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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, which for ten years produced brick, tile, tableware, and decorative pottery on Santa Catalina Island, twenty-six miles off the Southern California coast. Until 1931, Wrigley insisted on using the local dark brown and red clays found on the island; 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. Glazes were made with local minerals mined on the island, as on the Catalina blue pitcher and cups seen here. At first, wares were sold in Avalon, Hollywood, Los Angeles, and in the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix. Dinnerware and artware were sold through department and jewelry stores. In 1937, Catalina Clay Products, including all equipment, stock, molds, and trademarks, was 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.

Initially the pottery used local clays as part of Wrigley’s development campaign to bring tourists to the island, and also to provide much needed year-round employment for island residents. Bricks and tiles were used to build hotels and public buildings, for fountains, and for the decorative sea walls in Avalon (the primary town on the island). In 1930 Wrigley brought artisans to Catalina to design decorative and functional pottery, including souvenirs, vases, candlesticks, bookends, figurines, and tableware. In its prime the pottery had twelve kilns and produced between ten and fifteen thousand pieces a week.

Billie Sessions, PhD.

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