Santa Catalina island, purchased by William Wrigley, Jr. in 1919, is home to some of the finest red clay, ideal for producing building materials and for making pottery. Between 1927 and 1932, the red clay and mineral oxides found on the island were used to create Catalina Island pottery. By 1932 though, the red clay began to be deemed too brittle for use and a white clay was imported to the island for the pottery’s use.
Production continued until 1937 when the entire operation, including molds and designs, was sold to the Gladding McBean company and was moved to Los Angeles.
One of the first things you must know when collecting Catalina pottery is the difference between that made on the island (1927-1937) and that made in Los Angeles (1937-1941.) On Catalina Island pottery look for the mark CATALINA, CATALINA ISLAND, or in some instances, CATALINA ISLE. These markings were made free-hand or with iron stamps, and occasionally with ink stamps.
Gladding McBean made some Catalina pottery pieces from the original island molds, as well as creating entirely new designs. GMB marked their line CATALINA POTTERY, CATALINA RANCHO or GMB. This was done in ink or was impressed on the bottom of the piece. GMB markings usually included the motto MADE IN U.S.A. also stamped in ink.
Factoid: When Catalina Island pottery closed in 1937, much of the product was dumped in Avalon bay. To this day, divers will, on occasion, find a piece of Catalina Island pottery on the ocean floor.