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Tile Company History

Trent Tile Company 1882-1939
Located in Trenton, NJ, this company started in 1882 as the Harris Manufacturing Company. By 1883 the name was changed to Trent Tile Company.

In 1883, Quebec born Isaac Broome, a designer and modeler, came to Trent to work. He was highly qualified, boasting 8 years of experience at the Ott and Brewer Pottery.

He left the company in 1886, but Trent was able to keep producing new Broome designs after he left, because of the amount he designed while he was there.

After Broome left, a man named William Wood Gallimore, an artist and modeler, took his place.

In 1912, the factory had financial troubles, and was bought by Thomas H. Thropp in 1916. Under his ownership, Trent produced 8 million square feet of tile each year. When Thropp died in 1931, his son, H.W. Thropp took over.

R.P Herrold purchased Trent in 1936 with a loan from the government. In 1939, the factory was once again in trouble, and it closed down. In 1940, it was bought by Wenczel Tile Company.

Tiles from Trent “were used on fireplaces, mantels, counter fronts, wainscoting, soda fountains, doorways, and as independent art panels.”(Karlson) Trent tiles were available in 118 colors, and countless designs.

Robertson Art Tile Co. 1890-1930
Robertson Art Tile was located is Morrisville, Pennsylvania. It was started by a man named George W. Robertson, who began his career as assistant manager at East Boston Pottery from 1865 to 1871, moving to Chelsea Keramic Art Works after that. In 1890, he started his own tile works in Pennsylvania, which he named Chelsea Keramic Art Tile Works.

To pay his debts on the plant, he gave shares to W. J.J. Bowman, R.K. Bowman, and Arthur D. Forst. Robertson became the superintendent, Forst took the job as president, and Bowman became the treasurer. At this point, they changed the name to Robertson Art Tile. Three years after that, due to the death of his son, Robertson decided to sell his share of the company, in 1895. Forst became manager. In 1900, a man named Fred Wilde joined the company. He left in 1903, and a man named Herman Mueller joined in that same year.

“Also in 1903, Robertson Art Tile merged with Columbia Encaustic Tiling Company and Old Bridge Enameled Brick and Tile Company to form the National Tile Company.”(Karlson) This only lasted three years before decided to end the partnership and went back to its original name. Mueller left the company in 1908, to form his own company named Mueller Mosaic.

In 1920, Forst bought all of the shares to the company ran it with his family. In 1930, the name of the company was changed to Robertson Manufacturing Company, which closed in 1983.

The Old Bridge Tile Company 1890-1927
The Old Bridge Tile Company was located in Old Bridge, New Jersey. It was founded by a man named William E. Rivers in 1890. He was a ceramist and an inventor, who developed a machine called the “Rivers Downdraft Periodic Kiln.” In 1893, the bank took over the company, which was refinanced and renamed to The Old Bridge Enameled Brick and Tile Company. In 1903, The Old Bridge Tile Company merged with Robertson Art Tile and Columbia Encaustic Tiling Company, to form the National Tile Company. After a year, Old Bridge backed out and returned to its original name. When William Rivers died in 1917, a man named Charles H. Devoe purchased his share and became the new superintendent. In 1927, the Robert Rossman Corporation bought the company. Devoe stayed for a year as manager. When he left he took the company name with him and started his own business.

C. Pardee Works 1890-1928
The C. Pardee Works, located in Perth Amboy, NJ, was established by a man named Calvin Pardee. Sometime around 1898, the factory closed, but opened again in 1900, when Adolph and Max Metzner came to the factory. They left in 1908 to begin a company of their own.

In 1919, the company bought the Grueby Faience and Tile Company. They moved to Perth Amboy and continued to produce the Grueby tiles. In the 1920’s they also imported Royal Delft Faience Tiles from Holland.

In 1929, Ario Pardee became president and agreed to sell tiles from the Matawan Tile Company. This was called Pardee Matawan Tile Company. C. Pardee Works closed in 1938.

