Metlox Pottery

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wikicollecting

2015-06-26 10:40:10

Metlox Pottery produced brightly coloured twentieth century ceramics. Their cookie jars are particularly popular among collectors.

Background

T.C. Prouty, the founder of Metlox Pottery was born in 1888 in Michigan. He invented and patented a tachometer used on aircraft during WWI at the age of 18. He was also the founder of Proutyline Products. It was founded in 1921 by T.C. and his son Willis Prouty. It specialized in the development and marketing of their inventions.

In 1919, he moved to Southern California. While testing the local clay for the suitability of producing ceramic production, he found that talc obtained from Death Valley was superior to ordinary clay. He formulated and patented a material for a tile body in 1920. In 1922, a two-story tile plant was built in Hermosa Beach. It was the first manufacturing plant of the Proutyline Products Company. A year later, Prouty invented and installed a special kiln for the production of tile. In 1926, the Hermosa Beach facility was sold to American Encaustic Tiling Company of Ohio.

In 1927, Metlox (a contraction of metallic oxide) was founded by the Prouty's. It was located in downtown Manhattan Beach. Outdoor ceramic signs were initially produced. They were molded electrical advertising signs that were visible day or night and withstood all types of weather conditions. One of the company's most impressive installation was a neon sign for the newly constructed Pantages Theatre in Hollywood in 1928. The depression caused Metlox's business to suffer. In 1931, T.C. Prouty died and his son reorganized and converted the Manhattan Beach facility into dinnerware production

The first limited line of Metlox dinnerware was produced in 1932. It was called "California Pottery" and was produced in bright colored glazes similar to Bauer. "Poppytrail" was introduced on 1934. "Poppytrail" was available in fifteen different colors. The poppy being the California state flower, was used as a trade name to emphasize California. Talc and most of the metallic oxides used in the production of the Metlox pottery were mined in California.

"Mission Bell" was a pastel-colored line of tableware and kitchen articles produced exclusively for Sears and Roebuck Co. About the same time as "Mission Bell" was the "Yorkshire" dinnerware. It came in the same glazes as "Mission Bell" with a swirled design. Another set of dinnerware based on an English Staffordshire design was "Pintoria". The plates had a wide-bordered rectangular shape and the bowls with circular depressions. It was only in production from 1937-1939.

Carl Romanelli was a sculptor hired by Metlox in the late 30's. He was the first artware designer who designed the "Metlox Miniatures". It was a collection of small-scale animal figurines. Another line, Modern Masterpieces, was also by Romanelli. They were figures, figural vases, busts, wall pockets, bookends, and vases with figures in relief. Most of these pieces had his signature of "C. Romanelli" in the mold and many of his designs were patented.

During WWII, production was limited. Metlox converted most of its production (90%) to defense work. After the war Evan K. Shaw, of American Pottery in Los Angeles, purchased Metlox from Willis Prouty in 1946. "California Ivy" was produced that same year. It was the first of many hand-painted patterns developed after the purchase by Evan Shaw. "California Provincial"(dark green and burgundy)-1950, "Homestead Provincial" (dark green and burgundy)-1950, "Red Rooster"(red, orange, and brown)-1955, "California Strawberry"(1961), "Sculptured Grape"(1963), and "Della Robia"(1965) were others produced under the Shaw ownership.

The 1950's produced dinnerware lines "Navajo", "Aztec", "California Mobile", "California Free Form", and "California Contempora". In 1958 the trade name and some dinnerware molds from Vernon Kilns were purchased by Metlox.

Artware also flourished in the 50's and 60's. A series called "American Royal Horses" was a line of finely detailed, hand-painted figurines of various breeds of horses. Scale modeled antique carriages, locomotives, gramaphones, early automobiles, and baby carriages called "Nostalgia" complemented the "American Royal Horses" series.

