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The History of Ceramic Tile

The History of Ceramic Tile

Did you know February 23 is the National Tile Day? The day has been created by Coverings, North America's largest international tile and stone show, to shine a spotlight on the benefits of tile in residential and commercial design. From the modest to the extravagant, tile is one of the most versatile, attractive, and durable surfaces available and has been used around the world for centuries.

A Brief History of Ceramic Tile:

Ceramic tile has been used in buildings around the world since the ninth century BC. For thousands of years tile was only used to adorn important public buildings and for homes of the wealthy. Many of the tile styles used by ancient civilizations, including the Romans, Greeks and Egyptians, are still used today. These include mosaics, low-base relief tile and murals.

Historically, ceramic tile's widespread use may be attributed to the fact that clay, a readily-available natural material, could be converted into tile by a relatively simple manufacturing process of baking or firing. These tile were very durable, long-lasting and attractive, the perfect combination for ancient and modern users! In addition to ceramic, tile was also created using stone, marble, and glass.

Ceramic floor mosaics exhibited a versatility of colored glazes and decoration, and they ranged from the most basic designs to highly elaborate patterned tile floors. Their modularity, as standardized units, made them easy to fit into different sized spaces, which also explains why they have been popular throughout history and today.

historic mosaics

By the turn of the 18th century, wealthy colonial Americans were importing very expensive tile to install in their homes, and they particularly embraced the trend of tiling fireplaces. As the Industrial Revolution emerged, tile became more affordable and the designs and features began to expand with the technology.By the early 1900s, subway tile was introduced and foyers, bathrooms and kitchens were being tiled in middle-class homes. Subway tile became a dominant tile style because it embodied the Victorian idea of tile as a sanitary and hygienic product. Custom mosaics also weren't exclusive to important buildings and churches anymore. Public spaces, such as the Times Square Subway station in New York City, incorporated beautiful mosaic tile murals for their riders to enjoy.

Much of the ceramic tile produced in the U.S. around the turn of the 20th century came from the American Encaustic Tiling Co. (AETCO), which was based in New York and Zanesville, Ohio. AETCO used catalogs to get samples of its products into designers’ and builders' hands. The catalog featured ceramic tiles mounted on paper to illustrate the range of patterns, sizes, shapes, and colors available as well as different lettering and numbering options. We often reference these catalogs to reproduce historically authentic tile designs for our customers.

A Heritage of Tile:

Our passion for the history of tile extends beyond just blogging. All our tile collections are steeped in the history and heritage of a specific style of tile. From the 1920s-inspired Subway Ceramics and Subway Mosaics to the Arts & Crafts style of Batchelder Tile and Japanese Tile crafted in 16th Century kilns, we have something for every aesthetic.

At Heritage Tile we also celebrate our unique American tile heritage every Wednesday by posting an original mosaic tile installation that we've found all over the world. Follow us on Instagram for our latest "Tile in the Wild" posts or check the hashtag #TileInTheWildWednesday

On National Tile Day, take time to appreciate the quality and craftsmanship of the tilework around you. Share an image of why you choose tile with #Heritagetile on Instagram. Celebrate good tile...come on!

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