American Encaustic Tiling Company (A.E.T.) 1875-1935
In 1874, a man named E.H. Hall began tile production under the name of Fischer and Lansing in Zanesville, Ohio. American Encaustic Tiling Company (A.E.T.) was founded in 1875. “The production of encaustic tiles involves a complicated process in which powdered clays of different colors are pressed together to form a pattern or design.”(Karlson) In 1876, Hall left A.E.T, to be replaced by a man named Gilbert Elliot. In 1877, George Stanberry became the superintendent, and produced a machine that mass produced tiles like never before in America. Production increased, and the factory moved to a bigger building. In 1880, A.E.T. began making glazed tiles; embossed tiles came shortly after in 1881. A showroom was built in New York City around this time.

Herman Mueller was hired in 1887, bringing with him many new techniques. He “produced many large relief tiles, as well as panels of female figures, mythological symbols, and portraits.”(Karlson) Renaissance motifs influenced much of his work. “He also produced intaglio-modeled tiles, portraits or scenes in which the design was carved into a tile, then glazed. The glaze darkened in the more deeply carved areas; in the shallow areas, the tones would be more delicate, giving certain tiles the appearance of a photograph.”(Karlson) In 1890, a man named Karl Langenbeck, left Rookwood Pottery to work with A.E.T. He introduced many new colors to the company. Once again, the factory was too small, and A.E.T. moved to a new plant, and was self proclaimed to be the largest tile factory in the entire world. Mueller and Langenbeck left A.E.T to start their own factory called the Mosaic Tile Company. A man named Christian Nielson replaced Mueller. “In The 1890’s A.E.T. produced a series of at least eleven printed decal tiles with designs by Walter Crane, taken directly from the original plates of Baby’s Own Aesop Fables and Baby’s Own Opera, popular children’s books of the era.”(Karlson) In 1913, Cecil Jones began working at A.E.T, where he became the head of the decoration department. He left in 1930. Frederick Hurten Rhead came in 1917, to be the head of a research department. He created many new designs “including painted, molded, and cuenca pieces, as well as some pottery.”(Karlson) He stopped working at A.E.T. in 1927. Leon V. Solon was hired in 1912, and worked there until 1925. In 1932, A.E.T. had some financial problems, and sold off two of their factories. The original plant in Zanesville closed in 1935, which was sold to the Shawnee Pottery Company. A company named Franklin Tile combined with A.E.T. and kept their name. In the 1930’s, Franklin merged with Olean Tiles, to create a company called American Franklin Olean Tiles, Inc., which sold all of the companies tiles. “In 1959, A.E.T acquired Olean Tile and Murray Tile Company, and 1964 the whole consortium became the American Olean Tile Company” or “A.O.”(Karlson) American Olean merged with Dol Tile Corporation in 1995.

Moravian Pottery and Tile Works 1898- Present
Henry Chapman Mercer established the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works in 1898, in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. He began producing tiles in 1899 at his family’s estate. In 1912, he moved to a bigger factory. Mercer designed all of the tiles himself, taking his inspiration from Moravian stove plates and also from medieval European tiles. Mercer’s tiles were styled differently than others of his time. They were used all over the world.

Mercer died in 1930, leaving the company to his partner, Frank Swain. Tile production continued until Swain died in 1954, when he left the company to his nephew. Raymond F. Buck bought the plant in 1956, and closed it in 1964. The plant was bought by the Bucks County Department of Parks and recreation in 1967, and to this day it is open to the public as a museum.

Ohio Encaustic Tile Co. 1883-1886
The Ohio Encaustic Tile Company was located in Zanesville, Ohio. It was founded by a man named Samuel Ebert in 1883. The owners of the company had minimal tile making skills, so they hired a man named Henry Bagley. He became discouraged because there were hardly any skilled workers at the factory, and went back to his home in 1885. They closed in 1886. The Ohio company never mastered the art of making encaustic tiles.

Hamilton Tile Works 1883-1901
This company began in Hamilton, Ohio in 1883. Adolf Metzner started it with a man named Mr. Hatt. They didn’t have too much success, so Mr. Hatt left that same year. After that, a man named Jacob Bieler became Metzner’s partner. Soon after, they hired Robert Minton Taylor, who stayed for a very short time. The name of the company was changed to Hamilton Tile Works. In 1884, Dr. Wild became president of the company, and it was revamped. In 1897, the tile company was once again reorganized. Two years later however, it failed. It was bought by new owners, who renamed it the Ohio Tile Company. Metzner went to work for another well known company, the A.E.T., and then to C.Pardee in 1900.

