production from 1940-42. The line only has around 15 separate pieces, but includes standard dinnerware and coffee/tea service pieces. The coffee and teasets are fairly common. All Metropolitan was produced in satin duo-tone glazes with ivory on the interior and lids. Contrasting colors included coral, turquoise, gray, mauve, yellow, and pink. The line was also available in single-tone ivory. While Metropolitan was only produced for a couple of years, the shape was recycled and expanded in the late 1940s in their solid-color Tiempo line.

 

Pacific Pottery Hostessware Piece List

Pacific Pottery Hostess Ware Punch Cups

Complete Pacific Pottery Hostessware Piece List

QwkDog Design Pacific Pottery Informal

Like Hostessware? Buy the most complete guide to Pacific Pottery Hostessware available.

This is the only complete list of known Pacific Pottery Hostessware pieces. As one of the most extensive collectors of Hostessware, I compiled the list based on my own deep collection, other preeminent collectors, company catalogs, and other source material.

The breadth and depth of the Pacific Pottery Hostessware line is pretty incredible.With more than 200 different pieces in this line produced over a period of just ten years, Hostessware stands out as the most extensive dinnerware line produced in the 1930s. The Hostessware lineup included a wide range of individual pieces, serving ware, and kitchen items. There are indications that Pacific produced many one-off or limited production pieces that would be displayed in their company showrooms for department store buyers. If buyers picked it up, then the piece would be more widely produced.

Everyone wants to know about pricing, but the dinnerware market in general is fairly soft. Pacific is not widely collected due to relative rarity of the pieces, and pricing can vary wildly. The prices in the existing reference book are very out of date (not to mention biased) and are significantly higher than current market prices. The good news is that you can pick up Pacific fairly cheaply, the bad news is that it will take you a long time to pull a set together. If you have a particular question about pricing or value (or are looking to sell something), send me a note. A reminder that just because something is rare doesn’t necessarily mean it’s desirable.

Pacific Pottery Hostessware

Known Pieces

Check out Informal! The Completist’s Guide to Pacific Pottery Hostessware for a complete photo reference and information about each piece. Examples can be found in the gallery.

