Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fostoria Glass Company Melmac Dinnerware Melamine 1958

Pom Decors in Harrisburg, PA offers this melmac plate, pattern name "Kismet" by Fostoria!
Fostoria Glass Company... one of the smarter glass manufacturers. I think it's funny that when melmac first came onto the market and gained momentum, there was a slew of dinnerware companies trying to "tarnish it." Yes, those makers of fine china, ceramics and even pottery makers said how horrible it was...in fact there was a real coalition formed against the melmac! An anti-melmac campaign if you will.  Well, you can imagine from the bazillions of dishes floating around today how well that actually worked. 
Melmac bowls are freeform and china-like from 51VC
I suppose we can say the melmac won for a bit. I would have loved to see the executive's faces in some companies, years later and perhaps with their tails between their legs make the decision to move into melamine. Many of these same dinnerware makers (Stetson, Fostoria, etc..) who trashed it at first decided to sell lines of their own melamine. If you can't beat them, join them....For it was a grand day that they had to succumb to tapping into the never-ending market of plastic dishes.  For some of them, their decision to do so was made a bit to late.
Fostoria's mark is the same as their china!  Photos above and below: Junky Vagabond
Junky Vagabond has this sweet yellow Fostoria melmac!
People say that Fostoria got into the melmac scene sometime in the 1950's. I found an exact reference in an Industrial Design (Volume 5, circa 1958) book where Fostoria Management declared they wanted to have their own melamine lines. They were going to market it via their various marketing channels including department stores and gift shops. It's safe to say mid 1958-1960's this was indeed the case.  Fostoria put out a lovely and high quality product. I am unsure who the designers actually were, but if you look closely at the styles, they had to be very upscale. No "stock patterns" here.
Fostoria had two-tone melamine and gorgeous designs, but finding good examples can be hard. These : RetroChalet

The sheer problem with this decision is that it came too late.  This small production window of melamine by the company makes Fostoria melmac rare. It's somewhat hard to find in good shape considering most people bought it to use it. The designs however, are exquisite. Most of the solid colors like pink, taupe, blues or yellows are somewhat translucent if you hold them to the light. Patterns like the above and below scream FUN FIFTIES and MOD SIXTIES--no decals or mass produced designs.  Sadly we'll never see half of what was produced as it's probably been used, abused and scratched to hell and back. Collectors of both Fostoria glass or melmac dishes would give their right leg for a full set of mint condition, making Fostoria melamine highly collectible and expensive. 
Treasures n Tidbits has these rare pieces of Fostoria available.

So the one question that people ask me is why wouldn't Fostoria melmac last? Considering they were a leading glass maker with a great reputation and following, why is it so rare?   Truth be told their introduction of melamine just came too late on the market in a time when production costs were higher and melamine powders weren't getting any cheaper. If you figure a set of melmac would cost just about the same as a set of fine china, you do the math.  Now, some blame the death of melmac on Corelle --but I disagree. You'll have to hear me rant about that in another post.  In the meantime, those holding Fostoria examples should covet them indeed.

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