Sani Onyx — A sort of vintage glass tile actually made from fused rock — 34 page catalog

vintage-bathroom-decorative-marbleLet's-decorate-1926We get inquiries all the time from readers wanting to know more about their large size, pre-war glass wall tiles, so Pam sent me on a hunt through the vintage catalogs of Archive.org to see if I could find some examples. I didn’t find glass tiles, but I uncovered this Sani Onyx vitreous tile — a possibly rare(?) glass tile made from fused rock bu Marietta Manufacturing Company of Indianapolis. Sounds like the pre-war version of solid surface countertops to us. Readers, have you ever heard of this before?

From the catalog:

Sani Onyx is a modern vitreous building material of far greater strength than either marble or tile. This remarkable present-day product is fused from rock ingredients, at 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit. It is as enduring as a wall of solid flint, and will actually outserve the building itself.

The natural fire-polished surface of Sani Onyx is absolutely uniform, and as softly smooth as glass. Moreover, Sani Onyx is proof against all of the common enemies of other building materials.It does not stain or discolor; nor is it affected by warmth, moisture or salt air. Unlike marble, tile or plaster, it does not crack or check even under severe strain. Climactic conditions do not alter Sani Onyx in the slightest degree and it is impermeable to water or any liquid, including all acids except hydrofluoric.

Easy to Install

The installation of Sani Onyx is a comparatively simple operation. In order to secure the best results, however, Sani Onyx should be installed over a base which can be water-proofed — that is, over a rough plater, brick, stone, or concrete wall. By referring to the illustration, you will see the method used in installing Sani Onyx. A plastic cement is used, which “gives” with the settling of the building; this cement never becomes dry or hard and, because of this fact, Sani Onyx walls never crack, a feature which should receive the architect’s most careful consideration. In remodeling, Sani Onyx may be readily installed over old plaster walls — Because Sani Onyx comes in large units, it may be installed with amazing speed and ease.

Sani Onyx Finds its Place in Nearly all Types of Buildings

Vitreous marble-installationSani Onyx was marketed for public spaces as well as residential homes and was commonly found in bathrooms, kitchens, stairways, dens, laundry rooms, nurseries, even living and dining areas.

A vintage American Standard ad, from our story about dental sinks. We believe this is glass tile on the wall.

Pam with her broken arm adds: We are accustomed to seeing glass tile today used in kitchens and bathrooms, but it is usually in small mosaic patterns. In the pre-war era, glass tiles were made in these large sizes — Pam believes they were likely quite expensive…sanitary, streamline moderne in style…used in kitchens, but especially bathrooms. In the post-war era, glass tile faded from view in favor of less expensive ceramic tile.


Sani Onyx in the popular “hospital gray”

Sani Onyx is rapidly gaining in popularity with the leading hospitals. The new “Hospital Gray” in combination with Ivory, as pictured in this Surgery, makes a unit scientifically correct for perfect lighting. No objectionable glare. The sanitary features of Sani Onyx make it doubly desirable for hospital use.

Another notable tidbit from this vintage catalog — the popularity of “Hospital Gray,” which was promoted, with “no objectionable glare.” So for all of today’s ‘trendsetters’ decorating their homes from top to bottom in gray, they can take comfort in the fact that their decor is the perfect backdrop for conducting surgery.

A huge thanks goes out to the Canadian Centre for Architecture and Archive.org for making this vintage catalog available.

Readers: Does anyone know more about this material?
Is fused rock the same as glass?


Tips to view slide show: Click on first image… it will enlarge… move forward and backward via the arrows on each photo… you can start or stop at any image:

  1. Larry Hill says:

    Hi Daryl, My name is Larry Hill. I grew up in the 1950″s at 17th & Gladstone St. That was the first street east of Marietta Mfg. Co. The abandoned factory was a world of mystery and discovery for Me and the neighbor kids, without our parents knowing. We were always intrigued by the story that the factory met its demise by a massive explosion or fire. I researched this story for years and never came up with any proof. Daryl I will send another reply because I can’t get all what I have to say in this limited space.

  2. Larry Hill says:

    Daryl, from L. Hill continued, I was fascinated by your story that Marietta met its end by a law suit by the Federal Trade Commission. I did not know that there were model homes that displayed Sani-Onyx like your Grandparents. I would love to know the address to see if it still exist. Marietta had a show room building at 16th and Sherman Dr. That exhibited several rooms of Sani-Onyx. Daryl I don’t know how to contact you, but would love to, to swap stories about Marietta.

  3. Daryl H. Johnson says:

    Hi Larry,

    Thank you! I would love to swap stories. Just a few days ago, I was able to acquire an original 120 page Marietta Manufacturing Company catalog. It has wonderful pictures of showrooms that may be the same you mention.

    If I cannot list my email here, please try looking for me under Daryl Harvey Johnson. Besides FaceBook and LinkedIn, there are several way of contacting me through my genealogy research at Rootsweb, Find-A-Grave, and Genealogy.com

    Thanks again, Daryl

  4. Heart says:

    Hello Daryl/Larry,

    Thanks for sharing new research with us & adding to this article. If your recently acquired catalog is different than the one posted above, please talk with Pam about uploading it. Would love to see more pictures/information.

  5. Sean says:

    I owned a condo in a prewar building in Philadelphia in original condition. All the bathrooms and maids quarters were done in a half walls of vitro lite. I actually own a ceiling tile from the lobby of the Hadley Dean glassworks company, it’s framed on my dining room wall. Very cool piece

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