Number Piece
   CUPS & SAUCER
629 Cup, demitasse (2.5″)
631 Saucer, demitasse (4.25″)
608 Cup, tea (2.75″)
609A Saucer, tea (6″)
609B Saucer, coffee (6″)
607 Cup, coffee (flat bottom) – older style (3.5″)
634 Cup, coffee (flat bottom) – newer style
634 Cup, coffee (with foot) (3″)
313(A) Cup, punch (2.25″) – older style
313-bl Cup, punch (2.25″) – older style (BLACK)
313(B) Cup, punch (2.25″) – newer style
618 Mug, Tom & Jerry (3″)
   INDIVIDUAL PLATES
614 Plate, B&B (6.25″)
610 Plate, salad (7.25″)
611 Plate, luncheon (9.25″)
613 Plate, dinner (11″)
632 Plate, buffet (w/ cup well) – no tab
632 Plate, buffet (w/ cup well) – tabbed (5.75″)
615 Plate, divided grill (11″) (restyled)
615 Plate, divided grill (12″)
   INDIVIDUAL BOWLS
601 Sauce Dish (5.5″) (fruit bowl)
606 Sauce Dish (6″) (larger fruit bowl)
?? Bowl, 5.5″ (backstamped “Hostessware”)
667 Bowl, individual vegetable (6.25″ oval)
36A Bowl, handled soup
36AC Lid, handled soup
37 Bowl, onion soup
38 Bowl, tabbed (very early piece)
36R Bowl, mush (5.5″)
205 Baker (ramekin)
205C Lid, baker (ramekin)
206 Cup, custard
UNK Cup, custard (early)
654 Cup, sherbet
   TUMBLERS
409 Tumbler, large (5″)
411 Tumbler, small (4.25″)
418 Tumbler, antique (3.5″)
419 Tumbler, ball (5″)
431 Tumbler, barrel (4″)
433 Goblet, footed (5.5″)
651 Cup, cocktail (2″)
432 Coaster (3.75″)
   PITCHERS
420 Pitcher, ball
430 Pitcher, ring, 8.5″
427 Pitcher, 1/2-pt.
427-A Pitcher, 1/2-pt. (lid)
428 Pitcher, 1-pt.
429 Pitcher, 1-qt.
508 Pitcher, 2-qt.
508-A Pitcher, 2-qt. (lid)
417 Pitcher, antique
n/a Lid, pitcher, 2-qt. (see #508)
n/a Lid, pitcher, 1/2-pt. (see #427)
458 Pitcher, 1-pt. (restyled)
459 Pitcher, 1-qt. (restyled)
460 Pitcher, 2-qt. (restyled)
438 Carafe (w/ lid, wooden handle) – short neck (4 rings)
445 Carafe (w/ lid, wooden handle) – long neck (7 rings)
453 Buffet bottle (w/ lid)
410 Water bottle, covered (no handle)
630 Pitcher, martini
   SERVING BOWLS
640 Bowl, oval veg., divided (12″)
640A Bowl, oval veg., (12″) – lid
644 Bowl, oval veg. (9.25″)
664 Bowl, oval (12″)
677 Bowl, round veg. (8.5″)
? Lid, bowl, round veg. (#677)
602 Bowl, round veg., open tab handles, 9″
212 Bowl, serving, 6.5″ (pudding dish)
213 Bowl, serving, 7.5″ (pudding dish)
214 Bowl, serving, 8.5″ (pudding dish)
604 Soup tureen, covered
310 Bowl, salad (footed), 9″
311 Bowl, salad (footed), 11″
312 Bowl, punch (footed), 14″
314 Bowl, low salad (footed), 11-12″ x 3″
315 Bowl, low salad (footed), 8.25-8.5″ x 2.5″
663 Bowl, low 12″ (plainware)
624 Bowl, low 15″ (plainware)
623 Bowl, low 18″ (plainware)
   KITCHEN
215 Bowl, shirred egg dish, 6″
216 Bowl, shirred egg dish, 8″
? Bowl, batter (plainware) (large – on 12R bowl)
? Bowl, batter (plainware) (small – on 18R bowl)
301 Bowl, batter (on 12R bowl)
302 Pitcher, beater
   MIXING BOWLS
9R Bowl, mixing (10.25″)
12R Bowl, mixing (9.5″)
18R Bowl, mixing (8.5″)
24R Bowl, mixing (7″)
30R Bowl, mixing (6.5″)
36 Mini bowl, mixing, stepped (5.5″)
42 Mini bowl, mixing, stepped (4.5″)
48 Mini bowl, mixing, stepped (3.5″)
54 Mini bowl, mixing, stepped (2.5″)
60 Mini bowl, mixing, stepped (1.5″)
   SERVING PLATTERS
625 One-tier tidbit (11″) (on #613 plate)
626 Two-tier tidbit (11″,9″,7″)
412 Tray, target (small)
413 Tray, target, 15″ (tab handled)
451 Tray, target, 16″
444 Tray, oval, 13″
681 Tray, oval, 14″
682 Tray, oval, 15″
452 Tray, large, serve-all, 16″ (center well)
660 Platter, fish, 15.75″
661 Tray, serve-all, 11.25″ (center well)
659 Tray, 10.5″ (rectangular)
616 Tray, 12.5″ (rectangular)
617 Tray, 15″ (rectangular)
612 Plate, chop (15.75″)
619(a) Plate, cake (13″)
619(b) Plate, cake (14″)
680 Plate, chop (12″) (larger version of #639)
639 Plate, muffin warmer, 11.25″ (w/ wells for lid)
622 Flat salad server, 17″ (plainware)
627 Plate, 17″ – plainware (w/ lazy susan)
635 Cheese board (w/ wooden insert) (on #613 plate)
636 Cheese board (on #619 cake plate)
414 Cheese board (on #413 tab-handled platter)
 ? Cheese board (on #451 target platter)
   SERVING ACCESSORIES
668 Cover, toast platter (fits on #610 7″ plate)
603 Plate, relish, 3 part (9.5″)
641 Gravy boat
620-621 Salt & pepper shakers
662 Server, relish, 4 part (w/ handle)
643 Six compartment relish (handled), 16″
669 Butter dish (w/ cover)
207 Butter chip, 2.5″
437 Nut dish
434 Individual melted butter bowl, 4″ (decorated only?)
665 Server, salad dressing (divided, tab handles), 6″
666 Server, salad dressing, ind. (w/ handles)
416 Cover, cheese and cracker, 10″ (see #414)
633 Candy dish, 9.5″
405 Melted butter / nut dish, 3.75″ (plain)
425 Refrigerator box w/lid (square)
426 Cigarette box
   KITCHEN & BREAKFAST
232 Oventop set – pepper
233 Oventop set – grease jar
234 Oventop set – salt
305 Cookie or Pretzel Jar
656 Child’s plate, divided
657 Child’s mush bowl
658 Child’s mug
435 Pitcher, syrup (w/ lid) (plain & ringed)
436 Pitcher, waffle batter (w/ lid) (plain & ringed)
448 Jam/Condiment pot with metal handle
639 Lid, muffin plate, 9.5″ (see #639)
? Eggcup (mini – unlisted)
605 Eggcup (early style)
642 Eggcup (later style)
   CASSEROLES
221 Covered roaster (18″) (rectangle, w/ lid)
200 Casserole, 7″ (w/ lid)
201 Trivet (for #200)
202 Casserole, 8″ (w/ lid)
203 Trivet (for #202)
209 Casserole, 9″ (w/ lid)
211 Deep casserole
1214 Metal casserole stand (for #209)
306 Condiment jar (multiple sizes, 4-6″)
   BEANPOTS
235 Beanpot  (6″ – small)
236 Beanpot  (6.5″ – large)
228 Beanpot (large) (plainware – w/lid)
227 Beanpot (7-7.5″) (plainware – w/lid)
226 Beanpot  (6-6.5″) (plainware – w/lid)
225 Beanpot (small) (plainware – w/lid)
231A Beanpot (individual) (plainware – no/lid)
   BAKERS
645 Pie plate, 8″ (removable handle)
638 Pie plate, 10″ (removable handle)
222 Baker, 6″ (removable handle)
223 Baker, 7″ (removable handle)
224 Baker, 8″ (removable handle)
   COFFEE/TEAPOTS
417 Coffeepot, drip, 10-cup
442 Coffeepot, demitasse, 6-cup (9.25″)
443 Coffeepot, demitasse, individual
447 Teapot, 6-cup
446 Teapot, 4-cup
440 Teapot, 8-cup (low)
439 Teapot, 2-cup (low)
   SUGAR/CREAMERS
407 Sugar bowl, individual
407A Sugar bowl, individual – lid
408 Creamer, individual
449 Creamer, demi
450 Sugar bowl, demi
403 Sugar bowl, early style (round)
403A Sugar bowl lid
404 Creamer, early style (round)
461 Sugar bowl, 3″ (restyled)
462 Creamer, 3″ (restyled)
463 Sugar bowl, 4″ (restyled)
464 Creamer, 4″ (restyled)

Pacific Pottery Decorated Hostessware

Pacific Pottery Decorated Banner
Pacific Pottery Decorated Hostessware

In 1934, Pacific Pottery introduced their “decorated” lines – a series of glazed patterns on the Hostessware shape. Around 50 decorated Hostessware patterns have been found, but many of the patterns are undocumented. Pacific Pottery decorated Hostessware may sometimes have a painted notation or stamp on the bottom indicating a pattern ID. In the image example, there’s a notation marked hmc J307. I believe that “hmc” are the designer’s initials, as this handmark has been found on large decorated items and may reflect custom (perhaps even unique) designed pieces. J307 would refer to a pattern variant.

