In 1934, Franciscan china was the name given by Gladding-McBean and Company to their new line of dishware in honor of missionaries who were as diverse as the company's California pottery itself. For almost fifty years they produced kiln fired building products and developed clay that had little shrinkage. It withstood extreme temperatures so it was perfect for tableware. Several plant takeovers occurred over the years and after 1984 when the California plant closed, the line was only produced in Portugal, England, Japan and China, but quality of the productions deteriorated dramatically.
Identifying Early Franciscan China
Franciscan china began as solid colors in the 1930s but once the president of Weller Pottery in Ohio began working in California, he became interested in producing art and everyday china for the public. Design work was hand painted and unfussy compared to what was produced by other manufacturers. The Desert Rose and the Apple patterns are some of the most popular of these early designs. Other early Franciscan china designs have hand painted fruit or floral patterns. These were never done with decals so there should be no crease marks or blemishes that look like tears in the pattern. Subtle nuances from hand painting make each piece unique. Prior to 1947 a green ring encircled lids of Desert Rose patterned pieces. In the 1950s more cosmic designs appeared both in decoration as well as shapes of pieces. By 1962 a new American company would take over, but one of Gladding-McBean and Company's designers compiled an extensive book of discontinued patterns and shapes, pieces still in production, and maker's marks.
Later Franciscan China Identification
Later pieces of Franciscan china do not have the Made in USA stamp on them, but the country of their actual production. The famous Desert Rose pattern was one produced after the American plant closed but overseas companies continue producing them. Their shapes became more modern and lack the quality in workmanship. These may also have maker's marks that are smeared or sloppy in appearance. Not all pieces are inferior so learning what older pieces look like may help determine quality of newer ones.