Ernest Batchelder was born in Nashua, New Hampshire. He was educated at the Massachusetts Normal Art School (grad. 1899). He was influenced by the design theory of the Harvard Professor Denman W. Ross, whose ideas form the basis of Batchelder's two books, The Prinlciples of Design (1904) and Design in Threory and Practice (1910)

From 1902 to 1909, Batchelder was Director of Art at the Throop Polytechnic Institute. His summers were spent teaching at the Handicraft Guild Summer Schools in Minneapolis. He taught design theory and manual arts training in both places. In 1905 he travelled in England visiting centers of the Arts and Crafts Movement. In 1909 he set up a kiln in the studio at the rear of his property at 626 Arroyo Drive in Pasadena. Success, and complaints of too much smoke forced him to move to larger quarters "down among the gas tanks" on what is now Arrovo Parkway. More success prompted a further move to a factory on Artesian Street in Los Angeles in 1916. His firm failed during the Great Depression. Eventually, Batchelder rented a small shop on Kinneloa Street in Pasadena and turned out extremely fragile slip cast wares, very different from his earlier work.

In the early years Batchelder designed most of his tiles himself. They were hand molded and fired in a kiln which "permitted us to fire nearly forty six-inch tiles at one fell swoop." Under expanded production the hand-crafting of tiles continued. They were "sun dried in a yard at the rear of the shed where cats and chickens frequently walked over them I offering a pleasing variation of texture.' " Even when he moved to the Los Angeles factory, where conveyor belts took the sand pressed tiles into the vast kilns, Batchelder's motto was "no two tiles the same." At first he worked almost entirely in brown, with blue glaze rubbed into the indentations in vines, flowers, viking ships, peacocks and other animals which Batchelder loved to draw. One critic also noted Batchelder's delight in the California live oak and said, "Perhaps the most noticeable effect of locality is seen in the landscape tiles which speak so charmingly of California."

-quoted from "California Design 1910"

Batchelder architectural tiles met with great success, and the company moved twice, expanding each time. Its tiles appear on the walls and floors of many New York City apartment house lobbies, and can be found in shops, restaurants, swimming pools and hotels throughout the United States. One of Batchelder's last and largest projects was the Hershey Hotel in Hershey, Pennsylvania, built by the famous chocolate manufacturer in 1930, in order to give jobs to many local residents who would otherwise have been unemployed during the Depression. Batchelder tiles were used on the walls, floors and stair risers of a dazzling fountain room, complete with central pool and a mezzanine level. Unfortunately, Batchelder's company, which had employed 150 men at its peak, was itself forced out business by the Depression in 1932, although Batchelder continued to make pottery in a small shop in Pasadena until the early 1950s. In addition to the Batchelder Tile Company, there were numerous other California tile manufacturers. The abundant local clays, inexpensive fuel and power and cheap labour were all factors that contributed to an active tile industry, while the rapidly growing population led to a continual demand for new buildings. Moreover, the most popular local architectural styles, such as Spanish, Mediterranean and Colonial Revival, use large amounts of tile.

quoted from "Tiles: 1000 years of Architectural Decoration"

Photos of some Batchelder Fireplaces