Pacific Pottery Decorated Mark

A 1937 article in the “California – Magazine of Pacific Business” on California pottery production states: “Pacific employs an overglaze process on decorated ware which requires three trips through the kilns, but following the third firing the pieces not only are ovenproof, but are crazeproof. California fruits, wheat and poppies are among their most popular items.” Company wholesale material refers to the ware as “Pacific Hand Decorated Fused Glaze service,” noting that “we can provide a wide range of splendid patterns in this type ware, but all patterns are sold on exclusive control.” Note that while Pacific states their ware is crazeproof, collectors will find pieces with heavy crazing that occurred over time.

Pacific decorated ware is in-glazed and went through a triple firing process – once for the bisque body, another for the base glaze color and a third for the design, which is fired into the piece. The designs would be created by workers (women, most likely) on a turning wheel using glaze and brush. In the image at left, you can see the double stilt marks from the two glaze turns through the kiln. Because of the production method, decorated items cost significantly more (30-50% higher) than standard Hostessware.

Better Homes & Gardens - 1936

Better Homes & Gardens – 1936

Around the same time period, Gladding-McBean (on their Padua line) and Vernon Kilns (Harry Bird lines) were also producing dinnerware items using similar in-glazing and painting techniques. Consumers responded the hand-painted dinnerware craze took off in the early 1940s with the success of Franciscan Desert Rose, Apple & Ivy, Vernon Kilns plaids, and Metlox Ivy. Painted dinnerware does not require a third glazing, which means lower production costs, but doesn’t have the same look as in-glazed ware.

Pacific Pottery decorated pieces are most commonly found on plates and platters, although the occasional serving piece shows up. Some of the more common patterns include the “BG” plaids, 2007 and 2008 circle designs, “BH” sine waves and “BF” hub and spoke. Based on my research, I believe that decorated patterns were available to department and specialty stores by custom order only.

Decorated Hostessware Pattern Identification

Pacific Pottery Decorated Ware

Decorated Ware Patterns | QwkDog Design (click to enlarge)

This illustration provides an overview of the different decorated patterns that have been discovered. Some are unique – maybe even one-offs – and others more prevalent. Due to its bespoke production and relative cost, decorated ware is hard to find today. In several large “wedding” (original purchase, unused) sets that I have purchased, decorated ware was incorporated as accent pieces to complement standard Hostessware.

For more examples, check out the Decorated Hostessware image gallery

Pacific Pottery Arcadia

ARCADIA

Around 1937-38 Pacific Pottery launched two new dinnerware lines, Arcadia and Coralitos while still continuing to produce Hostessware. During the late 1930s, consumer tastes were shifting, and with dinnerware trends tending to follow overall design trends, pottery manufacturers began to tone down the bright colors in favor of pastel hues and lighter body ware. Arcadia was a short set (limited pieces) offered in six matte colors: deep blue, delph, green, yellow, rose and ivory (official color names are not known). Arcadia included standard individual pieces and a limited range of serving pieces.

Arcadia features several types of marks, not all labeled with Pacific, making it challenging to identify the manufacturer if you’re not familiar with the line. Items may be found with a backstamp or an in-mold mark. There are three variations of the in-mold mark – the first (shown below) features the piece number with “Made in USA.” Other in-mold marks may feature “Pacific” or “Arcadia” above the piece number.

Like most Pacific Pottery, Arcadia is categorized by piece numbers that begin with “E” and most items feature the piece number with the in-mold mark. At some point around 1940, Pacific Pottery switched pretty much exclusively to the backstamp, and piece numbers are no longer featured (this applies to Hostessware as well).

Arcadia

Piece List

1937-40

  • E4 Teacup
  • E5 Saucer
  • E43 Bowl, Fruit 6″
  • E? Bowl, Cereal, 7″ (footed)
  • E? Plate, B&B, 6″
  • E8 Plate, Salad, 7″
  • E9 Plate, Luncheon, 9″
  • E? Plate, Dinner, 10″
  • E? Plate, Chop, 12″
  • E29 Carafe
  • E45 Tumblers
  • E47 Pitcher, 1-pint
  • E48 Pitcher, 1-quart
  • E? Bowl, Serving, 9″ (footed)
  • E? Platter, Oval, 12″
  • E? Salt & Pepper Shakers
  • E? Butter with Lid
  • E? Teapot
  • E2 Sugar with Lid
  • E3 Creamer
Pacific Pottery Arcadia Colors
Pacific Pottery Arcadia Colors
Pacific Pottery Arcadia In-Mold Mark "E"
Pacific Pottery Arcadia In-Mold Mark "E"
Pacific Pottery Arcadia Backstamp
Pacific Pottery Arcadia Backstamp
DURA-RIM
Pacific Pottery Dura-Tone Ad - March 1941

By early 1940, Pacific Pottery added a new line called “Dura-Rim” based off of the Arcadia shape. Dura-Rim, as you can assume from the name, features a thicker edge (apparently the thinner Arcadia line was prone to chipping). Another feature of Dura-Rim is the embossed Lily of the Valley on the pieces. Dura-Rim can be found in six matte glazes (yellow, ivory, green, delph, peach, white). Dura-Rim features the Pacific backstamp used on later pieces (1940+) and is not typically in-mold marked.

Pacific also produced Dura-Rim in a two-tone pattern called Dura-Tone. The two tone combinations includes pink, blue, green and yellow borders with a satin white center as well as a blue border with rose colored center.

Both Dura-Rim and Dura-Tone are both extremely hard to find and are not popular with collectors.

Pacific Pottery Dura-Tone Place Setting

Padre Pottery

At the height of the pottery craze in the 1930s, California boasted over 1,600 potteries. Manufacturers sprung up overnight to meet consumer demand for colored dinnerware, gardenware and artware. For many of these companies, few if any records exist. One of the hidden gems of the era was Padre Pottery. Very little is known about the company other than they operated in the mid-30s to approximately 1943 in Lincoln Heights district of Los Angeles, close to Pacific Clay Products and Bauer Pottery. From the photos, you can get a sense of the wide range of products offered by the company. Pitchers, bowls, teapots and artware are some of the more commonly found items today.

All photos courtesy of Steve Beals.

Padre Pottery Dinnerware #1

Padre Pottery Dinnerware #1

Padre Pottery Dinnerware #3

Padre Pottery Dinnerware #2

Padre Pottery Dinnerware #2

Padre Pottery Dinnerware #3

Collectors with a keen eye will note that Padre shares some shapes with Catalina. It is believed that several Catalina Pottery employees came to Padre, and the two companies shared production molds. Even some of the glazes are very similar.

