Gladding McBean Crane Motif set of tiles CA415

16 Gladding McBean tiles make up this Japanese influenced arts and crafts crane design. One cracked tile mended.

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Gladding, McBean, LLC is a ceramics company located in Lincoln, California. It is one of the oldest companies in California, a pioneer in ceramics technology, and a company which has “contributed immeasurably” to the state’s industrialization. During the heyday of architectural terra cotta, the company “dominated the industry in California and the Far West.”

Charles Gladding (1828–1894) was born in Buffalo, New York, served as a first lieutenant in the Union Army during the Civil War, and later moved to Chicago, where he engaged in the clay sewer pipe business. He came to California in 1874 looking for new business opportunities. While in California, he read an article in a San Francisco newspaper about a large clay deposit near the town of Lincoln, California. Investigating, Gladding verified that it was an “unusually fine deposit of white kaolin clay” located close to a railroad line, and selected the spot as the site for a new business. Gladding, along with Peter McGill McBean and George Chambers, established Gladding-McBean in 1875. Its original product was clay sewer pipe. By 1883, the company had grown to 75 employees, and it then evolved into a major manufacturer of architectural terra-cotta.

Since the demand for building materials dwindled with the coming of the Great Depression, the company began to look for new products. The company expanded into tableware. In 1932, experimental work in dinnerware began at the Glendale plant. In 1934, Gladding, McBean introduced the Franciscan Pottery line of dinnerware and art ware, named after the Franciscan friars who established missions throughout California in the 18th and 19th centuries. The lines were very successful. In 1937, Gladding, McBean and Co. purchased the Catalina Clay Products Division of Santa Catalina Island Co.. The company closed the pottery moving all molds and equipment to the Glendale plant in Los Angeles. The company continued to use the tradename of Catalina Pottery on select dinnerware and art ware lines produced in the Glendale plant until 1942. In 1940, the company introduced the hand-painted embossed pattern Franciscan Apple, and in 1941 Desert Rose. Both patterns became the company’s most popular patterns The company introduced fine china dinnerware in 1942 and due to World War II, discontinued all art ware lines. By 1950, it was considered one of the “world’s largest ceramics manufacturers”. In 1957, the company was described as “the West’s largest ceramics firm” with seven plants in California and two in Washington, in addition to those acquired in that purchase. The California State Archives now holds the company’s job files from 1888 to 1966, documenting the use of its products to decorate thousands of buildings, including most major structures on the campus of Stanford University.