Gladding McBean tiles — sentimental artifacts of Romantic Revival design

gladding mcbean tile at the leo carrillo ranch gladding mcbean tile at the leo carrillo ranchMy heart be still, did you notice the vintage decorative tiles in one of the pink bathrooms at the Leo Carrillo Ranch? I was curious, of course, and asked buddy Bungalow Bill, who right quick answered:

gladding mcbean tile - from California Tile The Golden Era 1910-1940Whew, that was an easy one. Gladding McBean in Glendale and Hermosa Beach CA 1875-1962. I am attaching a photo from the book California Tile, The Golden Era 1910-1940 Vol 1 from the California Heritage Museum showing that tile with other examples from the company.

The tile is also pictured in Norman Karlson’s Encyclopedia Of American Art Tile, Vol 4. Both should be available on PAmazon 😉

– Bill

Gerry Streff, archivist from the Leo Carrillo Ranch, also confirmed the tiles were purchased Gladding McBean’s Hermosa Tile Division. She also sent me the fabulous images at the top of this story and the photo of the main bathroom (below) with the wagon tile – squint, it’s there along the sunken tub surround:

Hi Pam-

I did check the date and the tile was purchased from Gladding McBean in October, 1938 (Hermosa Tile division.) Carrillo also has checks from the company doing the bathroom construction in 1938.
gladding mcbean tile in the leo carrillo ranch pink bathroom

The main bathroom (with the sunken tub) features the wagon tile, while the Horseman’s Bedroom, furnished with custom Monterey furniture, has the accent tile of the man in a sombrero.

– Gerry


thommy in one of the pink bathrooms in the leo carrillo ranchWe have a good shot of the man in the sombrero from the photos that Thommy and Nancy took when they visited the Leo Carrillo Ranch in San Diego. Hi, Thommy!

Meanwhile, googling around for more about Gladding McBean, I found this excellent research about the history of their trademarks — which includes a history of their acquisitions. Seems like Catalina Tile, Tropico Tile and even Franciscan dinnerware all became part of the Gladding McBean empire by about 1940. I also liked this article about the use of art tile in the U.S., mostly before World War II.

My key takeaway: Decorative tiles like these came out of the Arts & Crafts tradition — in which hand-crafted products were again revered following the onslaught of factory-made products made possible by the Industrial Revolution. Interestingly, today’s Etsy and handmade revival is largely seen to be reaction against Made In China excess.

These Gladding McBean tiles — with their often-sentimental themes — also seem to fit within the “Romantic Revival” aesthetic of the early 20th century, which brought us not only bungalows, but also Tudors, Spanish Mediterranean, mini-Palacios and other styles of homes that romanticized old Europe architectural styles. Romantic Revival homes were popular in the 1920s and into the 1930s.

Finally —  The Tile books: Added to Pamazon. Thanks, Bill! Thanks, Gerry! Thanks, Thommy and Nancy!

  1. Karen says:

    We just closed not too long ago on a 1949 ranch-style home complete with pink bathroom, which has been saved from the sledge hammer for now. The vanity top was inlaid with Gladding McBean Hermosa tile, a funky pink tile. We saved most of the tiles (there weren’t all that many) and are trying to find a use for them. Also trying to match existing pink tile and maroon trim strips to extend the tub surround for a shower. The Hermosa tiles have not been manufactured in over 35 yrs, according to one of their reps.

  2. pam kueber says:

    Karen — to match the tile, see my stories in Bathrooms/Tile. Probably, your best bet will be: World of Tile in Springfield, NJ. See my stories… tell Chippy I sent you.

  3. Karen says:

    Pam – I’ve seen your stories! So very fascinating. 🙂 Did the virtual tour through World of Tile and will also contact them. B&W is sending tile chips for us to compare to our tile. We were going to “save the pink bathroom,” then decided to take it all out and renovate completely, and now we’re back to “saving the pink bathroom.” 🙂 Too late to save the vanity counter top (with the Hermosa tile) but we’re saving the rest of it and we hope to match existing tile to increase the tub surround for a shower. Not sure what the original floor looked like but we’re planning to take the existing out, and I’m hoping to find something a bit more retro with pink to put down over radiant mesh. Tile bathroom is COLD in the winter!

  4. Jean Cross says:

    I am producing an exhibit at the Lincoln City Hall called, “Gladding McBean – Lincoln’s Heritage of the Art of Clay. Lincoln was very disappointed when GMcB decided to stop public tours so we are trying to bring a bit of the experience to new generations of Lincolnites.

    My husband was sales mgr. at GMcB for 22 yrs and I was a sculptor in the architectural terra cotta dept. and then artist in residence.

    Thank you so much.

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