A large fire destroyed most of Padre’s manufacturing facility in 1943 – a common occurrence for potteries – and the company did not rebuild. Around 1942, most manufacturers had switched over to wartime production, dramatically reducing the amount of consumer goods produced during the war period. With such a large loss, the company was probably unable to rebuild due to financial losses, and the inability to scale to shift production capabilities to utility wares and other wartime products.

Padre Pottery Artware

The market for giftware grew rapidly in the late 1930s. In addition to their popular colored dinnerware lines, potteries produced large quantities of artware in the form of vases, decorative tableware, and artware. In 1940 the company introduced a new line of hand-painted decorative items. Many of them were made from newly created shapes. The line was called “California Regal.” The decorating was done by a staff of approximately ten young women including Jane Holland who would open her own studio in South Gate, California when Padre closed in 1943.

Padre Pottery Artware

Table and Artware

Padre Pottery Vases

Vases

Padre Pottery Artware

Decorative Artware

Padre Pottery Marks

Pottery items can be found with a variety of backstamps, in-mold marks, foil stickers and even charming handwritten notes found on the bottom of these artware pieces.

Padre Regal Marks

Padre Regal Marks

Padre Pottery Foil Label

Foil Label

Padre Pottery In-Mold Mark

In-Mold Mark

Padre Pottery Backstamp

Backstamp

Padre Pottery In-Mold Mark

In-Mold Mark

J.A Bauer & Sons

California Colored Pottery

Bauer Pottery was founded by John Andrew (J.A.) Bauer in the late 1800s in Paducah, Kentucky. Seeing opportunity in California, he moved the company to the Lincoln Heights district in Los Angeles in 1910 and produced a range of stoneware, kitchenware and gardenware. Their production facility was located at 415-421 West Avenue 33, just a few blocks away from Pacific Clay Products‘ plant #4. The plant was strategically located near a railway line, essential for the distribution of their wares. Early production focused on stoneware and sanitary-ware, and then shifted to a new category of goods in their lineup: gardenware. Bauer rapidly became the go-to source for clay flower pots for nursery companies.

Spurred on by the success of the gardenware line, designer Louis Ipsen and potter Matt Carlton joined Bauer around 1915 to launch a new artware line.

J.A. Bauer passed away in 1922 and the company ended up in a partnership with his son-in-law, Watson Bockmon, and two sons of a Kentucky whiskey baron, Sam and Lynn Bernheim. None of the three partners had experience running a business. Watson was made president, with Sam and Lynn taking vice presidencies. The differences in their management styles made the arrangement difficult, and Watson left Bauer in 1928, but rejoined the company in 1930 after buying out the Bernheims.

Around this period, ceramics engineer Victor Houser joined the company, starting work on a series of new opaque colored glazes. The company marketed their first solid-color dinnerware, a plainware line called “California Colored Pottery,” in 1930. While other ceramics manufacturers were experimenting with colored glazes and dinnerware items, Bauer was one of the first to bring their products to a wider market. They initial sold to the nurseries and garden departments selling their gardenware lines – consumers found discovered it and went crazy over the colored dinnerware!

Bauer Pottery Employees, March 1938

Bauer Pottery Employees, March 1938 – From the collection of David Ogden

With the initial success of California Colored Pottery, Houser and Ipsen added rings to the pieces around 1932 and “ringware” was born. Note that ringware is also referred to as ruffled pottery in company brochures. Both plainware and ringware items fall under the California Colored Pottery line; plainware items were discontinued around 1940.

Bauer Pottery - Bullock's Broadway department store, Los Angeles, 1936

Bullock’s Broadway department store, Los Angeles, 1936

Business was good enough that in 1935, Bockmon was able to purchase Batchelder-Wilson’s tile plant after they went into bankruptcy. This plant, around the corner from the original Bauer facility, became known as Plant #2. With their production capacity increased, they begin to expand their dinnerware lines.

Seeking to compete with Homer Laughlin’s new Fiesta line in the mid-west and east coast markets, Bockmon built a factory in Atlanta around 1939. He died unexpectedly that year. The timing for Bauer was inopportune: The Atlanta plant produced some serveware pieces in support of the Los Angeles plant, but turned over to wartime production shortly thereafter (sanitary-ware and dinnerware for the armed forces).

Through the 1930s, Bauer Pottery capitalized on the colorware craze with five separate iterations of their original California Colored Pottery. While no company records exist that can tell us with great precision the years that these new lines and new colors were released, the order is as follows: plainware, ringware (both part of the same “California Colored Pottery” line, 1930), Monterey (1935), La Linda (1939), and El Chico (1939).

Bauer Pottery continued to produce a variety of art pottery and dinnerware lines until they shut their doors for good in 1962. The company fell victim to competitive pressure from cheap imports, the popularity of plastics, changing consumer tastes, and labor unrest. A general strike at the company for fair wages failed, and Eva Bockmon closed the doors for good.

Plain, Ringed and Ruffled

Bauer Pottery - Bullock's Broadway department store, Los Angeles, 1939

Bullock’s Broadway department store, Los Angeles, 1939

Bauer’s earliest colors for California Colored Pottery included Chinese yellow, delph blue, and jade green. A year or two later, the royal blue and orange-red glazes were added, followed by black, white, and burgundy towards the end of the 1930s. Throughout the duration of the line, roughly 100 separate pieces were produced. Black and ivory are highly desired colored by collector due to their relatively limited availability on the market. Burgundy can also command slightly higher prices.

Over the 10 or so years that it was produced, the ringware line went through several evolutions. In particular, the concavity of the flatware and pronouncement of rings subtly changes over time.

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.

Metlox Pottery

Metlox Pottery 1920 – 40s

Metlox Pottery 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 Pottery Poppytrail Brochure, 1935

Metlox Poppytrail 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 Pottery 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

Follow my board Metlox Colorware on Pinterest.

