Provincial Industrial Enterprises (P.I.E.)

For a short while before Hop Yuill took over Wyatt’s Alberta Potteries Limited, the plant was occupied by another group. After Wyatt and Matuska gave up the struggle, the plant sat idle for a few months. Eventually, a group of investors acquired the plant and its assets and started producing pottery under the name of Provincial Industrial Enterprises or P.I.E. for short.

Not much is known about this short-lived company as no one has yet taken the time to document its activities. The search could well be a difficult one as it appears that no factory records have survived. In time, though, a search of the Medicine Hat and Redcliff newspapers should give some insights into the company’s activities. The Medalta papers in the Provincial Archives contain several letters referring to Medalta acquiring the stock of a Redcliff plant. While the letters do not actually mention P.I.E., I believe that it is this company and not Matuska’s which they are referring to. Matuska packed it in around 1938 while these letters date to the early 1940s. Other letters dating to 1938 make clear reference to the Alberta Potteries, but the 1940 ones do not mention any specific company

One of these 1940 letters provides some information about P.I.E.’s products.

“We wired today in answer to your telegram asking for the stock of Redcliff artware. The list which we are including here, is what we have on hand, with no deductions made for orders. Melville also mentioned these goods and may be going to send in orders for some of them.

We have:

61 Rose bulb bowls
547 5" jardinieres
388 6" do
310 7" do
150 Fancy do
317 Cactus pots
89 Wall plaques - Flowers
183 9" cake plates
38 Lamp bases
109 # 1 Rose vase
116 Tall Rose vase
46 # 0 (5") vase” 18

Quite a number of these products have not shown up in collections as yet: the bulb bowl, jardinieres, cactus pot, cake plate and lamp base. Vases on the other hand can be found, albeit not very many in any one collection. So far, twelve different styles or shapes of vases have been seen.

One of these vases, shows the relationship between Wyatt’s Alberta Potteries Limited, P.I.E. and Medalta. The story unfolded with the finding of a vase that was double stamped. The glazed Medalta stamp was placed over the impressed Alberta Potteries stamp which also gave the style number as No. 1. It definitely was not a Medalta style number as it was clearly part of the Alberta Potteries stamping. The same shaped vase is also found with P.I.E.’s identifying stamp (although I have not yet seen any with No. 1 on it; and, of course, you find this vase with a Medalta stamping. It is quite clear that this item was made by all three companies occupying the factory at Redcliff; and, if this vase, I would presume that others were made by all three as well.

Returning to the letter quoted above, the item listed as a wall plaque is probably a wall vase, as P.I.E. did make an attractive wall vase with an embossed floral pattern on it. The other item listed here that is intriguing is the cake plate. Medalta also had a cake plate, and I would sure like to see P.I.E.’s to see how they compare. Did Medalta copy theirs or was it the other way around? Who knows? Perhaps when one shows up, we will find that they were quite different in design.

As to what other products were made under the P.I.E. name, we only know a few of them at present. They made a sugar bowl and cream pitcher set which has a corrugated pattern on the bottom third of the pieces, and they probably also made a mixing bowl. I was advised that they made plates, but unfortunately, time was never found to follow up the lead. As expected for service wares, these three products were finished with a glazed decoration. Some were a Dutch windmill design, others a sailboat scene. The vases, on the other hand, were all finished in coloured lacquers and usually decorated with flowers that were either embossed or hand-painted on the side of the vessel.

Only time will tell if this company was mainly into vases and jardinieres (artwares in other words), or if its product line was more diversified. At present, one is left with the impression that it was artwares as Medalta took over at least nine of P.I.E.’s vase moulds.

Just why this company was so short-lived may be lost forever. If its records have survived, we do not know who has them, and I have not had any luck finding someone who worked at the plant to tell me the story. Perhaps it was funding, cost of materials, the start of the war, or the lack of experienced staff that caused them to close. Maybe it was simply that the market was not large enough to support the three potteries in the area. Whatever the reason, there is no doubt in my mind that this small factory could not effectively compete with the two larger ones in Medicine Hat. Its product line was not different enough from Medalta’s or Medicine Hat Potteries’ to fill a niche in the market. So after being open for less than a year, they closed. But, once again, the plant was not to remain empty for long; J. Harlan Yuill would open it within a year or two.

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