Providential Tile Works
6" x 6" x 1/2" dust-pressed, embossed tile, c. 1891.
Tile Heritage Collection. Gift of Riley Doty.

Providential Tile Works
Trenton, New Jersey

The prospects for success appeared bright in the mid-1880s when Joseph Kirkham, James Robinson and C. Lewis Whitehead organized Providential Tile Works, hiring modeler Isaac Broome away from Trent Tile, their only potential local competitor in Trenton, New Jersey.

Like Trent, Providential produced dust-pressed, embossed tiles in mechanical, fly-wheel presses that were then colored with translucent glazes that accentuated the relief designs. Principally made to adorn fireplace mantels, many (like the example shown) were produced in a contiguous series designed to surround a fireplace opening—as was the fashion in upscale homes in the late 19th century.

When Isaac Broome left Providential in 1890, Scott Callowhill took his place as head modeler. He had come from England where he had worked for a number of prestigious establishments including the Royal Worcester Works and Doultons. Soon he was joined at Providential by his two sons, Hubert and Ronald, both ceramic decorators.

The management of the company remained fairly consistent during its 28- year history. Of the three original partners, Joseph Kirkham left in the early 1890s to start his own company in Ohio; James Robinson forfeited his ownership ten years later; and C. Lewis Whitehead then maintained control until his death in 1912 when his wife Emma tried unsuccessfully to keep the works operating. Its doors closed in 1913.

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