Thursday, October 28, 2010

Vintage Restaurant Ware

photo from Julius Schorzman

Talk about unintended consequences! (this time, in a good way!)

In 1901, Larkin Soap Company established a second business, the Buffalo Pottery Company, in order to sell more soap. Purchasing their soap provided customers with certificates with which to purchase dishware. Buffalo went on to create commercial restaurant ware for diners, railroad companies, hotels and military.

It is somewhat ironic that no one hears of Larkin soap these days, but Buffalo china has become a beloved piece of Americana. Its simple, pure, clean lines are not only beautiful (and practically indestructible!) , but make us nostalgic for a time when "fast food" meant something very different than it does now.

Today, Buffalo China is a subdivision of Oneida and continues to make commercial dishware for eateries everywhere. But the vintage pieces are sought after by collectors and some bring quite a high price. Other pieces can be purchased for modest amounts.

Following are some Buffalo pieces I found for sale on the internet. I have included links to the websites in case you would like more information on any. Please note, I am not familiar with the vendors so if you should pursue one of these pieces, please do your research as you normally would.

I am especially partial to the little pitchers, used for cream, milk or syrup.


circa 1930s, bonanza.com







red and white pattern ebay.com


Especially this little "blue willow" design:



I also love cups and saucers. This lune blue pattern is lovely:



Imagine all the coffee that has been served in this cup:
Niagara Pattern ebay.com


And bacon, eggs and hash browns on these plates:

How about some hearty chili from these bowls:
maroon-sprayed soup bowls ebay.com




And blue-plate specials! Meatloaf, baked chicken or turkey with mashed potatoes and a veggie, the special was a good, square meal for not much money. Typically, the special changed daily and "no substitutions" was strictly enforced.

According to the Random House Webster's Dictionary, the blue plate was "a plate often decorated with a blue willow pattern, divided by ridges into sections for holding apart several kinds of food." This special dish ware saved on dishwashing because the whole meal was brought on one plate, rather than many smaller ones. Therefore, the blue-plate specials were less expensive than those plates on the regular menu.

The dinnerware came in many different designs and often showcased the name or logo of a railroad, a hotel or even the military.

Don't you love "Chessie"? She was the symbol for the Chesapeake and Ohio railway, whose motto was "sleep like a kitten." As you might imagine, these pieces go for a pretty penny now.
As a side note, Chessie was instrumental in the war effort. "Peake" is off to war and Chessie is his pin-up girl:


I think, though, my favorite Buffalo China is white.







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