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Museum Feature

Franciscan Wildflower Teapot

From our museum this month we feature a rare teapot from the lovely Wildflower pattern by Franciscan. This pattern features a hand-painted underglaze floral design rendered in a gorgeous color palette. A 1942 Franciscan advertisement describes the pattern as “A hand-painted embossed design embodying the colorful wildflowers that make the slopes and valleys of California one of the world’s most spectacular sights each spring...the dramatic yellow gold of the Poppy and the brilliant blue of the Lupin join gaily with the more subtle colors of the Shooting Star and the Mariposa Lily.”

Wildflower stood as a warm, distinctly American contrast to the petite floral designs and gilded accents of traditional European bone china. Although Wildflower was only produced for a short amount of time (from 1942 to 1945), there were around 30 different piece types created in the pattern, including vegetable bowls, cup and saucer sets, jam jars, water pitchers, and more. Wildflower also included matching glassware from Imperial Glass that was hand painted to coordinate with the pattern.

Gladding, McBean & Co. began production of Franciscan dinnerware in 1934 at their plant in Glendale, California. According to Bob Page and Dale Frederiksen in their book, “Franciscan: An American Dinnerware Tradition,” Gladding, McBean & Co. formed in 1875 to produce tile for waterworks and sanitation systems for the then-expanding American West. Over the years they acquired several regional potteries and expanded their product lines several times to include roof tile, decorative art tiles, garden pottery, and art pottery.

Originally, the dinnerware line was sold as Franciscan Pottery and included solidly colored, bright earthenware in the casual style of Mexican folk pottery. This informal tableware was a warm friendly note in the midst of the Great Depression, and the company selection of the Franciscan name, an allusion to Franciscan monks, further played into the Southwest imagery. With names like El Patio, Coronado, and Montecito, 1930’s Franciscan patterns embodied the California casual style and sold well.

The name was altered to Franciscan Ware in the late 1930s to allow for a more upscale and broader image. Shortly thereafter, the company introduced raised relief, hand-painted patterns like Apple and Desert Rose that proved hugely successful. Other hand-painted patterns such as Ivy, October, and Fresh Fruit became quite popular during this time as well. Ivy was even featured on the sets of "I Love Lucy" and the "Donna Reed Show." At the pinnacle of its fame, Franciscan pieces were purchased by some of America’s most famous families. Noteworthy are the 1961 order by Jacqueline Kennedy for Desert Rose to be used on Air Force One, and the 1969 selection of Franciscan china by president Richard Nixon for service aboard the presidential yacht. Other orders for special services for royalty from around the world were also filled.

The Franciscan Wildflower teapot in our museum is not for sale, but we do have Wildflower teapots available for purchase in our inventory, along with a selection of other Wildflower pieces; 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 retail store 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 retail store and museum are conveniently located between Greensboro and Burlington, NC, at exit 132 off Interstate 85/40. We look forward to seeing you.

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