This month, our museum feature is a charming “hen on nest” tureen from the Provincial-Blue pattern by Metlox Potteries. Provincial-Blue was introduced in 1950 as part of the “Provincial” shape debut. Inspiration for this rustic collection of tableware was drawn from early American arts, crafts, home decor, and architecture. Metlox Potteries modeled the “Provincial” shape on rustic potteries, wood carvings, tin molds, baskets, and pewter designs. The incorporation of rooster and hen pieces into the collection added personality and flair to the popular shape.
Metlox Potteries was founded by T.C. Prouty and his son, Willis Prouty. In 1919, the Prouty Family settled in Hermosa Beach, California. After a year of experimenting with clays and glazes that were derived from the area, the Prouty patented a tile body that was made primarily with talc. In 1921, they opened a company called “Proutyline Products” that primarily sold architectural tiles. In 1927, T.C. and Willis Prouty opened Metlox as a division of Proutyline (the name Metlox was derived from a combination of the words “metal” and “oxide”).
Before producing dinnerware, Metlox produced large outdoor ceramic signs. These signs were most popular with new theatres that needed large outdoor signage. As the Great Depression began, T.C. Prouty passed away. His son, Willis, realized the company’s need to diversify as demand for large ceramic signs began to dwindle during the Depression era. As a result of this, the company expanded into dinnerware and, in 1932, began to produce the “200 Series” line of dinnerware. This line was also called “Poppytrail.” The company garnered a great deal of success from its dinnerware product line.
In 1938, Metlox began producing miniature figurines which were also very popular with consumers. During the World War II years, Metlox stopped producing dinnerware and began manufacturing shell castings, nuts, and bolts for the war effort. After the war, Metlox attempted to sell toys, but began losing money. In 1946, Metlox was bought by Evan K. Shaw, owner of the Evan K. Shaw Company and American Pottery (best known for its line of Disney figurines). Shaw had the ambitious goal of making Metlox the most profitable dinnerware manufacturer in America. To that end, Evan Shaw hired Bob Allen and Mel Shaw – the creators of the popular Metlox California Provincial pattern – as his art directors. Both Bob Allen and Mel Shaw had a background in drawing cartoons. In fact, Mel Shaw worked on the Disney classics “Bambi” and “Fantasia.” In 1958, Faye Bennison, a friend of Evan Shaw’s, decided to close Vernon Kilns, another popular ceramics maker. He sold the rights to the Vernonware name to Shaw. Because of this, Metlox Potteries is often called “Metlox, Poppytrail, Vernonware.”
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Metlox’s only real competitor was Franciscan, an immensely popular California maker of dinnerware. During the 1970s, Metlox began to fall out of favor with American consumers when hand-painted dinnerware patterns with large selections of piece types were no longer desirable. While having almost no foreign competition up to this point, Metlox began to face increasing competition from popular Japanese firms. By 1989, the company was no longer able to remain open, and shut its doors in May of that same year.
We have Metlox Provincial-Blue tureens available for purchase, and we also have a variety of Provincial-Blue and other Metlox pieces available; 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 400,000 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 10:00 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.