Pacific Pottery Hostessware

Pacific Pottery Hostessware Cups and Mugs

Pacific Pottery Hostessware launched in 1932 as a way for Pacific Clay to stop the bleeding from their commercial pipe, brick and tile business during the Depression. Seeing the success their neighbor, Bauer Pottery, was having with colored dinnerware lines, Pacific was the second of the “Big 5” potteries to get into the market.

During the ten years that Hostessware was produced, it became the largest dinnerware line of any pottery, with close to 200 different pieces! While the distinctive ring pattern is derivative of Bauer’s ringware line, Pacific made the style their own and the two lines differ dramatically in look and feel. The breadth of the line is pretty amazing – ranging from an extensive amount of individual pieces to serveware, hostessware, kitchenware and bakeware.

If you’re looking for Hostessware, you’ll need patience. Pacific primarily distributed the line in southern California, although they expanded in the mid- to late-1930s to larger markets like Chicago. However, the vast majority of Pacific is still found in California. Serving pieces are more common than individual place settings – it’s extremely difficult to put together a set and bowls in particular are rare. During the Depression, when these lines were sold, housewives generally had a set of dishes in place, so tended to supplement their existing sets with new serving pieces.

Hostessware or Hostess Ware? Well, it shows up in Pacific advertising as both, but is more commonly spelled “Hostess Ware” by the company. Either is correct.

 

Vernon Kilns Ultra California

The design of Vernon Kilns Ultra California line is credited to Gale Turnbull, with Jane Bennison contributing the iconic upside-down handles. Vernon Kilns used the Ultra shape on many lines: It was the base shape for designs created by Rockwell Kent, Don Blanding, and Disney. The official name of the shape is unknown, but is commonly called Ultra since the Ultra California line was the first pattern to appear on the shape. While beautiful, many considered the design to be impractical, as the turned-down handles made the pieces hard to pick up.

Ultra California came in six colors: Buttercup (yellow), Gardenia (green), Carnation (pink), Aster (blue), white, and maroon. Maroon and white are uncommon. Rumor has it that Vernon Kilns only produced White in June for weddings, accounting for its scarcity. The line was produced from roughly 1938-42. Standard dinnerware pieces are easy to find, serving pieces (with the exception of the teapot, coffee pot and casserole) are rare.

The company brochure below (this is a piece recreated off of an original brochure) seems to be from early in the line. White and maroon aren’t listed as colors, and there are several pieces missing from the list.

Vernon Kilns Ultra California Brochure

Vernon Kilns Ultra Brochure (click to expand)

Vernon Kilns Ultra California Piece Guide

PieceDescription
Bowl, individual, fruit5.5"
Bowl, individual, cereal6"
Bowl, individual, chowder6"
Chowder bowl lid
Bowl, individual, coupe soup8.25"
Bowl, serving, round8"
Bowl, serving, round9"
Bowl, serving, salad11"
Bowl, serving, 1-pint
Bowl, mixing5"
Bowl, mixing6"
Bowl, mixing7"
Bowl, mixing8"
Bowl, mixing9"
Butter tray with cover
Casserole, covered8"
Coffee pot, 2-cup, AD
Coffee pot, 6-cup
Comport, footed9"
Creamer, individual
Creamer, short
Creamer, tall
Sugar, individualopen
Sugar, shortwith lid
Sugar, tallwith lid
Cup / saucer, AD
Cup / saucer, teacup
Cup / saucer, jumbo
Egg cup
Jam jarwith lid
Muffin coverno base
Mug, handled3.5", 8 oz.
Plate, pickle, tab handle6"
Pitcher, 1-pint4.5", open
Lid, 1-pint pitcheroptional
Pitcher, 2-quartopen
Lid, 2-quart pitcheroptional
Pitcher, disk
Plate, bread and butter6.5"
Plate, salad7.5"
Plate, luncheon (small)8.5"
Plate, luncheon (regular)9.5"
Plate, dinner10.5"
Plate, chop (small)12"
Plate, chop (medium)14"
Plate, chop (large)16"
Sauce boat (gravy)
Shakers, salt and pepper
Teapot, 6-cup
Tumbler5"
Tureenette, covered7", notched lid

Vernon Kilns Early California

“The colors are truly thrilling!”

Vernon Kilns Early CaliforniaLaunched in 1934, Vernon Kilns Early California dinnerware is characterized by two concentric rings and a zigzag moderne angular design. By 1937, glazes included: yellow, turquoise, green, brown, dark blue, light blue, ivory, orange (red) and pink.  The company added maroon and white at some point, and the rarity of these colors makes them more desirable. By 1946, designers scaled back the available colors, producing pieces in blue, green, peach, turquoise and yellow. The line disappears from company price lists by 1950.

The Early California line is on the “Montecito” shape, believed to be the first shape produced by Vernon Kilns (post-Poxon China). Throughout the dinnerware line’s comparatively long run, it went through several design style changes. Earlier handled pieces, such as cups and beverage servers, have an angled handle. In the late 1930s, possibly with the launch of Modern California in 1938, the line is rounded out with softer shape. At this point the color palette in Early California shifts as well, the bright, bold colors are toned down, and the high gloss light yellow and pink colors become more prominent.

Vernon used the Montecito shape for dozens of different dinnerware lines until the company closed in 1958. Many lines, especially in the 1950s, often include a mix of pieces from Montecito, Ultra, and San Marino shapes. Montecito shapes were also adapted in the 1950s for the plaid and Brown Eyed Susan patterns.

Marshall Fields Vernon Kilns 1937In this May 1937 advertisement from the Chicago department store, Marshall Fields, Early California, Organdie, and Harry Bird‘s Tahiti line are available – Tahiti prices are more than double Early California.

Like many Vernon Kilns lines, Early California shares shapes with other dinnerware lines – in particular, the disk pitcher, tumblers and butter with Ultra California.

Vernon Kilns Early California

Vernon Kilns Montecito Piece List

As Vernon Kiln’s longest running shape, the number of pieces available across all the dinnerware lines was considerable. Pieces available in Early California are noted.