Zanesville Majolica Co. 1882-1884
This company was located in Zanesville, Ohio. It was located next to A.E.T. The tiles produced here were very detailed, and of extremely good quality. In 1884, a fire broke out and destroyed the company. The building was rebuilt, but tile production stopped. Tiles from this company are rare today.

Mosaic Tile Company 1894-1972
This company had two locations, one in Zanesville, Ohio, and another was located in Matawan, New Jersey. Three men, Herman C. Mueller, Karl Langenbeck, and William M. Shinnick founded it in 1894. The company began by making square, octagon and hexagon buff tiles. The company opened the Mosaic Tile Building in New York in 1901. Mueller and Langenbeck left the company in 1903. In 1907, Shinnick became manager. In 1918, a new type of tile, faience tiles began to be produced. Harry Rhead supervised production. In 1923, Rhead left to found his own company, the Standard Tile Company. In 1937, Mosaic bought the General Tile Company, and kept its own name. In 1959, Mosaic stopped producing faience tiles. In 1967, Mosaic Tile was bought by the Marmon Group of Chicago, and production stopped. General Tile Company closed in 1972.

Providential Tile Works 1886- 1913
Joseph Kirkham, James H. Robinson, and C. Lewis Whitehead established this company in Trenton, NJ in 1886. Isaac Broome left Trent to come there in 1886. He stayed until 1890, and the company was able to keep producing his designs long after he left. In 1890, he was replaced by a man named Scott Callowhill. Joseph Kirkham sold his share so he could open his own company in Barberton, Ohio. In 1900, James Robinson sold out, which left Whitehead alone. When he died, his wife bought the company. She planned to operate the company, but that didn’t work out, and the company was shut down after that.

Cambridge Art Tile Works 1886-1985
J.J.Busse, and his sons, John, Herman, Louis, and J. Henry, and another man named Herman Binz began making tiles in J.J. Busse’s Brickyard in Kentucky. This was named the Mount Casino Art Tile and Enameled Brick Company. They established a second company, Cambridge Art Tile Works in 1887. Two years later, these two companies combined to create Cambridge Tile Manufacturing Company. Two men named Ferdinand Mersman and Clement J. Barnhorn joined Cambridge. Cambridge Tile took over the Wheatley Pottery in 1927, and they renamed it the Wheatley Tile and Pottery Company. Still in 1927, a company called Cambridge Wheatley Company was created, which sold both types of tile. Cambridge Wheatley stopped production in 1936, and Cambridge Tile Manufacturing Company kept its name. Cambridge continued to make tiles until 1985, when they closed.

Rookwood Pottery 1880-1965
Maria Longworth Nichols established the Rookwood Pottery in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1880. Ferdinand Mersman, Albert R. Valentien were hired in 1881, and Karl Langenbeck joined the firm in 1895. In 1885, Nichols remarried after her first husband died, and she left the company to go on her honeymoon. She retired in 1890. Rookwood began to produce tile with a matte glaze in 1902. One Year after that, they made tiles for the New York Subway system. “Rookwood made tiles for mantels, wall panels, drinking fountains, architectural reliefs for building exteriors, and accountrements for vaulted ceilings.”(Karlson) William Taylor died in 1913, and he left his share to the Cincinnati Museum. Maria Storer died in 1922. Rookwood had difficulties in 1928, and their architectural tile department closed. In 1941, Harold and Walter Schott and Lawrence Kyle bought the company. Sperti Incorporated bought the company and production continued. James M. Smith took over in 1956, and in 1959, Herchede Hall Clock became the owner. They moved to Mississippi, and the factory closed forever in 1967.

Sources Used To Create This Page:
Karlson, Norman. American Art Tile 1876-1941. New York: Michael Friedman Publishing Group, Inc., 1998
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