What is it and How Much is it Worth?

Many of our grandmothers had this particular dinnerware on the table at every meal.  Most people probably recognize it, but few may know the history behind the pottery company itself:  Gladding, McBean & Co./Franciscan Pottery.

Franciscan pottery in the Desert Rose pattern made by Gladding, McBean and Co. These 2 platters sold for $32.95 in October 2017.

Company

Charles Gladding, Peter McBean, and Georg Chambers founded Gladding, McBean & Co. in 1875.  A Chicago-based sewer-pipe manufacturer, Gladding obtained clay from Placer County, California.  In the 1890s, the Gladding, McBean company expanded production into architectural ceramics including roof tiles, chimney pots, and garden ware.  They became famous for terra cotta architectural products, most notably building trim.

In 1923, Gladding, McBean acquired Topico Pottery.  The Topico Glendale plant allowed Gladding, McBean to expand.  Gladding, McBean built a major factory in Glendale in the 1930s.  When demand for building products began to dwindle, Gladding, McBean experimented with pottery production.

In 1934, the Franciscan dinnerware line was established.  It proved to be a mainstay of the company’s production. These 12 dessert bowls sold for $25.00 in October 2017.

In 1934, the Franciscan dinnerware line was established.  It proved to be a mainstay of the company’s production.  Franciscan dinnerware used Malinite, an earthenware clay body developed by Dr Andrew Malinovsky.  This technique was fast and efficient and produced reliable, craze-free work.  The Franciscan range included Artware, dinnerware, and tiles, mostly in solid colors.  Patterns did not appear until the 1940s.

This set of Franciscan pattern “Floral” sold for $389.97 in September 2017.

The Franciscan patterns included  Floral and Encato, designed by Mary K. Grant.  Grant had been the art director at Macy’s department store, New York and was married to Frederic J Grant, a vice-president of Gladding, McBean and Co.  Max Compton developed a range of glaze, most notably the Ox Blood red and Persian blue glazes.  The Coronado line was made between 1935 and 1956.

Mary Jane Winans produced well-known designs such as California Poppy, Franciscan Apple, and Franciscan Ivy. This “Apple” pattern pitcher sold for $24.99 in October 2017.

In 1952, both Atholl McBean and the Grants retired from the company.  Mary Jane Winans took over as the main designer.  She produced well-known designs such as California Poppy, Franciscan Apple, and Franciscan Ivy.  Desert Rose, a design by a freelance designer Annette Honeywell, became the most popular Franciscan line.

Designer George T. James brought a touch of Bauhaus aesthetic to production with lines such as Franciscan Contours, Space Needle and Starburst.  Otto Lund, an artist, produced patterns incorporating detailed paintings inspired by nature. This group formed a strong design team. Together they developed the Modern Americana range; two new shapes, Eclipse by James and Flair by Winans, and decorated with some of the most popular Franciscan patterns including Desert Rose, Apple and Ivy.  Other notable designs included the Metropolitan shape designed by Morris Sanders, which formed the basis for a line of dinnerware known as Tiempo.  The Museum of Modern Art used some of the Encanto line, by Mary Grant, for the Good Design Exhibition, NY in 1951.

Pressure on the company during the 1950s as a result of cheaper foreign imports saw a continual drop in revenue.  Gladding, McBean merged with a company called Interpace in 1962.  In 1979, the Franciscan line was bought out by the English Wedgwood group. Gladding, McBean & Co. returned to producing architectural and building ceramics.

What to Look For

Gladding, McBean & Co. produced a wide range of ceramics in many different shapes, styles and finishes. Fortunately, from the 1930’s onwards, the GMcB products, known as Franciscan, were very well marked. However, early Gladding, McBean & Co. pieces were often unmarked or marked with just the initials “USA” of “Made in the USA.”  Catalogs and sales information are helpful in identifying pieces.

Early Franciscan items were known as Franciscan Pottery.  The name was later changed to Franciscan Ware.  Items were very rarely hand-signed or dated.

Marks

Early Gladding, McBean & Co. products, if marked at all, may feature a stamp with the initials GMcB within an oval.

Pottery was first marked as “Franciscan” in around 1938; the first maker’s mark featured a script letter F in a square.

In 1939, a stamp featuring the word “FRANCISCAN” above “Pottery” in decorative old-style typeface was used.

In 1939, a stamp featuring the word “FRANCISCAN” above “Pottery” in decorative old-style typeface was used.

From 1940 until 1949, a series of stamps were used featuring the words “FRANCISAN / WARE” in a circle with the words “MADE IN/ CALIFORNIA / U.S.A.” inside.

From 1949 until 1953, a stamp with the word “FRANCISCAN” arched over the words “MADE IN / CALIFORNIA / U.S.A.”  was used. Throughout the 1950s, similar marks were used, sometimes incorporating other information such as “oven-safe.”

In the late 1950s and 60s, a stamp featuring a dashed line rounded border was used, featuring the words Franciscan Earthenware or “Franciscan / WHITESTONE / WARE” .  A similar mark was also used when the Franciscan ware was being produced by Interpace. Other Interpace maker’s marks include a thin frame around the words Franciscan Earthenware and a monastery motif with the words The California Craftsmen since 1875 above the word Franciscan.

A mark featuring a monastery design and the name Franciscan Ware was used from 1955 to 1956.

Later Gladding, McBean and Franciscan marks usually have the name Franciscan, followed by a style name such as this one for the Discovery range.

Later Gladding, McBean and Franciscan marks usually have the name Franciscan, followed by a style name such as this one for the Discovery range.


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