Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Restaurantware, I Love You

I was so excited to find these "mystery plates" during the Historic Highway 40 Yard Sales last weekend!

I could tell by the weight, feel and design that they were vintage hotelware or restaurantware china. I didn't recognize the logo, though:

I glanced at the price....25 cents per plate.....but ended up putting then down and walking away. Random sets of plates don't sell that well in my shop, so I'd made a vow not to succumb to their charms unless they were sure-fire sellers (jadeite, Fiesta, Blue Willow, etc.).

I browsed the sale for a bit, but couldn't take my mind off the plates. At the last possible second, I wandered back over and gave them a second glance. They were in perfect condition, appearing unused; I loved the bright aqua border, the cool logo, and the peaked shape around the rim; they'd look awesome with my everyday Fiestaware if they didn't sell; and they were only a DOLLAR for the set!  Clearly the only choice was to buy them, right?

Sunday night, while vegging on the sofa recovering from my weekend of mega yard-saling, I decided to research the plates. I know that vintage commercial china can be super difficult to identify unless the logo clearly includes the business name, but I decided to give it a try. There was always a chance that the logo was for an obscure club, school, or company and not a restaurant or hotel, but I gave it a shot anyway.

I knew the plates were Syracuse by the stamp on the back, and I was able to pinpoint the era of production (late 60s) via this fantastic site.

The logo, however, eluded me. I couldn't think of a well-known hotel or restaurant chain from that era with the initials "MW," and I had absolutely no other clues to go on. What does a determined soul do in such a case? Turn to the most basic, random Google search, of course!  I searched for "vintage MW logo," and came up with this!

On Flickr, someone with the account name "jonrev" had posted an old, unattributed photo of the Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, IL from 1965. And do you see it? On the right? It's the logo! Right above a sign for....that's right.....MONTGOMERY WARD!

As soon as I figured it out, it seemed so obvious. Montgomery Ward department stores had cafeterias and lunch counters. I actually ate at one as a kid (yes, I know that dates me). And yet, I'm pretty sure I would never have come up with that on my own if not for jonrev's photo!

I don't know why, but I'm even more excited about the plates now that I know where they came from. I'm such a history geek; knowing the provenance of something (even if it's super humble, like in this case) is important to me. I still can't decide whether to list the plates in my shop, or keep them -- such is my weird attachment to them.

Vintage hotelware and restaurantware is such a cool snapshot of Americana, in my opinion. I have another set of three Hotel Belvedere (NYC) plates in my shop right now:

They're older and definitely not in mint condition like the MW plates, but I still think they're as charming as can be. If they don't sell, I may have to keep both sets and start a collection. (Just what I need...another collection! ;)


Linking today with:
 Vintage Thingie Thursday at ColoradoLady!
Treasure Hunt Thursday at From My Front Porch to Yours


  1. Love those plates and mint! Someone will want them! I remember the Mont Wards cafe when I was a kid in the 70s-early 80s. And by that time it was one of those places where only senior citizens dined. Plus I didn't know Blue Willow sells I see it all the time!

    1. Yes...the elderly always dined there! So funny that you remember it too. I think Blue Willow is staging yet another comeback. ;)

  2. Great detective work!! Love the plates :)

  3. It's fun to research, isn't it? The plates are fantastic and I know I would keep them! ;)

  4. You should never wait if you see something you like. At that price, you could not go wrong even if you gave them away. Turns out no one else knew enough about them to beat you to the purchase. Good deal.

  5. Love your dishes and I love a good mystery and solving it too! So much fun that they're Montgomery Ward - or Monkey Ward as my mom used to say. :)

    Happy VTT!

  6. I love this story and your determination to find out more about them. What a treasure! I remember eating in one of their restaurants every Saturday before I hit the flea market....back in the mid 70s. Thanks so much for sharing.

  7. They are cute and those types of dishes were made to last because they had to be used so many times. Great find.

  8. What a wonderful story...........and excellent detective work. Made me smile because I would have done exactly the same thing. It's not bad to be a history geek!! it???

    I use restaurant china (and their British cousins Utility china/ware and Hotel China) for everyday use. We have rather a mixed set! The Montgomery Ward plates are wonderful

  9. Love the MW dishes and so glad you grabbed them up even BEFORE you realized what you had!

  10. Love this is finds like this make flea markets so exciting.
    Good deal...and "detective work" I use a restaurantware mug every morning...white with the markings: "H&H"...from the old Horn & Hardart automats the History!

  11. These are fantastic!!! I love these and how great you were able to identify them!!

  12. Yep, we all need another collection...:) Great find and detective work.


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