Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Welcome to the Melmac Center : Russel Wright Melamine Ephemera at it's Finest Shows Rarities in Modern Design

Update: January 27, 2012: Mr. Melmac aka Robin Thorne has identified lots of new patterns! 

Not only do I love the Melmac of the 50's but the advertising too.  This ad is from one of my Etsy customers, who is enjoying their melmac dishes I sold them in their travel camper. I must say, they were very smart as they found a perfect match in Boonton's maroon and Meladur's burgundy.  I would not have thought of mix matching the two but they worked!


What I love most about old ephemera, is learning new clues.  I don't know what year this ad was from, but I think I' would have estimated it at 1953-1955, but I stand corrected by plastics great Christopher McPherson ! UPDATE: He has one very similiar if not exact from 1957.  So there you have it.

 I do know Russel Wright's Residential was really being advertised a lot in 1953-1954.  There seemed to be a huge campaign by Cyanamid for advertising the super duper Melmac dishes around this time.  I'm sure that companies may have paid to be included in their "Melmac Center" ads, as many different ones exist and sometimes the manufacturers will change.   We can also date the ad around the early 50's due to two other reasons a) the fab colors used and b) the 2 digit zip code. (by the early 60's the zip codes were changed.)

What I'm shocked at is in my opinion a lot of the dishes here are considered rare and hard to find now. Something so plentiful then, is dried up now. Rare in the sense that in my 20+years of collecting I've not seen enough of the below starred items to make an entire set.  To me, that's rare.

Obviously I'm not counting the dishes behind her. Be sure to click the hyperlinks to see "real melmac examples"!

First Row: 

Brookpark Modern Design  Update: Robin aka Mr. Melmac says, "This is the famous TROPICANA PATTERN in orange! This also came in turquoise, tan, red, and yellow although the orange and turquoise were by far the most popular." ( See a set similar here.)


Classic*(by Mallory, this is rare and hard to find,  If you are looking for other Mallory go here.)

Lucent Update: Robin aka Mr. Melmac says "Spring Bouquet by designer Raymond Lowey for Lucent, this is very rare indeed!"  (You may also like  Evening Song which is most often found Lucent also by Raymond Lowey)

Second Row: 

Holiday (by Kenro)

Branchell* (Branchell is common with their Color-Flyte lines, but this pattern, Button Flower is a rare pattern. See it here.)

Harmony House    Update: Robin aka Mr. Melmac says "This is a popular pattern called Woodland!"
Fostoria Melmac is hard to find much less this awesome champagne bubble pattern! Update: Robin aka Mr. Melmac says "This is one of my favorites called Kismet. There was a popular MGM musical by the same name at the time references the middle east. These are a little like moque domes, but also abstract and remind me some of the logos of the time like the ones for US Steel and Alcoa! Pure whimsy! "

Row Three: 

Prolon  Update: Robin aka Mr. Melmac says "This Prolon Florence pattern is called "Blue Poppy". I bought a complete set in Palm Springs about 20 years ago for $12--a steal today! It's heavy duty and often you will see this in brochures and articles."


Russel Wright (Residential)

Lifetime (Watertown. I have never seen this pattern. Where have I been?)

Row Four:

Newport  (by Westinghouse)

Melmac Tag* these have care and cleaning tips and were included with sets.

Royalon* (Marcrest is common but this pattern isn't. Most often you see Royalon's Corsage. See it here and just for the record, I've always been confused why it says Marcrest styled by Royalon, no doubt just to sound fancy...)

Durawear (not to be confused with Duraware!)

So I consider 8 of these patterns to be rare.
Russel Wright obviously got special treatment. Not to mention a RetroChalet fave!

What's even better is that you could obtain clues by these old ads. For instance, why is the tiny tag on Russel Wright's Residential the only one that has a second name on it....  Everything else just has one line, but Russel Wright's name being associated with his design was imperative.  Note how his card is "special."  I rest my case.

What about the fact you could mail away a quarter and get a little melmac book?  How adorable.  What about the fact you could TRUST sending your "coin" away?  I so want to live back then. The two digit zip code is what I noticed right away.  Sometimes a silly old ad can be our best clues of what existed, and when.  Or clues to what else we may not have found...just yet!

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