Minton Tile in American Buildings

[Minton Tile Design c.1851]
Minton, founded in England in 1788 by Thomas Minton, was one of the best-known British manufacturers of porcelain and pottery. The “Minton” name has also been associated with fine ceramic and encaustic tile. In the early 1800s, Thomas Minton’s son, Herbert, developed and patented manufacturing processes to create “encaustic tile” with the pattern and color of the tile encased in the depth of the tile. Encaustic tiles are unique because their decorative designs are not glazed on the surface, but are inlaid patterns created during the manufacturing process. The process pours colored slips (liquid clay) into deep molded patterns. When fired, the tiles are durable and prevent the loss of color and design over the years. These tiles were produced in a variety of sizes, mostly square or octagonal in shape, and almost any design could be custom-made for a special purpose or to fit a particular space. Encaustic tiles were produced in large quantities beginning in the mid-19th century, primarily for use in floors. Encaustic tile and unglazed geometric tile were especially popular in the United States for commercial architecture, with the firm of Minton & Co. as one of the major producers.

Minton tile also covered the floors of many residential entryways, porches and other rooms, and like many Victorian decorative elements, Minton tile became a symbol of social position and good taste. Minton tile patterns from 1878 are featured here.

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