Vintage Pomona Tile View-Master reels — Mike’s collection of 60 scans from 10 reels

vintage View-Master ReelIn the 1950s and 1960s, Pomona Tile was super chic. Reader Mike is a fan — and today we share some of the photos from his wonderful collecton View-Master reels showcasing Pomona Tile in residential and commercial kitchens, bathrooms and decor — 60 scans from 10 reels, including reels illustrating the Pomona Tile ‘Distinguished Designer” series that featured designs by Paul McCobb, Millard Sheets, Dorothy Liebes, Saul Bass and Paul Laszlo. Fabulous vintage tile — captured in fabulous vintage media, yum.

pomona-tile-recipe-tiles-retro

Pam scored a set of these Pomona Tile recipe tiles on ebay a while back! They are out there, peoples!

Mike contacted Pam to let us know about his collection. He has 10 of these Pomona Tile View-Master reels — from a series of what that he believes numbers 16. Mike digitized 60 images from the Reel and shared them with the retrosphere via Flickr.

We asked Mike to tell us how he got started with his Pomona Tile collection. He sent us a fabulous story — so much information that we will use it for a followup. Meanwhile, here’s how he got started:

Long-time girlfriend and Fiance’ Jodi and I like to visit thrift stores, junk stores and antique malls.  We have an affection for Mid-Century Modern as we are both children of the 1950’s and 1960’s. We have been talking about buying or building or remodeling one of our houses and want to include some MCM elements in it.

While in the Rivermarket Mall in downtown Kansas City just looking around – Jodi (who is noticeably shorter than I am at 6’1”) identified a big box of 4” tile.  I would never have noticed it as it was way back underneath a table against the wall – but being short has its’ advantages and that is what started the whole thing.

pomona tile potpourriI liked the tile – had interesting pictures of pots and pans, and other tiles had recipes on them. We had not seen them before so I took pictures, but was not willing to pay the price for a couple of hundred tile pieces as our storage areas were getting pretty full.

We went home, and that night I studied what I had found.  I could not have done this without the internet and others who cared enough to post their information!  This was the Paul Laszlow “Potpourri” pattern from the Pomona Tile Distinguished Designer Series.  I was absolutely fascinated!  I decided to go back to the A-Mall and buy the tiles, and slipped away from work over lunch – make a rocket run and determined that they were GONE.  Then I figured out I was in the wrong aisle and life got a lot better!!  AND – it was some percentage off on the whole booth that day and they cost LESS!

[Mike’s story will continue with how his fascination grew….leading to his collection.]

Thanks, Mike for sharing. Don’t we all recognize this collecting pattern? We do! As we said above, there’s more to Mike’s story — we’ll do a followup next week.

About Pomona Tile

I did a little research to see what I could find about the Pomona Tile Company and discovered this blurb about the history of the company from TileHeritage.org:

Pomona Tile was founded in 1923 by Judson Clark and was acquired within its first year by R.J. Schroeder, who maintained the offices and factory at Third and Reservoir Streets in Pomona, California. The company specialized initially in unglazed ceramic mosaics, but by the end of the decade both ceramic floor and wall tiles were produced. The height of production came in the mid-1950s when Drew Schroeder took over the reins from his father. But competition was intense, and despite the broadening of its product lines, the company began losing its grip by the early-sixties. American Olean acquired Pomona in 1966 providing the backing and leadership to introduce Pomona Stone and the colorful Caribbean line. AO sold the company to Huntington Tile in 1976, ending over 50 years of Pomona tile production.

Mike believes the View-Master reels were from the 1950s or 1960s, which we believe coincide with the height of the Pomona Tile Company and the time when they were trying to broaden their product lines to compete with other tile makers.

pomona-tile-kitchen-retroThese photos are so much fun to see — especially for the creative ways tile was used in residential settings — like the slanted tile island in this kitchen.

retro-pink-bathroomThis pink bathroom has a gorgeous tile countertop, and what is really fabulous is the special tiles used to rim the sink.

retro-midcentury-tile-kitchen-counterAnother special tile — in a beveled shape — was used on this kitchen countertop to ensure that water and gunk was not trapped in the corner between the countertop and backsplash. Genius if you ask me. Plus, I love the tiled windowsill planter.

retro-tile-divider-pomona-tileAmong the Viewmaster images are a few from the ‘Distinguished Designer” series, a special collaboration that Pomona Tile did with designers such as Paul McCobb, Millard Sheets, Dorothy Liebes, Saul Bass and Paul Laszlo. The resulting tiles were quite unlike anything else on the market at the time and for the purpose of these View-Master photos, were used in unexpected ways, such as the tile room divider above made from Paul McCobb’s “Roulette” tiles. Fabulous! Just fabulous!

retro-decorative-pomona-tileYou can read more about Pomona Tiles’ Distinquised Designer series on Paul McCobb enthusiast Jonathan Goldstein’s blog post, featuring several ads, scans of his tile collection and other images he’s gathered about this line of Pomona Tiles. Pam says she thinks she has a Pomona Tile brochure in her hoard collection — she’s gonna dig through and see if we can do a followup.

Pomona tiles come up for sale occasionally on Ebay and Etsy, and are great collector’s items or that perfect finishing touch for a kitchen backsplash or bathroom accent. Mega thanks to Mike for letting us feature some of his collection of Pomona Tile View-Master reels. Followup with more of his story to come!

See all of Mike’s Pomona Tile View-Master reels here:

More on Pomona Tile:

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Comments

  1. Mary Elizabeth says

    Love this tile and Jodi and Mike’s passion for it. Also, I like the vintage Viewmaster. I once had a small collection of Viewmasters from the 20th century and stereographs and stereo-opticons from the 19th. They used to be, among other things, people’s souvenirs from their travels. Now people save their images on a cell phone and carry them around to show their friends at a moment’s notice.

