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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bolero Therm-o-Ware , Reinecke, Cornish, Sun Frost and the Monopoly on Thermal Plastics

Bolero Thermo Bowls from RetroChalet.

I just love these old Bolero thermal bowls. The set above, just sold, and this is what they told me, "My grandparents had these when I was a child and I absolutely loved them. I did a random search of retro plastic bowls with feet and found your set. I am so excited...oddly enough these bowls bring back such great memories of my grandparents and my grandmother's fresh from the garden cooking. I can't thank you enough!"
These available at Junk and Howe.

Ahhhhhh, the allure of old plastics!  So cute and space-agey for the 1950's (these fun colors) and 1960's (olive greens, golden yellow pieces) are still quite easy to find.  Therm-o-ware's "Double walled insulation" was supposed to keep your hot things hot and cold things cold.  I love the idea of the tripod feet so as not to sweat on your table this way. Accompaniments include small tumblers, tall tumblers, mugs, regular bowls,  insulated pitchers, and ice buckets--both small and large ones.  However, it all started with an industrial designer......
Courtesy: VintageBitsandPieces.
Mugs available at VintageBitsandPieces.

Bolero short ice bucket from VintageChics.


Reinecke Bowls look the same, by Proven Products, Evanstan Illinois. See them here.

The design of this tripod bowl is by Industrial Designer Jean Otis Reinecke. (male, read about him here.) The line carrying his last name was marked Proven Products Inc, Evanston, Illinois. I found them in a 1957 book stating they used extrusion plastic methods and made a lot of advertising and promotional plastics for companies. Proven Products quite possibly molded the bowls but  Reinecke and Associates indeed designed them. I found a reference as early as 1953, J.O. Reinecke was originally based in Chicago. He also developed the 3M tape dispenser in addition to a huge resume of work.

In a 1954 book  --> Society of Plastics Engineers  to which J.O. Reinecke also belonged, it the following was written about the thermal wares...."Conceived to meet the demand of the housewife for distinctly "high-styled" household objects, the thermo-bowls also meet the manufacturer's requirement for mass production at moderate cost."   

Reinecke Backstamp, courtesy of Doll Food

Instead of white insides like Bolero, the ones marked Reinecke had black bottoms with bright and vivid colors inside. These were indeed my favorite. The plastic was harder and more durable in my opinion than Bolero bowls.  I also saw the addition of a large serving bowl under the Reinecke line,  which I have never seemed to find in Bolero ware.  If it exists in Bolero, it's sure hard to find.  The large bowl is large enough to hold oranges, apples and fruits, obviously designed for the large salad!
Doll Food offers this great big Reinecke bowl for a bargain price!

So it is safe to assume both Bolero and Reinecke were indeed designed by Reinecke but selling at the same time under different names.  Then we have more deviations...take Cornish for example...

Marked Cornish Proven Products...above and below by Vintage Bits and Pieces.
Yet another style but same theory - thermal ware, and also marked Proven Products.  It is uncertain if Reinecke designed these, or if they were another deviation of the original thermoware line. I didn't like these as much, they had a more ribbed look, and the outsides were supposed to look "stoneware-ish" actually off white with flecks of grey.  You can tell this is the transition into the 1960's....the colors on the inside were lovely, but these designs just really didn't appeal to me.  I did find a set of mugs once, ironically their packaging was more lovely then the products. The mugs came in a clear plastic package of 8, and had a rope carrying strap. Over time the plastic used for the packaging had cracked, but it was something to see just how they would have sold way back when.


OldBoldReadyToBeSold has this Olympian Pitcher for sale.

Just like a never-ending tale such as the recreation every decade of Madonna we see the same in thermal ware --this too just kept reinventing itself. In the 1970's we had Olympian ware, in olive green, mustard yellow, and red oranges. I think I'm having flashbacks of my childhood. My mother loved these colors (yeeeccchhhh.)
Cups available at Holly's Vintage.

PROVEN PRODUCTS may have been a subsidiary of Federal Housewares of Chicago that produced a lot of kitchen plastics such as strainers and measuring cups.

