|Photo Courtesy of Donna Gruverman|
|The Commercial Building circa 2000 in my travels.|
Home Decorators was a division of the C.H. Stuart owned "Commercial Enterprises" entity. Their main office was located on East Union Street in Newark. To understand this huge conglomerate, you would have to understand that it was set up as a large "distributor" that had many smaller divisions and even sub-companies whose products included everything from spices, silver, household cleaning agents, jewelry and dinnerware. Perhaps one of the more noted items distribution was their Sarah Coventry jewelry, subject of many books.
|The Commercial Building Way back When.|
|This "good credit" card was given out in 1944, and allowed this happy housewife to recommend her friends as clients of Home Decorators, Inc. More referrals = more sales.|
Customers were also treated well. As shown in the "paper card" above, this company first worked on paper credit, giving the housewife the official paper good standing card signed by the Home Decorators treasurer when payments were satisfied. This "card" also meant you had clout, and could refer a friend to get called upon by a HD salesman! Offering big discounts and add on bonuses with the purchase of complete sets, customers would rarely just buy a single place setting. Piecing out a set often cost more than buying a complete starter set , since the starter set would "ironically" be on sale, or come with "free bonuses." From a marketing perspective, this company was amazing, and grew very fast.
Daileyware Melamine, maybe not a Wright design, but still modern and lovely.
Mr. Buck went on to explain that within the division of Home Decorators there were two divisions in itself, the Silverplate and the Sterling. I suppose one was targeted to "upper crust" and one was targeted to "middle class" making items affordable to all types of household income. Another smart marketing move by the Company I might add. Besides the Russel Wright Melmac line (which was in the Sterling division), they also had a melamine line called Daileyware (in the Silverplate division.) The speckled finish strongly resembled some of Wright's existing colors of Residential and was assuredly molded at Northern as well. (Soon you can visit the Daileyware Section). Mr. Buck believes it was named after Leonard Dailey, one of the top salesman, and friends of Mr. Buck's Father. So we must assume it was the "lower end" version in comparison to Russel Wright.
|Four million dollars in door to door sales!|
What is clear from Syracuse is that Wright and Stuart had a great working relationship--with Wright offering in the late 50's to design more for them. Commercial Enterprises however, was having trouble. In 1958 the dinnerware division was laying off people, a year later they would try to reorganize. By 1961, it would close it's doors. This 'division' then being merged into the parent company. The parent company would officially cease operations in 1980. According to Mr. Buck, credit cards were to blame.
About the Patterns: There were three patterns: Flowertime, Gaytime, and Ranchland. All were only patterned on the saucers, bread plates, salad plates, dinner plates, and serving trays. Other pieces were solid colors so as not to "overwhelm" the meal. The pattern differs slightly from piece to piece, and I was amazed at the hundreds upon hundreds of sketches that exist in Syracuse. Rarity: All of these are still common, with the exceptions of tall tumblers, covered sugars, covered casseroles, lids to onion soup bowls, and salad plates becoming more rare and hard to find.
|Designs vary from plate to plate! |
Dinner. (above) Salad (below)
|The clock, an after market piece.|
(*Ironically, these same two colors also mix and match with the Ranchland patterns.) I have found rare pieces where the pattern is on blue and on yellow plates, and although rare, the pattern is hard to see and certainly less attractive. I also have a very rare covered onion soup bowl with pattern on the lid, no doubt testing to see what it looked like. Solid white pieces also exist, and are extremely rare and hard to find--ie: coffee cups no doubt discontinued due to early on staining.
|Call it potato, or po-tot-o its still white.|
I want to add this pattern is my favorite, and I think it stems from my viewing all of the trial designs of this in Syracuse. There were hundreds of sketches by eager Associates trying to gain Wright's approval for a finalized design. His vision was unique and many were rejected with his hand scribbled notes written "Close" or "Better", undoubtedly until the design was perfect.
|Gaytime is my favorite.|
During time of this creation, Wright was a widower and had relocated to his dream home, Manitoga, with his male partner. Some of his later and best creations ensued here. I would like to think the "bow knots" represented not only good design, but the unity of himself and his partner, perhaps finally free to express their intertwined devotion, hence the name.
Ranchland, the last pattern, was a leafy pattern on blue or yellow background, often called "leaves". Solids are interchangeable with Gaytime, above.
|Photo Credit: Donna Gruverman. In a good market, expect to pay $20+ for tall tumblers.|
|Got these from Carmen and Pierre way back when.|
|From my collection.|
Special Thanks to these folks below:
To Chris & the folks at the Acadia Historical Society, for which I'm proudly a lifetime member!
To Mr. Bill Buck for all the information!
To Mr. Zorn for putting me in the paper!
|Chris, John, and the Fox Sisters, and other folks at the Acadia Historical Society!|
RELATED READING ON HOME DECORATORS:
Make sure to read this article on the SFO exhibit to see the lovely Melmac!