PieceDescriptionEarly California
Ashtray3" square, individualYes
Ashtray4.5" square, regular
Ashtray5.5" roundYes
Bowl5.5" fruit bowlYes
Bowl7.25" coupe soup bowlYes
Bowl6" cereal bowl
Bowl6" chowder bowl (angled handles)Yes
Bowl6" lug soup bowlYes
BowlLid, lug soup bowlYes
Bowl, serving7.5" round
Bowl, serving8.5" roundYes
Bowl, serving10" ovalYes
Bowl, serving10" oval, divided
Bowl, serving13" salad, roundYes
Bowl, serving15" salad, round
Bowl, mixing5" roundYes (San Marino Shape)
Bowl, mixing6" roundYes (San Marino Shape)
Bowl, mixing7" roundYes (San Marino Shape)
Bowl, mixing8" roundYes (San Marino Shape)
Bowl, mixing9" roundYes (San Marino Shape)
Buffet server3-partYes
Butter dishEarly (knob finial)Yes
Butter dishLater (rectangular - shared with Ultra)Yes (Ultra Shape)
CasseroleAngled handlesYes
CasseroleRound handlesYes
Coffee pot2-cup, ADYes
Coffee server / carafeRound, with lidYes
Coffee server / carafeAngled, with lidYes
Comport, footed9.5"Yes
Creamer, individualAngledYes
Sugar, individual, openAngledYes
CreamerAngledYes
SugarAngledYes
CreamerRound (optional lid)Yes
SugarRound, with lidYes
Cup / saucer, demitasseRoundYes
Cup / saucer, demitasseAngledYes
Tea cup / saucerRoundYes
Tea cup / saucerAngledYes
Egg cupYes
Jam jar5", with lidYes
Muffin tray9", tab handled with lidYes
Pitcher, diskYes (Ultra shape)
Pitcher, 1-pintBulb baseYes
Pitcher, 1-quartBulb base
Pitcher, tankard, 1.5-quartAngledYes
Coaster / cup warmer4.5"Yes
Plate, bread & butter6.5"Yes
Plate, salad7.5"Yes
Plate, luncheon (small)8.5"Yes
Plate, luncheon (standard)9.5"Yes
Plate, dinner10.5"Yes
Plate, divided grill11"Yes
Plate, divided grill, tray13.5 x 10.5"Yes
Plate, chop, small12"Yes
Plate, chop, medium14"Yes
Plate, chop, large17"Yes
Plate, pickle9"Yes
Platter, oval, small10.5"Yes
Platter, oval, medium12"Yes
Platter, oval, large14"Yes
Platter, oval, extra large16"
Plate, relish, 3-part7 x 10"Yes
Gravy boatAngledYes
Gravy boatRound
Gravy boat, fast standRoundYes
Shakers, salt & pepperYes
TeapotRoundYes
TeapotAngledYes
Tumbler #14.5", banded rim and baseYes
Tumbler #24.5" rings, bulge topYes
Tumbler #3a3.75", bulb bottom, often found with bakelite/metal handleYes
Tumbler #45", flared top (Ultra)Yes (Ultra shape)
Tumbler #3b3.75" bulb bottom, pottery handleYes

Vernon Kilns

Vernon Kilns Company Photo

Vernon Kilns began its existence as Poxon China, founded by George J.W. Poxon in 1912 in Vernon, California. In its early days, Poxon produced ceramic tile, shifting production to earthenware and restaurant-ware around World War I. They also produced a limited amount of artware and vases. After struggling through the Great Depression, Poxon was purchased by Faye G. Bennison in 1931 and renamed as Vernon Kilns. In 1933, an earthquake destroyed all of the existing Poxon stock. The damage to the plant’s beehive kilns and loss of stock prompted a complete redesign of the company’s dinnerware molds. The company reinvented itself under the direction of its art department, lead by designers Jane Bennison, May and Vieve Hamilton, and Harry Bird. In 1936, Gale Turnbull joined as their art director and revitalized their dinnerware lines. One of the first shapes released after the redesign was called Montecito, used in dinnerware lines through 1958, when the company closed their doors. Many of the Vernonware lines were able to live on at Metlox, who purchased the molds and trademarks. They continued to manufacture many Vernon patterns in their new Vernonware division.

Vernon Kilns Montecito

Vernon Kilns launched their first colorware line on the heels of some of their competitors. The first colored dinnerware line, Early California, was released around 1935 and is on the Montecito shape.  Montecito is believed to be Vernon Kiln’s first official dinnerware shape and was in production until the company closed.

Around 1937, a pastel satin-glazed version of Early California was released as Modern California (also on the Montecito shape) with redesigned round shapes in place of Early’s angled handles. Vernon phased out the angled pieces in Early California, replacing it with the rounded shapes from Modern California, possibly in the early 1940s. Early California also shared pieces with other dinnerware shapes, including Ultra California (butter dish, disk pitcher, tumblers) and Casual California (mixing bowls) (San Marino shape).

Vernon Kilns Modern California Teapot with Demitasse Cups/Saucers

Vernon Kilns Modern California Teapot with Demitasse Cups/Saucers

A “premium” variation of Early California came out in 1938-39 as Coronado. According to Nelson (2003), Coronado was available through gas stations in the eastern region of the United States, and as a supermarket premium in the west. Coronado shares the same basic Montecito shape, but have a slight ripple along the edge of the pieces. It can be found in a similar color palette as Early California with dark blue, orange, green, turquoise and yellow most commonly found. With its long production run and nationwide distribution, Early California is fairly easily found in the marketplace. It’s not as popular with collectors as some of its competitors, which keeps prices low.

Pacific Pottery Hostess Ware

Pacific Pottery Hostess Ware

Pacific Pottery Hostess Ware Coffee Pot

I’ve been working on some stylized representation of dinnerware – specifically looking to recreate an airbrush style in my quest to create some faux vintage Pacific Pottery Hostess Ware advertising.  I ended up using gradients in Illustrator to produce that effect. I considered using gradient mesh, but it’s a lot more work, and these pieces didn’t seem to need it!

