We loved a tiny antique store just off Higgins Avenue in Missoula, Montana and bought a few things there during our salad days. I found a 1920s bathing costume for Mark, which he still wears today. It was then that we started collecting restaurant ware. We are very fond of the first thing we found — a set of cups and saucers from the 1940s, white with an intricate burgundy pattern near the rim. Since then, we acquired our plates, white with burgundy edges, and a couple of mugs. We were hooked on restaurant ware.
I really can’t explain why I find the restaurant coffee cup so compelling; perhaps Prof. Steve Aimone’s explanation is the best one. It is an American art form that harkens back to a simpler era; it is a craft to which one relates in a very intimate manner. Moreover, the coffee cup’s sturdiness is somehow reflective of the comforting nature of what it contains. — MoVRCC
As I used our dishes, I came to wonder how they could be so durable, but I guess they had to be, didn’t they? Cookie slamming plates filled with hash and eggs on the counter; Wanda buzzing around with plates and cuppas for Fred or Stanley… Then, there’s Larry, the dishwasher, slapping plates from the busboy’s tub onto stainless steel counters. It made more sense when I read an eHow article which explained that restaurant ware was made from “high-fired porcelain…similar to bathroom lavatories and commodes.” I guess it does feel like my bathroom sink…smooth, dense, and strong… In the same article, How to Collect Western Restaurant Ware, Linda Richard, lists the biggest producers in their heyday: Syracuse, TEPCO, Homer Laughlin, Buffalo, Wallace, and Jackson, along with “Mayer, McNicol, Sterling, Walker, Scammell and Shenango.” A couple of Richard’s sources are quite fun to look at and they could easily incite buyer mania: The Restaurant Ware Collector’s Network, EraPhernalia’s Restaurant Ware, and Potteries of California’s Wallace China. When I saw EraPhernalia’s site, my heart went pitty pat. Such a gorgeous collection! Hands down, I like the oldies the best…from the 30s and 40s. Some from the 50s… For a short primer, Restaurant ware — a retro classic to collect is a nice read. In addition, Amazon sells Jo Cunningham‘s 5-star book about Homer Laughlin china. Which reminds me…about a year ago, I had a yen for modern dishes. Wish fulfilled, I received some for a gift and thought, yes, it’s time for a change. But guess what? They are too wide for our cupboards! Our house is 100 years old, our cupboards half that, still old by today’s standards. (Built to last…before particle board.) And plates were smaller then. I’ve since decided it’s best to stick with what we have and what we know… Another charming site is The Bees Knees!