University Museums

Title: Catherine J. MacKay Memorial Fountains
Name: Pair of Cermamic Tile Fountians
Date: 1929
Medium: ceramic tiles
Dimensions: 92 x 48 in. (233.7 x 121.9 cm)
Classification: Sculpture
Credit Line: Gift of Brothers and Sisters of Catherine J. MacKay. In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Location: Iowa State University, MacKay Hall
Object Number: U2005.360ab
More Information
Quoted from "Tiles: 1000 years of Architectural Decoration"

Ernest Allan Batchelder (1875-1957) was another important designer of tiles who set up his own company. The Batchelder Tile Company was founded in 1909, but Batchelder had been actively involved in the Arts and Crafts movement long before this date. He had directed the Department of Arts and Crafts at Throop Polytechnic Institute in Pasadena, and written widely on the subject of design. When he left Throop in 1909, he built a kiln behind his home in Pasadena and began to produce decorative tiles. His designs owe much to Grueby and Mercer, but his handling of the clay resulted in tiles with a clearly individual style. Batchelder's floor tiles, for example, are uniformly moulded, and although they have an earthy quality and matte glaze, are more refined than Mercer's. Batchelder's most popular motifs include Mayan designs, birds, foliage and geometric abstracts.

Batchelder architectural tiles met with great success, and the company moved twice, expanding each time. Its tiles appear on the walls and floors of many New York City apartment house lobbies, and can be found in shops, restaurants, swimming pools and hotels throughout the United States. One of Batchelder's last and largest projects was the Hershey Hotel in Hershey, Pennsylvania, built by the famous chocolate manufacturer in 1930, in order to give jobs to many local residents who would otherwise have been unemployed during the Depression. Batchelder tiles were used on the walls, floors and stair risers of a dazzling fountain room, complete with central pool and a mezzanine level. Unfortunately, Batchelder's company, which had employed 150 men at its peak, was itself forced out business by the Depression in 1932, although Batchelder continued to make pottery in a small shop in Pasadena until the early 1950s. In addition to the Batchelder Tile Company, there were numerous other California tile manufacturers. The abundant local clays, inexpensive fuel and power and cheap labour were all factors that contributed to an active tile industry, while the rapidly growing population led to a continual demand for new buildings. Moreover, the most popular local architectural styles, such as Spanish, Mediterranean and Colonial Revival, use large amounts of tile.