Produced by Metlox Pottery in Southern California, the Monterey line of mid century dinnerware offered a laid back, practical style in wonderful speckled colors.
I've always been a fan of things that are functional, simple and just work. This line of elegant dishware falls into that category for me. It's not as whimsical and fun as Franciscan Ware patterns like Starburst or Oasis, but therein lies the beauty.
We attended Modernism Week in Palm Springs earlier this year and had the opportunity to learn more about mid century dishware from an exhibitor there. He had set up part of his extensive collection for close-up viewing, and I found these dishes very intriguing. The collector admitted to not knowing much about the company that made them, including when or where they produced their products. He showed me his original boxes and they had absolutely no information printed on them! A missed opportunity for the Metlox company.
A little further digging reveals that there is not an exact record documenting the history of this line. According to expert collectors, "Monterey was produced by Metlox after they purchased molds and patterns from Vernon." The detailed explanation can be found at the Vernonware website under the "FAQ's."
Metlox Pottery was founded in Manhattan Beach in 1927 as a ceramic sign maker. In 1931 they began producing dinnerware, and in mid century they developed some modernist designs that became popular, especially with California families. Though they changed hands several times throughout the years and produced pottery items other than dinnerware, it is the dinnerware that remains the most collectible today.
Functionally Elegant: Monterey Mid Century Dinnerware
Monterey dishware was produced in several different pastel colors with slight speckles in the pottery. Some people collect one particular color, others collect mixed colors. They're fun to display either way. The first pieces we bought are green. As a transplant from the midwest, I love the state of California logo printed on the bottom of each piece. Some of them are pretty faded by now, but if you look closely you can see it.
These dishes are very delicate and chip almost just by looking at them. Unfortunately we've had a few online purchases arrive at our house in pieces. (Heartbreaking!) I wouldn't recommend them for everyday use and I'm sure they're not dishwasher safe, but we've been having fun with them for occasional meals. Some of you may have spotted some in a few of our food photos. We've used them in Kentucky Style Biscuits and Gravy and a few others.
After purchasing this lovely set we found a great deal on several of the robin's egg blue pieces which we were thrilled to add to our growing collection. Eventually we'd like to own a setting in each color that was produced, which in addition to these would include pink, black, and sand. We'll be on the lookout for them -- they are very hard to find, so we'll cross our fingers for a little luck.
We'd love to hear about your favorite dishware and see your photos. Please share!
D. Bruce says
Hi, just wondering if you've been able to find actual documentation that Metlox was the company who made this line? I also collect Monterey Made In California (as well as various Metlox patterns) and I've been unable find anything. It seems really likely, I would just like proof! It was a premium giveaway at grocery stores, which I believe is why they didn't mark it with their brand.
Lisa Saroyan says
Hello Bruce, I have a HUGE collection of the Metlox Happy Time with very rare pieces that I'm looking to sell all or part of, I also have a prototype that never went into production. If your interested my email is: [email protected]
You're absolutely right, it is very difficult to trace the exact lineage of the Monterey Made in California items. I relied on expert collectors for my information. On the website http://www.vernonware.com under "FAQs," about half way down the page there is a heading that says “Monterey – Made in California” Pattern. There is a statement there that says "Monterey was made by Metlox after they bought molds and patterns from Vernon..."
But you have a point, I will revise the post and provide the source of the information along with the fact that no perfect records exist. Thank you for contacting me; I'm so glad to find other enthusiastic collectors!
Karna L. Bosman says
I'm in the process of finding a new home for the coffee cups and saucers in my folks' set of California Ivy and have found articles about lead poisoning. Now I'm wondering if the dishes I use on a daily basis are even safe to use. Is the Poppy Trail California Ivy set safe to use?
There is no way to know for sure if it is safe to eat off of your dinnerware without performing a lead test on it. In 1971 Metlox did issue a recall of some Poppy Trail dishes due to excessive lead; see the following link:
There are home lead-testing kits available at hardware stores or online that can detect lead on the surface of the plate, but home tests could miss lead that is embedded deeper. The only way to detect that would be to send it to a lab for testing. Attached is an article on lead in tableware by Contra Costa Health Services:
I hope all turns out well with your dishes!
Stephanie Winnard says
Hello! I just bought an owl cookie jar by made by Metlox Poppytrail and then I also saw articles about a recall of Poppytrail pottery but all of the articles only mentioned dishes but none specifically mentioned cookie jars as being recalled due to lead. So I'm also wondering if this cookie jar is safe to put cookies in. I was wondering if you happen to know if the Metlox recall also included cookie jars or was it only the dishes? Hope this makes sense and I thank you kindly for your time.
I have researched and tried contacting people regarding your inquiry of several months ago, and I could not find a definitive answer on whether the cookie jars contained lead. All I could find was this article stating that cookie jars were found at the contaminated Metlox waste site upon its closing.
Cookie jars are a favorite among collectors, and no doubt you have a collectible piece. Until you can find out for sure (by perhaps testing it for lead), I think I would give it a prominent place to be viewed and enjoyed without storing cookies inside.
Mark Willoughby Wood says
I collect the orange with black pattern that has what appears to be a "seam with rivets" down the side of each piece.
Just wondered if there was any info on it or if anyone else collects this style. Thnx, Mark
I believe you are collecting what is known as the Metlox Poppytrail "Red Rooster-red" pattern, which entered production in 1955. Red Rooster was produced in both a beige background with dark brown trim and a red rooster pattern (1955-1979), as well as the solid orange-red color with dark brown trim and rivets down the side (1956-1979). It was part of the popular "Poppytrail" line, named for the state flower of California, the poppy. In 1955 the company was owned by Evan K. Shaw of American Pottery/Los Angeles, who purchased Metlox from Willis Prouty in 1946. Image links are attached, let me know if this is not the pattern you are collecting and I will continue to try to identify it for you.
Metlox Red Rooster - Red Pattern
Metlox Red Rooster Pattern
This is the set I have. Nearly complete and now I’m wondering if it’s safe for daily use.
Jeri Phillips says
I just inherited an entire set and I feel the same. These have been used and washed in the dishwasher which worries me with leaching. To be safe I am not going to use them. Makes me sad because I absolutely love them.
I would like to know if the Metlax daisy pattern contains lead.