What is Franciscan Pottery?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Franciscan pottery is a line of pottery originally produced by Gladding, McBean, and Company. This pottery was produced in the United States until the 1970s, after going through several different owners, and today is made in England. The English producers of Franciscan pottery make some of the same patterns originally produced in the 1930s, as well as introducing new patterns and lines to satisfy modern tastes. Some people interested in antique pottery collect pottery produced in this style and several museums have collections of particularly distinctive historical pieces.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

In the 1870s, deposits of clay were discovered in California and a number of entrepreneurs took advantage of them. Peter McBean and Charles Gladding established a company to make clay pipe in the late 1800s and rapidly expanded their product offerings to other clay products. In the 1930s, they introduced a line of dinnerware, named Franciscan pottery after the Franciscan monks who founded the California Missions.

The original lines were made with earthenware and bright, bold colors. The rustic patterns were designed to reference traditional Spanish and Mexican pottery and Franciscan pottery was meant to act as everyday tableware. El Patio, Apple, Desert Rose, and Coronado are some examples of pottery lines introduced by Gladding, McBean, and Company. In the 1940s, the company was sold, but production of the original lines continued, and the popularity of the designs led future owners of the company to expand the Franciscan pottery line while also retaining some classic patterns like the Apple pattern.

Some examples of Franciscan pottery are stamped with identifying markers. These markers can be used to identify the pottery and era it was produced in, useful for valuing pottery for collections. Other product lines may not have identifiers, forcing people to rely on antique and collector's guides to determine whether they are truly Franciscan and to estimate when they were produced. The production dates for lines in continuous production can sometimes be hard to pinpoint, as the patterns remain highly consistent.

People can buy new Franciscan pottery from department stores. Vintage pottery can sometimes be found at thrift stores and antique shops. In addition, there are people who specifically collect and sell Franciscan pottery to enthusiasts. Many of these people have online stores to allow people to order from all over the world. Individual sale items are carefully photographed to allow people to inspect their condition and look for markers that can be used to verify the authenticity of the pottery.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I don't know a whole lot about pottery, but can always spot the Franciscan Apple dinnerware.

My mom gave me a few pieces of this pottery, which included a pitcher and serving plate. Through the years I have been slowly collecting more pieces.

I have added several more plates, cups and saucers to my collection. This is something that is just fun to do.

Anytime I am at an antique store or garage sale, I always keep my eye out for more pieces to add to my collection - especially if the price is right.

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