To start the process, I placed images of dinnerware on the artboard and drew around the shapes. Instead of trying to do the whole shape at once, I did half of the body and then reflected the image so that there were two even halves. I got much better curves when creating separate paths for the handles and spouts – it also really helped when applying different gradients as it helped the elements of the piece stand out.

The thing to watch out for is making sure the perspective on the piece is similar from the original source image. The individual demi pot seems to be more of a straight-on shot, while the tea and coffee pot were shot at a very slight down angle. This could be fixed on the demi pot by deepening the curves of the lid, rings and base.

The letters were redrawn off of an original Pacific advertising piece.

Garden City Pottery

Garden City Punch Cup in Motion

Garden City Pottery was founded in 1902 in San Jose, California with an office and manufacturing facility on 560 North Sixth Street. Like many California potteries of that period, their original product lines focused on commercial tile and pipe, sanitary and gardenware products, and by the 1920s, Garden City was the largest pottery in Northern California.

Garden City Ruffle Bowls

Garden City Ruffle Bowls

During the 1930s with demand for commercial and residential ceramics in dramatic decline due to the collapse of the real estate market, Garden City was on the verge of bankruptcy. Seeing the success of the Southern California potteries with their colored dinnerware lines, Garden City brought in a designer in the mid-1930s to create new products to compete with those potteries. The designer, Royal Arden Hickman, begin creating new dinnerware lines as well as floral and artware pieces.

In addition to bringing Hickman on board, Garden City recruited Paul Larkin from Pacific Pottery to create a series of glazes for the new lines. Merrill Cowman joined in 1934, and the two of them formulated Garden City’s first set of glazes in yellow, green, blue, orange, cobalt, turquoise, black and white. Pottery was dipped in glazes rather than using a spray process.

Garden City Teapot

Garden City Teapot

Garden City produced five dinnerware patterns in the 1930s: Ring, Plain, Diamond, Swirl and Geometric. Compared to other dinnerware manufacturers, Garden City’s lines offered only a limited number of pieces: Most sets included a series of plates (6″ bread and butter, 7″ salad, 9″ luncheon, 10″ dinner and 12-14″ serving plates) as well as a cup and saucer, bowl, creamer and sugar. Several lines included other serveware pieces, such as teapots, casseroles, pitchers and tumblers. Dinnerware is extremely hard to find.

Bauer & Garden City Mixing Bowls

Bauer & Garden City Mixing Bowls

Among the more popular items that Garden City made are their nested mixing bowl sets. Mixing bowls came in five patterns with five or six bowls, depending on the pattern. The conical shaped mixing bowls are the most prevalent, and are often confused with Bauer Pottery’s ringware mixing bowls. Vases and gardenware (flower pots, bowls, jardinieres) were also very popular during the period. In the photo to the left, the Bauer bowls are the 9R in red and 24R in jade green. The 12R yellow, 18R green and 30R blue are Garden City bowls.

While their primary distribution was on the Pacific coast, Garden City wares were distributed nationally through retailers like Macy’s and Montgomery Ward’s. Since Garden City was primarily a wholesaler, wares were sold under store brand names and are not marked. Additionally, no company product catalogs are known to exist and no official product names are known.

Hickman left Garden City in 1939 for the Haeger Pottery Company of Illinois, where he founded the very successful Royal Haeger artware lines. Post-1940, Garden City added new colors popular in the period: burgundy, forest green, mint green, pastel yellow, tan, pink and grey. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, the pottery changed its focus to creating redware products for the wholesale nursery industry, becoming the largest supplier of garden pots in California.

As cheaper products begin to be imported from Korea and Italy, as well as the emergence of plastic flower pots, Garden City found themselves unable to compete in that market. By 1979, the decided to exit the manufacturing business and focus solely on wholesale distribution. The new venture was not profitable and Garden City closed in 1987.

Reference: Pasquali, J. (1999). Sanford’s Guide to Garden City Pottery. Campbell, CA: Adelmore Press

Note: I am the author of the original Wikipedia entry for Garden City Pottery. As such, the text of this page is available for modification and reuse under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License and the GNU Free Documentation License (unversioned, with no invariant sections, front-cover texts, or back-cover texts).

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Pacific Pottery Guide Mystery!

pacific-pottery-buyers-guideSomewhat of a mystery…every once and awhile, I troll back through years of historical online auctions just to see what other Pacific pieces have surfaced over the years. The other day I came across a couple of Pacific Pottery buyer’s guides from the 1930s. The cover photo was posted along with a couple of teaser pages. Based on the pages that I saw, they contain a wealth of information – including many of the pattern names for the decorated ware. The auction took place in 2011.

I did hear from another collector that someone who worked at the factory (and has since passed) loaned out all of their guides and documentation to another collector. That collector took the guides and republished them, and the original owner found out and sued. I’m wondering if these guides are from that collection. Either way it’s a shame, since without these we are just stabbing around in the dark trying to piece the history of the line together.

UPDATE: I did discover the lawsuit – Lattie v Murdach c-96-2524 – filed in January 1997 and was able to find some information on it. The plaintiff, James Lattie (son of Melvin Lattie, Pacific’s sales manager during the 1930s) sued Naomi Murdach, legendary San Francisco pottery dealer (whose real name was Clarence Tutt) for copyright infringement. In the lawsuit, apparently Naomi borrowed Pacific Pottery promotional materials from James, copied them, and produced his own booklets. It was in fact the guide listed here. I have been unable to get a full copy of the verdict (James won), but I will keep looking for it. James Lattie passed away in 2014, and these materials have not surfaced in any other format.

I also uncovered an article in the Fresno Bee from July 13, 1933 about an upcoming exhibit of Pacific Pottery in Fresno (I believe the family had a connection there). The article credits Melvin Lattie as the “originator and designer of Pacific Pottery.” According to the Lattie family, Melvin was the sales manager (his name does not appear in any of the Pacific annual reports):

Through the courtesy of the Pacific Clay Products Company, makers of the famous Pacific Pottery we will have a special showing of Lawn, Garden, Porch and Floor pieces, as well as a complete display of Table and Patio ware, art ware and kitchen ware. During the exhibition Mr. Melvin James Lattie originator and designer of “Pacific Pottery,” will be in attendance and shall be very happy to lend assistance to anyone in making their selection of the pottery that has literally taken “Fresno by Storm.”

