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Catalina Island Pottery


Catalina Beverage Set
circa 1930s

8 x 9 x 7 in.
Gift of the Nora Eccles Treadwell Foundation

William Wrigley, Jr., the chewing gum tycoon, founded Catalina Clay Products and for ten years produced brick, tile, tableware, and decorative pottery on Santa Catalina Island 26 miles off the southern California coast. Until 1931, Wrigley insisted that local dark brown and red clays found on the island be used, however this clay body chipped easily. After Wrigley’s death in 1932, white clay from mainland California was combined with the local clay, until finally only white clay was used as seen here. Glazes were made with local minerals mined on the island, such as on these—Catalina Blue pitcher and cups. At first, wares were sold in open freestanding stores in Avalon, Hollywood, Los Angeles, and in the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix. Dinnerware and art ware were sold through department and jewelry stores. In 1937, Catalina Clay Products, including all equipment, stock, molds, and trademarks, were sold to Gladding McBean & Co. (of Glendale and Hermosa Beach, California) who continued to produce artware and dinnerware shapes for their Catalina Pottery line until 1942.

Under Wrigley’s instruction, the pottery was required to use local clays from the island for two purposes: to produce building products for Wrigley’s development campaign to bring tourists to the island and to provide much needed year-round employment for island residents. Brick was used to build hotels and public buildings, and their tiles were used for interiors and exteriors of those buildings, fountains and Avalon’s (the primary town on the island) decorative sea walls. In 1930, Wrigley brought artisans to the Island to design numerous decorative and functional pottery including souvenirs, vases, candlesticks, bookends, figurines and tableware. In its prime the pottery had twelve kilns and produced 10,000-15,000 pieces a week.

Billie Sessions, PhD.

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