I always love finding new pieces of pottery. Recently in my travels I found these pretty little bread and butter plates. They are marked Franciscan on the back. According to my Lehner’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Marks on Pottery, Porcelain & Clay book, the particular mark on these dishes dates them from the late 1940s to the early 1950s. Since the Ivy pattern didn’t come into existence until 1948, it’s a good bet these were made somewhere between 1948 and 1952.
Franciscan pottery is actually part of Gladding, McBean and Company. Gladding, McBean and Company was started in 1875 to make sewer pipe (believe it or not!). How did they morph into a company that made beautiful place settings for your dinner table you might ask? Well, let’s go down this rabbit hole together shall we!
Charles Gladding, Peter McGill MCbean and George Chambers, all 3 from Chicago, traveled to California, lured by the discovery of fire clay deposits. They produced terra-cotta products, including tiles and bricks for building.
In 1923 Gladding, McBean and Company acquired Tropico Pottery which made gardenware, art ware and mixing bowls. The artware and mixing bowls became part of the Franciscan line. The name is a nod to the California history. So it all starts to come together here.
Over the next 10 years they continued to expand acquiring the Catalina Island Company which made Catalina Ware and Catalina Art Ware, American Encaustic Tiling Company, Stockton Fire Brick Company and Emsco Refractories Company. Phew! That’s a lot of acquisitions.
It was in 1934 that they began manufacturing dinnerware and art pottery under the name Franciscan Ware. Their first dinnerware was simple and colorful. They added a pastel line later in the 40s. In 1942 they began manufacturing fine china in their Glendale plant also under the Franciscan label. They had 3 distinct lines, masterpiece china, earthenware, and whitestone ware.
Their most popular “Desert Rose” pattern was done in Franciscan earthenware. That pattern was the most popular pattern ever sold in the U.S. Gladden, McBean & Company continued to make decorative tile, also.
Their tile went into the large, colorful mural at the National Broadcasting Company Building in San Francisco designed by G.J. Fitzgerald. 40′ high, it showcased 114 different colors of glazes on 6″ x 6″ tiles.
In 1963, Gladding, McBean & Company merged with Lock Joint Pipe Company to form Interpace Corporation. Then in 1979 Josiah Wedgwood & Sons negotiated to buy Gladding, McBean & Company from Lock Joint. Wedgwood ran the plant until it was closed in 1984. Wow. That was quite a run for this company; over 100 years of creating beautiful pottery and useful pieces that enhanced our lives.
Such an interesting piece of pottery history; to follow a company from sewer pipes to the most popular dinnerware pattern ever produced in the U.S. You can’t make this up! The information for this post came out of Lehner’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Marks on Pottery, Porcelain & Clay which is an incredible resource.
I will be partying at the link parties on the right all week. Check them out – also amazing resources! Let me know if you have found and loved any great Franciscan Pottery pieces. I love hearing from all of you. Have a great week!