Sunday, February 27, 2011

Texas Ware - Melamine Dishes from the 50's

One thing I really enjoy about having a booth at an antiques mall is that I am learning about vintage items I might not ordinarily get for myself.  A couple of days ago, my friend Susan gave me some Texas Ware melamine (aka Melmac) dishes that had belonged to her mother.  I have seen similar dishes, but didn't really know much about them.

The set had some basic pieces - dinner plates, cups and saucers, bread and butter plates.  There were also several different serving dishes and a large 14 inch platter.

I am not planning to keep them, but I found myself really enjoying learning about them and I hope that whoever gets them has as much fun with them as I have.

The dishes had been briefly used by her daughter, Katie.  When Katie was finished with them, she carefully wrapped each dish in newspaper.  I have come to despise anything wrapped in newspaper and after yesterday, I am even more firmly against it.

Newspaper residue can be cleaned off fairly easily from glass and ceramic and china.  But melamine?  Oh, my.  I spent hours gently cleaning each dish with dish detergent and a tiny bit of baking soda, being careful not to add scratches or damage the pattern on the white dishes. I also used a very soft old green scrubby pad on the toughest spots.  Even though it sounds like drudgery, I actually enjoyed this task.  I felt like a retro period archeologist.  As each dish was cleaned up, I knew I was giving it a new lease on life and it would go on to be loved and appreciated by someone new.

Newspaper ink is very, very messy.  It occurred to me that there was no need to have wrapped plastic dishes anyway.  They aren't apt to break!  I guess, it's just ingrained in us that when packing dishes, they must be wrapped. I must say, the dishes were really nice once cleaned up!

Most of the dishes were a fun shade of pink and would look great in a retro kitchen. Some of the dishes were white with pink and blue flowers. It was very popular to use several coordinating colors and/or patterns together.  I tried to find out what this pattern was called.  I saw zillions of other patterns, but not this particular one.

Melamine was introduced in the 1930's, but didn't become popular with the public until after WWII.  Texas Ware was one of a number of brands.  It was founded in 1946 and was the largest producer from 1957 through 1996. Some collectors feel that the best examples are from the 50's and before - the melanine heyday.

Texas Ware dishes are all tapered and designed to be stackable. That was promoted in their marketing.  They are also practically unbreakable.  The were inexpensive - a three bowl set went for less than two dollars in the 1950's.  They were around 5 dollars in the 1980's.  Even now, these pieces are very inexpensive to collect.  I won't get much for them in my booth.  Who cares.  I have had fun playing with them. 

On the downside, they should not be put in the dishwasher.  They would be damaged if put in the microwave or oven. Acidic foods can cause damage.

The stamp on the back of each piece gives you a clue about when it might have been made and more. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get a lot of information about that.  I'm planning to ask Nicole, Rockin' B's queen of retro, if she has any info.

There were a good many different stamps in this set. Of note is the piece on the top left below.  It uses the term MELMAC. If you were a plastics molder, you would have to buy Melmac molding powders from Cyanamid or else you could not use the word Melmac.

The number indicates the size.  There are letters inside a circle towards the bottom.  What do those mean? I'm still trying to find out more about these backstamps.

I read that the oldest dishes have the following information in the stamp: Plastic Manufacturing Co., TEXAS-WARE, Dallas, Texas, USATexas Ware was on every piece.  PMC was on every piece, but none wrote out Plastic Manufacturing CO.  I didn't see Dallas, Texas, USA on any of the dishes.

This is an example of an older stamp -

I found a number of old ads -

Want to know more?

Moxie has an amazing collection of Texas Ware bowls in the splatter pattern.  Some people who collect Texas Ware only look for the splatter patterns (also called confetti or speckle-ware). These bowls were made with leftover bits and now they are the most popular of all.  Rachel Ray collects the old ones and sells new lookalikes.

Flickr has a whole section devoted to photos of Vintage MelMac and LustroWare.

Retro Chalet - MelMac Central has loads of info on melamine dishes.

Want to buy some?
Texasware on Etsy
Texasware on Ebay

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