Do you like vintage restaurant dinnerware, or hotel china? When you’re eating in a restaurant, do you notice the dinnerware? If you’re reading this post, you probably do.
Do you get that happy, 1950s diner feeling at the Waffle House, when the waitress places that steaming, bright, milky- white cup of coffee (the kind with the green stripe) in front of you? If you do, then you can understand why collectors enjoy gathering “Hotelware” from the 19th and 20th centuries.
What exactly is Hotelware, anyway?
Hotelware, or Hotel China, became popular in the late 19th century as people began to spend more money traveling and eating out. Hotels, ships, dining cars on trains, and restaurants needed attractive tableware that could withstand heavy usage. Hotel China includes the cups, bowls, plates, saucers, creamers, teapots, and etc. used in the hospitality industry.
How Was Hotelware Made?
The clay and glazes used to make Hotel China were vitrified, or turned into glass, by firing at high temperatures. The resulting pottery was durable, chip-resistant, and moisture free. It was heavier than dinnerware made for home use, and often bore the name of the establishment that used it. The most collectible versions include those with hotel/restaurant names, palm trees, or western themes.
Which American Potteries Made Hotel China?
Syracuse, Buffalo, Homer Laughlin, and Mayer are a few well known makers of Hotelware in America.
In 1896 O.P. Co. (later known as Syracuse China) introduced a chip-resistant Round Edge design, and became the front runner in the Hotel China market. In 1897, the O.P. Co. stopped producing earthenware, and made vitreous “Syracuse China” exclusively. To read more about the timeline of Syracuse China, use the following link: http://blog.syracuse.com/indepth/2008/12/syracuse_china_a_timeline.html
Buffalo China is known to dish enthusiasts as the first American pottery to produce the “Blue Willow” pattern (1907). Based on an ancient Chinese love story, Blue Willow is the most widely collected china pattern ever. However, Buffalo China is also widely known for its railroad and restaurant china. In 1932, the Chesapeake and Ohio (C & O) Railroad commissioned Buffalo China to make a set of china commemorating George Washington’s 200th birthday. With a gold rim, and a reproduction of Gilbert Stuat’s “Athenaeum” portrait of our first president, it is enthusiastically sought after by railroadiana collectors. Railroad China, and Railroad Silver, are genres deserving of their own blog posts. If you’re interested, The Official Guide to Railroad Dining Car China, is a great resource on the subject. To buy the book, use the following link: https://www.amazon.com/official-guide-railroad-dining-china/dp/B0006EVB76
Homer Laughlin China
Homer Laughlin China, one of my favorite vintage restaurant dinnerware companies, has traditionally relied on Restaurant Ware and Hotel China for a large part of its business. Known for its famed home dinnerware line called Fiesta Ware, The company was originally started by Homer and Shakespeare (love their names!) Laughlin in 1871. The company is now combined with Hall China, and still produces Hotel China today. You can read further on the subject of HLC with the following link: https://fiestafactorydirect.com/pages/our-history
Pictured below is a set of HLC plates in the Melody Seville pattern:
The Mayer brothers began supplying steamships, restaurants, and hotels with their wares after receiving a gold medal for their semi-porcelain chinaware at the Louisiana Purchase Expo, in St. Louis, in 1904. The company secured a contract to provide china to the White Star Line, the British shipping company that built the Titanic. It also provided china to the YMCA clubs of North America. I found a gorgeous set of Mayer Lawson (with the gold stripe) at a local thrift store. It can be purchased with the link below the picture. If you would like to know more regarding the history of Mayer China and their history, use the following link: http://www.timesonline.com/7b0cf620-aa79-11e6-aefa-673d9e8dd1bd.html
I hope you enjoyed reading about the history of American Hotel China and Vintage Restaurant Dinnerware. If you collect Hotel China or Railroadiana, I’d love to hear from you!