    The Lazlo “Potpouri”, when you look close up at the Viewmaster image that Mike provided in his link, echoes the kitchen pegboard we were discussing earlier. The background of the tiles has evenly spaced dots, so it looks like the pots are hanging on the wall. I really hope Mike and Jodi find the two missing tiles and can use them all in their kitchen, happily coordinated with a chrome dinette set that picks up one of the colors in the tile.

    Some of the designs are so simple and bright, I wonder why there aren’t reproductions. Maybe some day!

  2. Jay says

    Who would have thought to put adult MCM porn on a kiddie viewmaster? Great pictures. I want the kitchen with the tiled window planter. Looking forward to the next story on Mike’s collection.

    • Mary Elizabeth says

      Jay, it didn’t start as a children’s toy, but as a means of viewing photos of historic sites and other tourist sites and natural phenomena. Take a look at eBay and Etsy to see what kinds of things (besides Disney stories for kids, etc.) were available in the 1940s and 1950s.

      • Kelly Wittenauer says

        Yes, and these types continued at least into the early 70s. I have my childhood viewer & some envelopes of reels in a box somewhere. My collection includes sets on the moon landing, auto racing, Cypress Gardens and other tourist sites popular for family vacations in the late 60s & early 70s.

  3. ineffablespace says

    I just completed a really modest bath in 2×2 porcelain tile with coved corners horizontally around the floor and vertically up the walls.

    There are special order trim pieces needed for corners where the coves come together, and the ideal piece for the inside corner (perfectly rounded) had been discontinued. There was another one that worked fine (rounded horizontally with a vertical crease).

    The sales rep said this piece was discontinued because no one had ordered it for years. I was apparently the first person in three years to inquire about let alone order a couple of the pieces I ordered in my region, if not nationally.

    The rep said that a lot of people have moved to trendier large-format tile, which is fine, but a lot of it comes with very limited or no trim pieces and he has to do a fair amount of problem-solving when this lack of trim isn’t considered when installing it.

    • Robin, NV says

      Imagine trying to find replacements for that fabulous trim tile for the bathroom sinks! I love the look but, geez, if you had a vintage bathroom with these tiles, you’d probably be out of luck if you broke one.

      I really don’t undertand the appeal of the big 12×12 tiles in shower enclosures these days. I’m sure it’s easier to clean but it always makes me think, “why did they put floor tiles on the wall?” And they’re always beige or taupe. Bleh.

  4. Mike McDonald says

    WOW – Thanks for all of the interest – couple of thoughts as this rolls along – First – the View Master was (reportedly) often used in marketing – the pictures are quite vivid and in 3-D – I kind of look at it as the “Powerpoint Presentation” of the 1950’s and can with a HUGE smile on my face see all of the executives looking into thier viewer with suits and ties on!, Second – the reels have old style addresses on them for Viewmaster “Portland 7 Oregon” which would have been replaced in 1963 by the Zip Code, so the reels date probably not any later than 1964. Possibly they had a stockpile made up prior to the change – so may be considered as “new” later than 1964. Mike

  5. Brian T says

    Since the slide refers to “6 x 6 bevel,” I think the “bevel” tile is what is on the wall, not the (fantastic) cove tile in the corners. I’m hoping that the bevel tile actually has a controlled, uniform wavy texture that’s more pronounced than this image might lead us to believe. As it stands, it looks almost like the “bevel” effect could be a result of glaze, not texture.

  6. Val B. says

    We have a small collection of commercial View Master reels in the library at the Architectural Heritage Center in Portland, OR. It includes some reels from Pomona Tile, Youngstown Kitchens, Morton Kitchen Cabinets, Thermador, Suntile, and many more. If you’re ever in Portland, drop by the AHC (www.VisitAHC.org) to take a look.

  7. Laurie Louise says

    How cool to see this tile and the wonderful settings! I’m drooling not just over the tile, but over that white ceramic coffee pot in one of the shots on Mike’s Flickr stream. And those earrings! How have I lived so long without those? I also love the glimpse of marketing on the (then) latest technology. Will our great grandkids look back at Twitter and get nostalgic?

  8. says

    Wow! This story just led me to find out about the cute tiles in our new kitchen backsplash. I went to check out Mike’s Flickr stream, and there they are – the Oklahoma series!

  9. Dana says

    I recently purchased some Pomona tiles with construction cartoons on them. The artist is VIP. Do you know anything about them or when there are from?

  10. Patty says

    I have some vintage Pomona tile that I can not find any where It is a green and bright orange floral design –any help would be appreciated. I can send a pic through my email.
    Thanks

  11. Chris Horychata says

    I just wanted to post a comment and say how entertaining and informative I found it to read your website. We were fortunate enough to find an entire lot of George Nelson Pomona tiles that had never even been set. They’re just so happen to be enough to complete our entire kitchen backsplash!!!!! We found these while shopping at a vintage tile store in Los Angeles called Wells on Sunset Blvd. as an individual who has nothing but vintage furniture lamps and materials in my mid century home, finding this lot of Nelson tiles was like hitting a goldmine!!! The tiles are exquisite and lend an ambience to the house that is remarkable.

    • pam kueber says

      Thanks for the nice comment, Chris. Wow, what a score!!!! Note: Be aware that old tiles (and new ones, too, apparently) may contain vintage nastiness such as lead; so be sure to work with a pro before installation to determine what’s in the materials you are working with so that you can make informed decisions how to handle. Read more and get to more links about this issue and others on our Be Safe / Renovate Safe page.

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