Advertisement
 
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

My, How Dishes Have Changed

Collectibles

December 11, 1999|RALPH KOVEL and TERRY KOVEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Table manners, just like clothes, have become less formal and less complicated in the past 50 years. A set of dishes today will have about six pieces for a place setting, and a set of tableware (often made of stainless steel, which doesn't need to be cleaned like silver) will have six or seven pieces to a place setting.

The Victorian dinner table seemed to be filled with hundreds of styles of silverware and dishes. Etiquette demanded the correct utensils for each type of food. A set of silver could have more than 100 pieces. There could be a special fork for oysters, salad, dinner, lunch, dessert, cake, pie and cold meat, and all sorts of serving forks.

Even dishes had special uses. How many people today use a ramekin (a small, straight-sided dish used for custards), a cream soup dish (shaped like a small bowl with two handles), a teacup, coffee cup, demitasse cup, after-dinner cup and many other dishes? Collectors can rarely identify a mush-and-milk set, herring dish, asparagus bowl, berry set or even a shredded-wheat dish. Each was made in a special shape but with the same pattern. Modern examples are not even made.

*

Question: At a local antiques mall, I found an oak side chair with a back carved to look like a man's face. A friend called it a Northwind chair.

*

Answer: Chairs like the one you describe date from about 1890 to 1920, when oak was often used for furniture. The backs of the chairs were carved with "grotesque" fantasy faces, either animal or human, surrounded by flowers, fruits or leaves. The carved wooden back and flat seat made an uncomfortable chair. The chairs are sometimes called "vanity" chairs because each one is uniquely carved. They were originally designed as "show" pieces for a front hall.

*

Q My husband inherited a large collection of Fostoria dishes from his grandmother. She collected the clear glass dishes, including plates, bowls, serving pieces, and cups and saucers, about 100 years ago. The pattern name, according to her records, is Cascade. What are they worth?

*

A Cascade (also called Fostoria 112) was one of the early pressed glass patterns made by the Fostoria Glass Co., founded in Fostoria, Ohio, in 1888. The company moved to Moundsville, W.Va., in 1891. The company reissued the same pattern several times using different names, including Queen Anne and Colony. When pricing dishes, dealers and collectors don't distinguish among the look-alike dishes. Plates sell for $6 to $20 each; bowls, for $10 to $50; serving pieces, for up to $100 or more. A large set of the dishes would add up to a valuable collection.

*

Q When was Formica first used for counter tops? I'm thinking of replacing my kitchen with a '50s-looking kitchen.

*

A Formica was invented in 1913. It was used as a replacement for mica in electronic insulation. Soon, large sheets of Formica were made, and the idea of using it for counter tops and wall paneling came about in the 1940s. The most famous pattern was originally known as Atomic but is now being reproduced as Boom-a-rang.

*

Q My father left me a box of full-color newspaper comic strips that he had collected when he was young. Most of them are from the 1930s. I have been able to look up most of the strip titles. Some of the comics are just ads for household products, like Lux liquid soap, Gillette razors and Shredded Ralston cereal. When did companies start using comic strips in their advertising?

*

A The American newspaper comic strip originated in the 1890s. Comic strip characters were used to sell products at that time, but it was not until the Depression that special ads drawn like comic strips were introduced.

In May 1931, General Foods pioneered with a Grape-Nuts cereal ad in the Hearst newspaper chain's Comic Weekly. The ad looked like a comic strip but had no known comic strip character. When the sale of Grape-Nuts climbed, other advertisers began using the same type of ads.

*

Q My mother used to make a lot of her own clothes. One of her homemade dresses was made from fabric decorated with tiny Mr. Peanuts. She must have made it in the 1940s. I thought clothing with advertising logos was a more recent development.

*

A Product-logo fabrics were introduced by advertisers in the spring of 1940. Fourteen different corporate logos were printed on fabrics that year. The fabric logos included Mr. Peanut, Bell Telephone's bell, Greyhound's greyhound, Pontiac's Indian head, Coty's powder puff, Uneeda's cracker and Maxwell House's coffee cup. Women used the fabric to make scarves, turbans, dresses, blouses and bags. A company called Princess Fabrics made the material.

For a listing of helpful books and publications, include a self-addressed, stamped (55 cents) envelope to the Kovels, Los Angeles Times, King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017.

Current Prices

Current prices are recorded from antique shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|