Vintage Table Settings and Salem China Tricorne Dishes
Often when entertaining, meals are themed around a certain genre of food, culinary geography or holiday menu. But why should food be the only source of inspiration for a get together? Erin and Stefanie, the bloggers behind Oh So Lovely Vintage and the owners of Rhymes with Orange, a vintage store in Winnipeg, Canada put together an inspiring place setting using a set of art deco Atomic dinnerware.
They purchased their Atomic dinnerware from a shop on Etsy.com that has a vast collection of vintage dishes from the Salem China Company (Salem, Ohio). For your next gathering, why not look for inspiration from a favourite design, pattern or style?
Here is how to set a table vintage style from Oh So Lovely Vintage:
The dishes you see in Oh So Lovely Vintage’s table setting are called Salem China Tricorne dishes. The Salem China Company was founded in 1898 in Salem, Ohio by a team of four men who manufactured and distributed dinnerware. In 80 years of the firm’s existence, the Salem China Company produced approximately 520 patterns in 50 different shapes.
The dinnerware pattern used in the Vintage Table Setting by Oh So Lovely is called Tricorne. Don Schreckengost, a young, local ceramist, designed Tricorne in 1934, which became known for its Art Deco triangular shape, circular centre and colourful rimmed borders.
Deciphering the Design:
The Tricorne design refers to the plates, platters, saucers and bowls. The Streamline design refers to the cups, creamer, lidded sugar bowls, coffeepots, teapots, gravy boats, and covered serving bowls.
INTERVIEW: Lifelong collector, Etsy shop owner and blogger, Susabella Brownstein, talks to us about her thoughts on collecting beautiful things, vintage styles and her experience with Salem Tricorne dishes.
@SB I’m a lifelong collector. I started collecting by rooting around in old neighborhood barns in rural Michigan as a child in the ‘60s. Around that time my dad nicknamed me Susabella Brownstein. When it came time to reduce my collection of vintage dinnerware, prints, and books, my nickname seemed like an appropriate name for my Etsy shop. I’ve had to restrict my activities and live a reduced lifestyle for more than a decade due to chronic pain and feel very fortunate to have this outlet for my creativity.
How and when did you become a collector of Salem Tricorne dishes?
@SB: I fell in love with Salem China’s art deco shapes like Tricorne and Streamline several years ago when I found a small set in Mandarin Orange on eBay. I couldn’t believe anyone made bright orange and white triangle plates and conical sugar bowls that looked like George Jetson was going to pop out and wave as he flew by! When I realized the pieces came in a large variety of decorative patterns, I decided to focus on them and despite my efforts to economize; I have accumulated upwards of 500 pieces at a time in my collection.
Do you exclusively collect pieces from Salem or are there other brands or styles you seek out?
@SB: I describe my shop’s offerings as “unique vintage objects of exceptional design for the home, with an emphasis on table and wall” because I could never restrict myself to just one style, let alone one type of item. I am a total shopaholic for all things beautiful!
I’ve collected everything from French Belle Époque fashion prints and Mid Century eyewear, to almost anything that could show up on a table from the late 1800s to the 1970s: tea and coffee sets, flatware, glass- and barware, dinnerware sets (ironic, because I don’t cook or entertain much), and I really love American hand-painted porcelain.
Art Deco and its stylistic relations—Art Moderne, Modernism, Machine Age—will always be my first love, and I’ve fallen hard for a couple other dinnerware lines besides Salem’s; they all share geometric elements, expressed almost architecturally.
What about the Salem Tricorne style interests you as a collector?
@SB: The shapes, and the quality and rarity of some of the designs; the Polo Pony with Rider is so perfectly Art Moderne, I want to frame it instead of eat off it! Also, Salem apparently had quite an active ‘Movie Night’ giveaway program aimed at housewives, and I just love the image of a 1930s mom, hurrying home from the latest Myrna Loy movie, with a Tricorne dinner plate tucked under her arm.
To your knowledge, how many patterns of Tricorne exist?
@SB: Hmmm…maybe 30-40? I’ve seen four different classes of decoration on Tricorne and Streamline shapes including: Solid colors, decals, rings or streamlines, and custom hand painted designs.
Solid Colours: Of the four solid colors I’ve found, ‘Mandarin Orange’ is by far the most common, plus (and these are my terms) Egyptian Blue, Banana Yellow and Kelley Green;
Decals: Decals include the fabulous Polo Pony, plus Sailing Ships, a wide variety of florals ranging from sweet to gothic, monogrammed letters, Dutch petit point couple, Flamenco dancers, Bird of Paradise, Godey Victorian ladies, and abstract scrolled designs in gold or platinum;
Rings: Rings of 23 karat gold, Creamsicle Orange (my term), aqua, orange and platinum and a platinum/gold alloy applied on a background of cream or white (mostly), with black and the more rare maroon also boasting some platinum rings.
Custom Hand-Painted: Custom hand-painted designs included card suits (ace, spade, heart, diamond) purportedly by a lady named Margaret Blumenthal.
For someone new to collecting, how important is product research?
@SB:It depends on how serious you are. I happen to love researching, and the Internet makes research more convenient. But don’t believe everything you find; there is a lot of misinformation out there. If you’re serious about building a collection of anything, buy a few guide books, correspond with your sellers, other collectors (the Modish.net site is fantastic) or even the guidebook’s authors – they have a wealth of information, and if you’re fortunate, you’ll find some who have the time and inclination to answer your questions! Then, there are always museums and library collections. For example, the Smithsonian has over a dozen boxes of files from the old Salem China Company offices, and I hope to someday take a trip to D.C. to poke around in them.
How did you get involved with selling your dishes on Etsy?
@SB: Like I said earlier, I was a total shopaholic of beautiful things, and my collection just got out of hand. I first sold on eBay, but it was expensive and impersonal. I really enjoy Etsy’s community spirit, and have several good friendships with folks who were first customers. My Salem collection grew so large I started offering folks the option of creating their own custom dinnerware sets, and I’ve been pleased to make them available in several wedding registries this year.
@How well known is the Tricorne style and does it have a loyal following?
@SB: Great question! It’s not so well known that many folks would recognize it by name, but collectors sure do. I think many people see it and are just taken by how odd and yet appealing the shapes and colors are.
How should someone care for a set of Tricorne dishes?
@SB: How to best care for them? No dishwashers or microwaves for sure! They’re made of ceramic pottery and are thus fairly fragile (being at least 70-80 years old). I also put a disclaimer in each of my vintage dish descriptions about the possibility of there being toxic compounds (e.g. lead) in the glaze of dishes made before the mid-70s (I think I’m the first Etsy seller to do so). I include suggested precautions and recommend folks do more research if they have a concern. I’ve definitely lost sales by doing so, but I think people appreciate the honesty.
How far have you driven to acquire a piece for your collection?
@SB: I’ve mostly bought online, and from auctions, individuals, and estates. Now, many people contact me, wanting to sell me their collections, which is great! This past year I drove myself (and everyone who knows me) crazy trying to figure out how to get to a Dallas auction that was featuring a huge collection of Tricorne and Streamline pieces, including a coffee set in the very rare blue that ended up going for $3000! I schemed and suffered for months, trying to acquire “my” dishes, but shipping prices were prohibitive, I couldn’t make the trip myself, so I eventually gave up and mentally kissed them goodbye (with deep regret, of course.) A few days after the auction ended, the seller, whose collection the pieces came from, contacted me and said she had saved a full dinnerware and coffee set in the best condition for herself, but had changed her mind. She asked if I wanted them. Hey, apparently true love, devotion, and surrender wins out in the end!
SusabellaBrownstein…Collecting Dust Blog