Proven Products bowls by OldTymeStore, their ribbing reminds me of Cornish ware.

Little Jack Horner chip-dip trays, by Reinecke/Proven Products, at Perfect Pie Lady.
It's safe to assume that in some way Bolero, Cornish, Olympian and Sun Frost thermal ware can be tied to one in the the same company, quite possible some original designs by Reinecke and changed over time...but who really knows? We know and can see that Bolero tripod bowls are that of Reinecke (same mold and design) but the question remains why wasn't his name on the back of them for maximum publicity? If we get into marketing strategies however, we may realize that some "unmarked" Reinecke products may have been sold at smaller five and dime stores and secondary stores for a lesser price, having the Reinecke name would mean premium prices and essentially both similiar and one in the same. This way, one could conquer two markets for two prices, with the same product. As for Cornish and Olympia, wouldn't that be something if all four lines were indeed a huge monopoly on thermal ware!

'Vintage Therm-o-ware : Thermal Ware Decades of Plastics in Chicago Land' by RetroChalet

Bolero , Reinecke, Olympian , Sun Frost

Vintage Bolero Therm-O-Ware ...

Vintage REINECKE Thermo-O-Bo...

Vintage Mustard Colored Olym...

Bolero Therm O Ware 8 Tumble...

Vintage Sunfrost Therm O War...

10 vintage bolero thermo-war...

Vintage Reinecke Therm-o-Bow...

Pair of Olympian Therm-o-war...

Vintage Bolero Therm-o-Ware ...

Vintage Bolero Pink Plastic ...

Vintage Tumblers Bolero Ther...

SALE Marked 53% Off Vintage ...

Vintage Olympian Therm O War...

Vintage 1960 Yellow and Oran...

Vintage Insulated Pitchers ...

Set of 6 Vintage Bolero Tumb...

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  1. Wow, what a great informative article! Thanks so much for including my yellow Boleroware cups! Amy (glasspanic)

  2. It's great to know the history of these products. Thanks so much for a wonderful post. And thank you for including my Little Jack Horner chip/dip trays!

  3. This is an awesome article, thanks for including my Boleroware set!

  4. i have had the bolero tumblers in set of 8 colors green yellow purple blue orange peach teal pink

    i have the bowls also

    i lost 2 of them where can i find the ones i've lost ? any ideas

  5. I found a set of pitcher, bowl , asst cups and 2-bowls at a Garage Sale 50 cents.....Love them

  6. I have the cups except mine say Sun Frost instead of Bolero. I got them in 1958 on a special from my milkman (Dairyland Milk). Each cup was filled with cottage cheese and had a lid which was not permanent. I bought a cup of cottage cheese every week for 8 weeks and got the cups free. The cups saw lots of use over the years as I raised three kids. I still have the cups stuck back in a cabinet.

  7. Thanks for your site. I just found 2 sunfrost thermal coffee size mugs at my local Goodwill for less than a dollar a piece and I love them. They are just the type of cup I like to drink out of. I will definitely be looking for more. Thanks for helping me learn more about these mugs.

  8. Great info. Thanks! Does anyone know if these plastics, Therm-o-ware in particular, are "safe", as in BPA free?

  9. This is amazing to see this article and so many people commenting on how much they enjoy these designs 60 years after they were released. Jean Otis Reinecke is my great grandfather, I always knew that he was a successful industrial designer but I never took an interest in looking into his work until now. Unfortunately I have nothing to add to this article, as you know far more than me. Thank you for the information, it's cool to get to see some of his work with some background history. My grandmother, his daughter, lives right down the street from me. I can ask her to come on the page and share more information if anyone would be interested. Thanks again for this informational article!

  10. does anyone know if Bolero ware made plates? dont see anything llike that!!!

  11. Thank you for sharing all this great information. I have a set of Bolero tumblers that I inherited from my mom. They were a part of my childhood and I still use them everyday. I love the bowls with the feet! I wish someone would bring back this line. :)