In honor of Labor Day in the USA, our focus today is on dinnerware items made in the USA!
Buying vintage restaurant quality dinnerware is a great way to start collecting & using vintage in your home, and most of the items you'll find will be made in the USA. In addition to adding a bit of retro kitsch and style, restaurant ware is built to last - most of it is heavy ironstone, so it's easy to find great old pieces with no chips or cracks. It is practically indestructible! Restaurant ware is great for everyday use, including your Labor Day cookout!
There were a lot of manufacturers of restaurant ware in the USA. Some names you'll commonly see are: Syracuse, Jackson, Shenango, Homer Laughlin, Buffalo, and Maddock.
The mid-century dinnerware from the era of diners and soda fountains has great retro designs in fabulous colors! A lot of the restaurant ware of the 1950s & 1960s has a great "atomic age" feel to it, with lots of funky "space age" designs in shades of pink, aqua, and blue. Although you will often find wear on items from this era (scratches from the silverware or minor paint loss), normally they will still be usable and the wear adds a bit of charm to many pieces.
Below are some great example of mid-century made in the USA restaurant ware produced by Jackson China. Jackson China of Falls Creek, PA opened in 1917, and continued to produce and sell items to restaurants until 1985. The plate below has a great pink "starburst" design, and appears to have been produced in 1968. I have many pieces of this dinner plate, and they are in very good condition with no chips or cracks and minimal wear. The set of 4 coupe style cereal bowls were produced in 1979, and features a great green & aqua design. They are also free of chips & cracks, and have minimal wear.
The items below were produced by Stetson China. Although they didn't produce china directly for the restaurant market, the product has the same heavy, resilient feel as restaurant ware, so I have it listed as such on the site. Joseph W. Stetson bought the Illinois China Company of Lincoln, Illinois, in 1946 and founded Stetson China Co. During the early years the company decorated and sold dinnerware made on Mount Clemens Pottery blanks. They made hundreds of different patterns. Stetson China Co. was out of business by 1966. The platters below most likely date from the 1960s. They both have minimal wear, and no chips or cracks.
One of my favorite items to find at estate sales, auctions, and thrift stores is German/Bavarian porcelain from the 1900s - 1960s.
There were a large number of porcelain factories in Germany, and German porcelain was known to be of high quality and design. Many factories produced blank plates, vases, cups, etc. which were shipped to studios to be painted by various artists. Because of this, it is uncommon to find duplicates of designs - even if they were painted by the same artist, there are often subtle differences.
Common themes on German/Bavarian porcelain are florals & fruits, often with gilding on rims, handles, etc. During the 1920s - 1930s, the artists branched out into Art Deco designs. Porcelain items during this period will often have a delicate floral design inside a larger art deco design (often in gold), although it is not uncommon to find items which have the deco style without the floral designs.
The plates below is a great example of the variety of art that can be found in 1900 - 1930s German/Bavarian design. The plate on the left is a classic floral design marked KPM Germany and would date from 1905 - 1920. The piece on the right is marked KPM Bavaria and is signed by the artist with a date of 1916. Both plates are in great condition, with minimal wear and no cracks or chips.
The plate below is a great example of a later piece of German/Bavarian porcelain. It is marked Alka Kunst Bavaria and dates to 1955 - 1960. The deco style was still being used during this period by many of the German artists. This plate is also in very good condition with no chips or cracks and minimal wear to the design.