Charles Gladding (1828–1894) was born in Buffalo, New York, served as a first lieutenant in the Union Army during the Civil War, and later moved to Chicago, where he engaged in the clay sewer pipe business. Coming to California in 1874 looking for new business opportunities, Charles read an article in a San Francisco newspaper about a large clay deposit near the town of Lincoln, California. Charles Gladding, along with Peter McGill McBean and George Chambers, established Gladding-McBean in 1875. Its original product was clay sewer pipe. By 1883, the company had grown to 75 employees, and it then evolved into a major manufacturer of architectural terra-cotta.
Today Gladding McBean is thriving, with proven clay reserves assuring operations for decades to come. Gladding has combined the old world craftsmanship with new technology such as laser scanning and sophisticated computer-aided design to provide customers with infinite creative possibilities.