The first dinnerware line offered by Gladding-McBean of Southern California was El Patio, designed by Mary K. Grant and marketed under a new Gladding-McBean brand called Franciscan Pottery, before it was changed to Franciscan Ware. Unlike the largely floral Franciscan Ware that would follow, El Patio designs were unadorned, monochromatic, and Art Deco in profile. A new version of El Patio followed in 1935, while Coronado arrived the following year. Though it still lacked a decorated pattern, Coronado’s surface was marked by even, twisted grooves, giving the otherwise plain pieces movement and texture. By 1936, Gladding-McBean was selling four-piece starter sets of El Patio and Coronado to newlyweds.
Franciscan’s first painted dinnerware was Padua, which used the El Patio form for its shape. But the real harbinger of Franciscan’s heyday was a 1940 pattern called Apple, whose twigs were painted along the rims of plates, saucers, and bowls, with its red fruit and green leaves seeming to hang on the insides or outsides of the ware, depending of which was more decorative. This pattern led to Desert Rose in 1941, one of the most popular American dinnerware patterns ever. Like many Franciscan lines, Desert Rose typified a new California style of ceramics, drawing from both Spanish and Western styles.
After taking a hiatus during World War II, Franciscan came back in 1948 with its Fruit and Ivy lines, the later reminiscent of Apple and Desert Rose. And then there was Starburst in 1954, whose simple colors (blue and yellow on cream) and geometric shapes were a homey version of the harder-edged, more severe Mid-Century Modern aesthetic that was sweeping the country. Though Franciscan remained popular through the 1970s, the brand was sold to Wedgwood in 1979.