During the 60's and 70's Helen Slater created a collection of "Poppets by Poppytrail". It was a collection of 88 doll-like stoneware flower holders and planters. They consisted of royalty, professionals and a Salvation Army group. A line of dinnerware, "Colorstax" and cookie jars by Helen McIntosh were best sellers during that time also.

After the death of Evan Shaw in 1980, Kenneth Avery became the president of Metlox. In 1989, Metlox closed its doors.

Collecting information

On older Metlox pieces, marks are incised rather than stamped. Some authentic pieces originally purchased from the Metlox factory have stamped on marks which are smeared, others are stamped cleanly. The incised mark is most desirable when it comes to serious Metlox collectors.

Unmarked pieces can be found, but they are not nearly as valuable as those with the older, clearly defined mark. This isn’t the case with all antiques and collectibles, but marks remain important to Metlox collectors.

Carl Romanelli, who designed some of the most highly sought Metlox dinnerware patterns in the late 1930s and early 1940s, also sculpted bud vases and figurines to look like nudes, animals and sea life. These continue to bring good prices within the collecting community, with nudes performing particularly well.

Carl Romanelli, who designed some of the most highly sought Metlox dinnerware patterns in the late 1930s and early 1940s, also sculpted bud vases and figurines to look like nudes, animals and sea life. These continue to bring good prices within the collecting community, with nudes performing particularly well.

A freehand stoneware designer named Helen Slater later produced a line of giftware for Metlox called Poppets. These whimsical creations were made of natural earthenware and hand thrown. Special color glazes and hand carved faces gave them unique appeal. In all, 88 different Poppets were produced with the Metlox name stamped on the bottom, and each came with a special box. A clever eight-piece band set was even commissioned by the Salvation Army.

The company also produced a number of figural cookie jars and a line of ceramic figurines. These generally featured vintage auto-mobiles, horse drawn carriages, trolleys and other old-timey themes.

Metlox made B-25 bomber parts during World War II.

The company did occasional contract work for National Silver Company.

Metlox did not mark all their jars and the marks they did use varied.

Price guide

62 pieces of poppy trail dinnerware sold for $35 in September 2012 at High Country Auction + Antiques, Inc.

A Metlox black santa cookie jar sold for $110 in November 2010 at Belhorn Auction Services, LLC.

A Metlox pink mona cookie jar sold for $85 in March 2008 at Hewlett's Auctions.

Notable eBay prices

Jars

  • Metlox Kangaroo — $676.
  • Rocket Ship — $645.
  • Bubble w/gray body — $510.
  • Washtub Mammy — $455.
  • Nun — $245.
  • Metlox Squirrel w/Acorn — $225.
  • Yellow Cow — $140.
  • Elsie Calf Head — $140./$110.
  • White Scottie Dog — $172/$91.
  • Gingham Cat — $50.
  • Beige Gingham Dog — $50.
  • Lamb — $45.

Miscellaneous

  • Moorcroft Eventide Ginger Jar — $2450.
  • Appleman Mercedes Benz Cookie Jar (two tops)— $1999.
  • Appleman Rolls Royce, Licensed — $1225.
  • Shawnee Smiley w/Pink scarf and flowers — $1027.
  • Appleman Black and White Police car — $916.58
  • Shawnee Smiley large shamrocks w/gold trim — $769.
  • Brush Circus Horse — $767.
  • Appleman Black Packard w/gold top — $725.
  • Appleman yellow taxi — $711.
  • Indiana Jones 10th Anniverary Cookie jar* - $700.
  • Shawnee Winnie Clover Blossom — $671.
  • Weller Squirrel and Acorn Jar — $635.
  • McCoy Two Cats in Basket — $565.
  • Roseville Magnolia Blue — $518.
  • Pepsi Prototype Truck — $500.
  • Abingdon Teepee (wigwam) — $455.

*Cookie jar made by Elisabet Gomes for the Indiana Jones 10th Anniversary Event. The event was held in Disneyland in March 2005. Jar is a limited edition of 10.

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