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