Color Counts: Gladding McBean

California Commercial Pottery (1930–1950)

Gladding McBean

September 9–November 4, 2006

Opening Reception: Sept. 9, 6–9 pm

The American Museum of Ceramic Art (AMOCA) will host Color Counts: Gladding McBean, from September 9 to November 4, 2006. This exhibition is a nostalgic walk through 20th century commercially produced pottery, primarily dinnerware and artware popular from the 1930s through the 1950s. Gladding McBean was founded in May of 1875 upon the discovery of an exceptional clay deposit near Lincoln, California. Charles Gladding and Peter McBean began their clay empire with the production of sewer pipes, then roofing tiles and hollow clay building tiles. Today, the company is most remembered for their colorful ceramic artware, embossed hand painted dinnerware, and fine china.

With the acquisition of Glendale’s Tropico Pottery in 1922, the American Encaustic Tiling Company in Vernon and Hermosa Beach in 1933, and Catalina Pottery in 1937, Gladding McBean grew to become the largest ceramic products manufacturer west of Chicago. Today, many historical buildings throughout California can still be found bearing decorative architectural elements cast in terra cotta produced by Gladding McBean. The company’s distinctive dinnerware and fine china acquired an impressive following, earning a place in millions of California homes. Gladding McBean was also preferred by the privileged; the company’s Franciscan fine china was chosen by Jacqueline Kennedy for use on Air Force One, and Gladding McBean items were used on Richard Nixon’s Presidential Yacht. Franciscan’s Apple pattern was selected by Eleanor Roosevelt for her private cottage, and Franciscan’s Ivy dinnerware was used by Joseph Kennedy in his Florida home.

AMOCA’s Gladding McBean exhibition will act as a display of the company’s design ingenuity, as well as a celebration of the presence of Gladding McBean products relative to the history and shaping of Californian homes and culture. The exhibit will demonstrate a two-fold historical focus, examining how the history of California shaped the ceramics industry of that time, and how the manufacture of ceramics shaped California’s architecture, culture, and lifestyle. Visitors will have the opportunity to view classic Gladding McBean pieces, as well as purchase collectable pieces from the museum’s gift shop. Visitors will also be encouraged to share their own personal stories or memories of Gladding McBean products, to be posted on a collective bulletin board. An informative video from Huell Howser’s California’s Gold series, in which he tours the old Gladding McBean plant in Lincoln, California, will be played throughout the exhibition. Additionally, Franciscan: Hand-Decorated Embossed Dinnerware, a book on ceramic table and art wares by James F. Elliot-Bishop, will be available for viewing and purchase.

For more information about Gladding McBean, please visit their official website at

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Gladding McBean

Gladding McBean,

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