Muncie Clay Products Company began as a subsidiary of Gill Clay Products Co. in 1919*. In 1931, the company reorganized and was renamed Muncie Potteries. The factory located in Muncie, Indiana, about 65 miles from Indianapolis, was a small shop employing only 20 or so people at its peak of production. In comparison, other potteries working at the time such as Rookwood and Weller required hundreds of workers to meet demand for their product.
In spite of the small staff, thousands of different shapes and color combinations were made there. Pieces with both Arts and Crafts and Art Deco influences took shape in the diminutive Muncie factory in both hand thrown and molded forms. Items marketed by Muncie included lamps, vases, candlesticks, and even garden planters. These wares were sold by businesses such as L.S. Ayres, Charles Mayer, and the well-known Chicago-based department store Marshall Field's.
Muncie Glazes and Popular Lines
The wide array of glazes Muncie produced, more than 40, in fact, was a great number for such a compact operation. “They are distinguished by richly colored glazes that overlapped as they flowed down the sides. Glossy and matte glazes ranged from earth tones to luscious turquoise, blues and greens, rose and lilac to cream and black,” as described in an article on Muncie by Nancy Millard shared on WinconsinPottery.org.
The overlapping glazes are commonly referenced as “drip glaze” and they were a staple in Muncie’s later pieces in both matte and high glazed, or gloss, versions. Muncie is said to have referenced their high glazed pieces as “bright.” The more creative drip colors are found on later pieces while earlier styles often have matte glazes.
Some of the most popular, and highly valued, Muncie pieces were designed by Reuben Haley including the cubist style Art Deco line Ruba Rombic. Haley also designed Ruba Rombic glassware made by Consolidated Glass Company in 1929 with the same angular Deco lines found in the pottery counterparts. Muncie’s Spanish line, also designed by Haley, had softer contours suggesting a Southwestern influence mirroring the Catalonian line made by Consolidated Glass. Other motifs designed by Haley for Muncie include Katydid, Lovebirds and Tropical Fish, according to Jack Wilson, author of Phoenix and Consolidated Art Glass: 1926-1980 (now out of print but available through used booksellers).
During the 1930s small pottery pieces were being made to sell for just a few dollars apiece as the business struggled to survive the Great Depression with little success. Muncie ceased operation in 1939. In 1942, when the company liquidated its remaining inventory, pieces were sold for as little as $1 a bushel, according to WisconsinPottery.org.
Marks on Muncie
Muncie can be found in both marked and unmarked versions, according to JustArtPottery.com. Marked examples are usually read MUNCIE in a slightly curved shape stamped directly into the clay, and may also have molder or finisher marks present. These secondary marks were hand incised by the individual making the piece and usually include combination of letters (A, B, D, E, K, and M) and numbers (I,II, 2, 3, 4 and 5) such as 2-B, D-3 and so on.
Valuing Muncie Pottery
Compared to wares of some of the more well known potteries operating during the 1920s and ‘30s, Muncie pieces have historically been more reasonable in price on the secondary market. An affordable collection of small Muncie vases in an array of glaze hues can be assembled at $50 or so per piece making this a good point of departure for beginning pottery collectors. There are exceptions, of course.
Muncie’s lamps in Arts and Crafts styles can easily sell for $500 and up. Small Ruba Rombic pots or vases can be purchased for $150-200, but larger pieces and more unusual styles go for $300-500 or more. And, exceptionally rare glaze colors found on most Muncie shapes will command higher prices among advanced collectors.
*The information provided in Kovels Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide for Muncie Pottery appears to be inaccurate stating that the company was founded in 1922. No other references consulted for this article affirmed this information.