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Idealware, Russel Wright Adult Line

Some pieces I bought from Derek Schultz, to whom this site is dedicated.

Wright designed pieces for an "adult kitchen ware" line out through the Ideal Novelty & Toy Company. The line was called IdealWare and debuted in the late 1950's. A new factory in Hollis, NY was built to accommodate the addition of the “Ideal Housewares” division.  The vision of the Company was to produce not only toys and dolls, but more plastics for housewares.
Fortiflex Plastic by Celanese...

Newspapers were abuzz with the fact that Fortiflex (a Celanese Plastic) would be used. Proven to withstand tests of "boiling" it was guaranteed to be used from freezer to table. Marketed to adults, it was NOT the same plastic as the hard styrene toy dishes were.
We know only six colors were authorized by Wright according to the side of this box. 
Fortiflex's plastic Idealware pieces were made of polyethylene resembling the look and feel of a fancy Tupperware. Ironically though, over time the mixture became brittle, and unlike the early Tupperware pieces you may find now, it did not have a waxy feel to it.  It was marketed in four original colors, SHRIMP, CITRON, MINT and SNOW. This box shows six colors including CARNATION and another color I can't quite read.
Where did black come from?
Now the colors went awry somewhere, as many variants have been found such as solid black, speckled orange, solid orange, and more variables with and without speckles. Probably the factory producing variants and unauthorized colors, in the original molds and they do have signatures on the signature pieces. 
Note the tray on left, and mixing bowls on right aren't Wright designs, but are marked Idealware.
Original pieces included a salad bowl and tongs, covered refrigerator containers, juice pitcher, tumblers and covered butter dish. Small salad bowls have been known to exist.  Note to collectors: I have examples of three size mixing bowls, square stacking containers and hard plastic square trays also marked Idealware, but these are not proven Wright designs nor do they contain his signature. There are mere examples of other items the Idealware line that the Ideal Houseware Division was making.
See more views of this lovely pitcher here on this blog. Courtesy of Antay.

Wright's designs in this line were exquisite; their coupe shaped items were the fanciest flexible plastic out there! It debuted in high-end department stores like Hecht’s and Macy’s.
By 1960, prices were cut in half!

Finding this now or having examples is ULTRA-RARE. This is for two reasons. Once again, let down by plastic, for whatever reason, the line did not fare well at all and within 3 years it was discounted 50 percent. One year after that, it was discontinued off the market. Due to it's short run, items are super hard to find. Ultimate rarities are items in the original packaging.
Finding in original cartons or display boxes are rare, but can provide us clues!  This has the Beverage Set as model #8753, which we would have never known as much original ephemera has been damaged or lost.

The second reason is the fact that something went amiss in the plastic composition. Over time the plastic became brittle and pieces I've found contain stress cracks. Even tumblers found in original cello packaging tubes tend to crack on their base when stored. Chances are many of these items have been discarded due to their cracking and breaking. Sadly, the chemists must have missed the boat as this line didn’t stand the test of time like their Tupperware competitors. I'm sure there have been improvements to the plastic since then, as Fortiflex is still being made in the form of horse pails and feeding dishes for animals.
Tumblers came in sets of six in cell sleeves.

Expect to pay $100 or more for examples of this line. The large salad bowl and tongs are still found, as are the pitchers. Tumblers in original packaging have sold for as much as $150.  Ironically there was a 4oz that is most commonly found in the cell-packs and a larger sized that I don't see that often.  Boxed sets with tumblers and pitcher in original box, even if dilapidated packaging, may go for hundreds as it's getting harder and harder to find. I never see the small individual size salad bowls, I only have one in twenty five years of collecting, so they must be rare.

Ultra hard to find is the original table-to-fridge ware which were covered containers. So rare in fact I don’t have a photo to share here. Perhaps the only photos exist in the Russel Wright files in Syracuse showing a refrigerator filled with white lidded stacking containers in various sizes.
Perhaps just as pretty as the containers themselves was the well designed packaging.
One may never know just how many pieces survived. Additionally, there were notes of Wright doing a baby bath and a prototype watering can. A baby bath was found advertised in a 1960 paper "Idealware Baby Baby" marked down to $1 from $3. Unsure if this was a Wright design, and the Syracuse files don’t tell us.

Sadly, it’s safe to assume going into the 1960’s Wright was now realizing his vision of this plastic line did not become reality, for long. His Northern line was dying a slow death also ceasing production during the early 1960’s. During this era there was a huge decline in melmac and plastics and Wright’s plastics would be sold off in outlet stores and eventually dry up……….

Wright’s work with plastics was a long, hard and frustrating road, starting in the 1940’s with Cyanamid’s testing, later problems getting Meladur manufactured and disputes with General American, and the fact that Northern was not paying his royalties……now this. It begs the question was he supposed to stick to ceramics and other industrial design? Thank goodness he didn’t see it that way, or I'd never have collected it, and this information would not be here for you to read. 

Have information on Idealware? Please contact me.

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