From the Replacements, Ltd. museum this month, we’re showcasing a chop platter with a striking harvest design from the charming Our America pattern by Vernon Kilns. The featured platter is decorated with an American farm scene, complete with a pumpkin patch, standing corn stalks, a cattle yard, and grain elevators. Our America features more than 30 different illustrations of American scenes and icons. Other scenes in the series include an aerial view of New York City, maple trees being tapped to make syrup, oil derricks, dams, yachts racing, workers building bridges, and many others. The modern “Ultra” shapes used for the pieces in Our America were designed in 1937 by Vernon Kilns’ art director, Gale Turnbull, while the exquisite artwork that adorns the pieces was created by Rockwell Kent, a prolific illustrator, author, lithographer, printmaker, muralist, draftsman, and political activist.
Kent was born in 1882 in the small town of Tarrytown Heights, NY. He began his artistic career at the Horace Mann School of Art in New York City, before going on to study with famed artists William Merritt Chase, Robert Henri, Kenneth Hayes Miller, and Abbott Thayer. Kent was as much an adventurer as he was an artist, travelling to and living in a diverse range of places, including Alaska, Greenland, Tierra del Fuego, Ireland, and Newfoundland. Many of his lithographs, paintings, wood carvings, and drawings were inspired by the natural beauty he encountered during his travels.
After establishing himself as an artist, Kent became a lecturer and writer, authoring and illustrating several of his own books. His best-selling book, “A Journal of Quiet Adventure in Alaska,” was published in 1920. In 1930, Kent was commissioned to provide illustrations for an edition of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” This edition (aided by Kent’s fantastic illustrations) was an immediate success, and helped to vault the novel – which was not particularly well known prior to the 1920s – into the cultural consciousness. Around this time, Kent’s satirical cartoons began appearing in magazines like Vanity Fair, Harper’s Weekly, and Life. In the late 1930s, Vernon Kilns commissioned Kent to design several patterns, which were requested to be of “museum quality.” Throughout the next decade, Kent designed several of these “museum quality” patterns for Vernon Kilns, including Our America, Moby Dick, and Salamina.
Vernon Kilns’ story begins in Vernon, California in 1931, when Faye Bennison bought Poxon Pottery (first founded in 1912 by George Poxon – a member of the famed Wade family of English pottery producers), and renamed it Vernon Potteries. At first, Bennison was content to simply continue producing Poxon patterns, but when an earthquake destroyed the company’s entire inventory of Poxon ware in 1933, Bennison was forced to reinvent the company. He formed an art department at Vernon Kilns to produce original designs, leading the company to join the ranks of other California potteries like Metlox, Gladding, McBean & Co, and Pacific Clay in producing brightly colored, hand-painted earthenware. In addition to Vernon Kilns’ staff of talented in-house artists, other professional artists like Don Blanding, Jean Goodwin Ames, Sharon Merrill, and Rockwell Kent were commissioned to design special lines of dinnerware. Vernon Kilns also became known for its ability to create special order items for specific needs, producing pieces for Disney movies, department stores, advertising, and historical figures, as well as items commemorating special events and places.
Over the decades, Vernon Kilns managed to survive numerous earthquakes, fires, and the Great Depression, but was finally forced to close its doors for good in 1958 due to high labor costs and foreign competition. At that time, its patterns and molds were acquired by Metlox Pottery, which produced several Vernon shapes and patterns until 1989.
While the Vernon Kilns Our America
items in our museum are not for sale, we do have a variety of Metlox/Poppytrail/Vernon
pieces available for purchase in our inventory; be sure to browse our web site. And remember that we always invite you to visit our facilities – here you'll see a stunning variety of silver, china, crystal, and collectibles! Our 500,000-square-foot facilities hold more than 12 million individual pieces in more than 390,000 patterns! Our showroom and museum are open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm ET, 7 days (except holidays); free tours are available from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm ET, 7 days. The showroom and museum are conveniently located between Greensboro and Burlington, NC, at exit 132 off Interstate 85/40
. We look forward to seeing you!