Locations: San Jose
Dates of Operation: 1902 - 1987
Seller Values: Check average price on Ebay
Of all of the “larger” potteries of California, I probably know the least about Garden City Pottery of San Jose. There are quite a few reasons for this. Number one is that I don’t currently own the only book dedicated to Garden City Pottery which is currently out of print. It’s difficult to come across more detailed information about the company. Despite the fact that in the 1920s it was the largest pottery in northern California and the fact that the company outlasted names like Bauer (Garden City closed in 1987), Chipman’s scrapbook only has a few short entries on the company.
One of the better resources (besides the collector’s book) that I came across was an online article by Don Gagliardi of the Northside Neighborhood Association on Garden City Pottery. I suspect that some of the lack of information may also stem from the fact that they are viewed by many collectors as an “imitator” rather than an “innovator”. In addition, while the pottery was indeed shipped everywhere in the country, an enormous amount was distributed locally in the area. That means that there’s more chance of coming across Garden City items if you live near San Jose - unfortunate for me, since we’re in Southern California.
The name “Garden City” actually stems from the roots of San Jose as a major agricultural hub for the area. According to the article, the company started out in 1902 with flowerpots, crockery and sewer pipe. After the Depression brought about hard times, they were forced to emulate the colorful and popular tableware from other companies like Metlox, Bauer and Pacific. Royal Hickman, known from California Ra-Art and a few other potteries, was the designer on many of the pieces. It’s these Garden City items which are most often confused with other companies like Bauer. After WWII, they again switched the business to focus mostly on garden items, allowing them to survive until the 80s.
Without a doubt, the most difficult part of finding or identifying Garden City Pottery is the fact that they are almost never marked in any way - not even with numbers or the words “California” or “USA”. Because of this, it’s difficult for someone just starting out to even know what to look for without having a resource like the collector’s guide. I guess this could also be a GOOD thing for the beginning collector, as there is more chance that a pottery seller would not know what they had. I’ve started to keep an eye out for the pottery myself now that I’ve seen a few examples at antique shops, but I guess time will tell if we ever come across a piece of Garden City pottery.Note: We've tried to provide as much info as possible on this pottery maker or artist. For further info, you may want to research the items they have on Ebay listed under this name. We've tried to hand tailor the searches below so they will bring up the most accurate results. If there are no results, it will list general California pottery.