Thursday, September 15, 2011

Archaeology of the Cupboard: Part I

Founded in 1903, Wiawaka continues in operation. There are both challenges and advantages to doing archaeology at a living site -- one which continues in use. One of the challenges is that things keep changing; the historical and archaeological record of Wiawaka Holiday House are still being created and there is no tidy end date to help organize information. One of the advantages is that the archaeological record is very rich, and is made up of more than just buried and broken artifacts.

Small hotel ware plate made by Buffalo China.
Photo by Megan E. Springate, June 17, 2011.

During my last research trip to Wiawaka, I raided the china cupboard and began documenting the dishes in use at the site. I started by documenting the small, 6-inch and 7-inch plates often used as bread and butter plates. All of these were a style of thick, hard-fired ceramics known as hotel ware or restaurant ware commonly still found in use in diners and other high-traffic restaurants. Wiawaka's cupboard boasted several different designs in the collection of small plates, including plain, green lines (single and double) around the edges, and a set of custom-made plates marked Wiawaka on the front in script.(1)

Small hotel ware plate made by Syracuse China.
Photo by Megan E. Springate, June 17, 2011.

The back of most of these plates are marked, indicating the company that made them. The most common manufacturers of Wiawaka's small plate assemblage were Syracuse China and Buffalo China, both well-known American manufacturers of hotel ware.(2) The marks that these companies used often changed, and the date ranges of use for many of the marks are known. In many cases, the companies actually marked dishes with a date code that allows us to determine the month and year a particular piece was made.

How does this tell us something about the history of Wiawaka? Stay tuned for next week's installment, Archaeology of the Cupboard: Part II...

Maker's mark on the Buffalo China plate shown above. This mark was used from the 1940s through the early 1960s.(3) The O-9 is the date code, indicating this plate was made in September, 1954.(4) Photograph by Megan E. Springate, June 17, 2011.

Notes and Sources:
(1) It was common practice for businesses including hotels, train lines, cruise ships, and restaurants to have dishes that were custom made with their name on them.
(2) The earliest beginnings of the Syracuse China Company were in 1841 in Syracuse, New York. They were still in operation in 1986.  Buffalo Pottery (later Buffalo China) was in operation in Buffalo, New York from 1901 through at least 1986.(5)
(3) Restaurant Ware Collectors Network (2009) Buffalo China, Buffalo, New York [Backstamps].
(4) Restaurant Ware Collectors Network (2009) Buffalo China Date Codes.
(5) Lehner, Lois (1988) Lehner's Encyclopedia of U.S. Marks on Pottery, Porcelain & Clay. Collector Books, Paducah, Kentucky.


Anonymous said...

The plates that have a "thick" green line - with a thinner green line next to it (on the outside edge) and another thin green line - closer to the center...was called the Saratoga pattern.


MSpringate said...

Thanks, SS! I went through the photos I took of the plates, and none of the small plates have the Saratoga pattern you describe. It would have been cool if they did... Mary Fuller, who founded Wiawaka, had a summer home in Saratoga Springs for many years.

Anonymous said...

Hi, This is Linda, we spoke before. I have to get you that horse shoe I found in the creek behind Trix. Also, I found and purchased a Wiawaka Egg cup. Not sure if Fuller had any Egg cups or not. If you want info on it let me know. I got it on Ebay and I think it came from someone in Ohio..i can look at receipt. Thanks Linda

Anonymous said...

Contact Info:
Linda Heintze 518 222 3413 cell