Harikan Tile

Harikan Art Products

Harikan Tiles, doing business as Tile Products, Inc, was featured in the November 2010 Matawan Historical Society newsletter. Note: it was also referred to as “Harikahn”; however, the single advertisement for the company located in a 1936 Matawan Journal advertisement lists it with the former spelling.  The following excerpt is from the newsletter:

Decorative Tile – At our September meeting the Society purchased a “Tea Tile” from the estate of Alvia Martin and is marked “Artist J. Lebetz”. The tile originated from the Tile Products Co./Art Tiles by “HariKahn”. “Between 1928 and 1941, Harry Kahn, a ceramic engineer, and his wife Hannah, who acted as designer for the firm, operated a small custom-tile shop on lower Main Street in Matawan not far from the Matawan Tile Co. Clay novelties, ashtrays, hotplates and cloisonné trim strips were marketed as ‘Art Tiles by HarriKahn’. Identification of some of these products is difficult because the Kahns did not make the tiles but purchased stock tiles from other companies to decorate. As these tiles were already embossed with the manufacturer’s name, attribution of these items is primarily based on design, glaze, and artists memory.” (Excerpt from Exhibit Program Tiles Tales of Bayshore, at the Steamboat Dock Museum.)

The Society has two other such tiles in its collection. One was donated by Bob Randolph because it was inscribed “To Friedel Graff/ from Kate Eskenen, Westfield, N.J. with Love 1950”. The other tile is from Sarah Ellison who colorized the tile when she worked for Harry Kahn.

The Kate Eskesen referred to is Kate Madeleine Eskesen Bowerman (1918-2002), the daughter of Thoge Eskesen, a principal of the Matawan Tile Company. Sarah Ellison was a former President of the Matawan Historical Society.

Harry Kahn, whose family biography may be viewed here, was the vice president of Progressive Art Tile, a subsidiary of Matawan Tile Company. Harikan was a private venture the Kahn family operated outside the auspices of the two larger firms. Harry’s wife Hannah was the designer of the art tiles. An in-depth study of the business and the Kahn family is set forth in Helen Henderson’s submission to Tile Heritage magazine, which appeared in the publications Volume III, No. 2. (Click here to view: harikahn tile) Henderson is the leading chronicler and historian of Matawan and is an acknowledged subject matter expert on New Jersey tile and stoneware.

The tile used by Harikan was stock commercial tile and was usually unsigned by the artists. Harry’s granddaughter MJ Kahn has pieces made by the company whose provenance is solid. She advised me that her samples are stamped “Architectural” on the back. The single piece in my possession, which was represented for sale as “Matawan Tile” at auction, also bears this marking. The tile displayed here bears the initials of Hannah Morris Kahn.

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Barry Orr


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