I took the original cover image and recreated in Adobe Illustrator, which is the image shown here.

 

Pacific Pottery Lines

Pacific Pottery Hostess Ware Cups and Mugs
DINNERWARE LINES
Pacific Hostessware Block

Hostessware

1932-42

Seeing the success that their Lincoln Heights neighbor, JA Bauer & Sons, was having with their California Colored Pottery dinnerware, Pacific Clay Products’ pottery department rolled out their new dinnerware line, called Hostessware, in 1932. By the end of its ten year run in 1942, Hostessware boasted eight different colors and an end-to-end line of more than 200 different pieces, making it one of the largest and most comprehensive dinnerware sets every produced.

Pacific Decorated Block

Decorated Hostessware

1934-37

In late 1934, Pacific introduced their “decorated” lines – a series of glazed patterns on the Hostessware shape. More than 100 patterns have been documented, but the designers remain anonymous. Decorated-ware often has a painted notation on the bottom indicating a company pattern ID. However, collectors will often find many one-of-a-kind items outside of the standard patterns. Decorated Hostessware is highly desirable and commands a price premium.

Pacific Pottery Coralitos

Coralitos

1937-40

By late 1937 in response to consumer demand and changing tastes, Pacific freshened their dinnerware lines by adding Coralitos. Coralitos came in six new solid colors: Cielito Blue, Coral, DuBonnet, Verdugo Green, Mission Ivory and Dorado Yellow.

Pacific Arcadia Block

Arcadia

1937-40

Reflecting changing tastes for lighter ware and softer color palettes, Pacific joined the pastel bandwagon around the same time with their Arcadia line. Coralitos and Arcadia are both hard to find (not all pieces were marked) and are not very desirable amongst collectors.

Hand Painted Lines

1940-41

In the early 1940s, Pacific continued production of Hostessware, Coralitos and Arcadia, and began adding in some complementary patterns. The Dura-Rim line borrowed from Arcadia and featured an embossed forget-me-not flower pattern. Spurred by the success of Gladding-McBean’s new Desert Rose dinnereware line, Pacific launched a series of hand-painted patterns, including California Grape, Hibiscus, Strawberry and Tiger Lily among a few. With Pacific winding down their pottery operations during this time, very little of these patterns were produced. These lines are not popular with collectors today.

Pacific Tiger Lily
Tiger Lily
Pacific Gardenia
Gardenia
Pacific Pottery Grape
Grape
Pacific Pottery Strawberry
Strawberry
Pacific Hand Painted Backstamp
"Hand Painted" Backstamp
ARTWARE

Until they shut down production in 1941, Pacific’s artware division turned out a retinue of vases, figurines, and other decorative table and floralware pieces.

ARTWARE

Pacific Pottery

PACIFIC CLAY PRODUCTS | HISTORY

Pacific Clay Products formed as the result of a series of mergers of several Southern California commercial pipe and tile companies in the late 1800s, the earliest founded in 1886. By 1910 additional merger activity resulted in an entity called Pacific Sewer Pipe Company. The company changed their name to Pacific Clay Products Company in 1921. In 1923, a new holding company, The Pacific Clay Products, Inc., led by Los Angeles industrialist William Lacy, was formed, and in 1926 the company went public.

At the time of the stock offering, Pacific’s product lineup consisted of vitrified sewer pipe, electric conduit tile, water pipe, face enamel brick, firebrick, terra cotta, flue lining, stoneware, and drain tile to support the Southern California building boom of the 1920s. When the housing market collapsed in the late 1920s, Pacific reported a considerable slowdown in industrial production. Looking to diversify, they began producing stoneware specialty ware to supplement their architectural business. Early offerings included an assortment of kitchen and servingware in addition to some gardenware pieces. Servingware lines included an assortment of bowls, pitchers, mugs, and other household items.

Pacific Clay Products 1935
THE DEPRESSION YEARS

By 1930, many of Pacific’s plants operated far below capacity. During this time, Pacific retooled their Lincoln Heights plant (located at 306 West Avenue 26, Los Angeles) to focus on architectural terracotta and garden pottery production. With the economy in freefall, Pacific manufactured only intermittently by 1931. The board of directors intended to keep the plants in operation as much as they could, “chiefly as a contribution to the efforts begin made to cope with the local unemployment situation.” Throughout the Depression, Pacific made continuous investments in research and development, looking for new and better products as well as improvements in automation and efficiency. While commercial pottery and tile production continued to decline, consumer line production increased as a result of increased demand. They introduced a new artware line in 1931.

Hostessware

Even with diversification, business declined dramatically, with the plants operating at 12% of capacity by 1932. William Lacy, suffering from a nervous breakdown “induced in part of despondency over business conditions and the plight of the unemployed,” committed suicide at age 67 in April of that year. Family members reported that he had been ill for more than a month and “had been depressed as a result of the constant association with unemployed men whom he sought to help.” The directors of the company elected John D. Fredericks, former Congressman and vice-president of the company, to fill the vacancy. Pacific continued to ramp up their consumer pottery production with the launch of the Hostessware dinnerware line. They also significantly expanded their artware lines. By 1934, the new lines performed well enough that Pacific could make capital improvements in their plants to keep up with demand.

For the first time in five years, Pacific turned a profit in 1935. The company started to see more work coming in through increased industrial activity and government projects. With the company taking on more government work in support of the war effort, they disbanded the pottery division 1942. Longer term, this turned out to be a smart move. Unlike most of their competitors of the period, Pacific Clay Products still exists today.

INFORMAL!
QwkDog Pacific Informal

Informal!

Color for Your Table

A Completist’s Guide to Pacific Pottery Hostessware

Want to learn more about Pacific Pottery? Informal is a complete as-we-know it guide to Pacific Pottery and their iconic Hostessware dinnerware line. Meticulously researched and compiled by one of the top Pacific collectors, Informal is an illustrated guide to all of the known Hostessware pieces — including decorated lines — with visuals, designs, and photographs.

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