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Volume 4  Issue 3

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METLOX POTTERY

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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.


EXAMPLES

To view some examples of the above mentioned patterns

Metlox Pottery Patterns

Metlox Pottery Patterns


MARKS

There are many marks for Metlox. The following are some of them:

The earliest mark was "California Pottery" impressed on th first line of dinnerware produced in 1932.

In 1934 "Poppytrail by Metlox" was used. Shortly after "Poppytrail Made in California, U.S.A." was used on dinnerware and artware.

Between 1935 and 1938, "Mission Bell, California" was used on ware produced for Sears.

In the late 30's and early 40's, "C. Romanelli" was used on most of the artware created by Carl Romanelli.

In the 50's an ink-stamped mark of "Poppytrail" superimposed over an outline of the State of California was used .

In the 50's and 60's two marks were used. A circular mark of "Poppytrail by Metlox/Made in California" and "Vernon Ware by Metlox/Made in California".

In the 50's a line of dishes was produced for Sears. "Harmony House" and "Made in California" was stamped on the pieces.

In the 60's and 70's paper labels were used on artware.

The Metlox Miniatures had paper labels also. The earliest was shaped like an "M".

The Disney line, by Evan K. Shaw, had an oval paper label with "Walt Disney Production/Evan K. Shaw Company Los Angeles" with the name of the character added in the center.

A circular paper label was used for the "Poppets by Poppytrail" line. Some have been found with the individual name tags.


REFERENCES:

Schroeder's Antiques Price Guide-18th Edition
Collector's Encyclopedia of California Pottery-2nd Edition by Jack Chipman
Official Price Guide to Pottery and Porcelain-8th Edition by Harvey Duke


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