Growing up in a family of 8 children, we sat down to dinner every night at our very large kitchen table. The table perfectly held the 10 family members with mom and dad sitting at the opposite ends and four children on each side. We always sat at the same places at every meal. We used our “everyday” dishes, which was a mismatched set of different plates, cups and silverware.
My mom had two sets of good dishes, one was cream-colored with gold trim and the other was translucent white china. We had a large extended family so any special dinners required a lot of place settings. We had a dining room table to which several leaves would be added when we had special dinners and used the good dishes.
The A & P grocery chain offered Currier & Ives dishes as a promotion in their stores. My mother and countless other families across the country collected the place settings which featured an early American scene surrounded by a scroll border. For spending a certain amount of money a customer was able to add a piece to their collection.
I was absolutely fascinated by the dishes. Each type of dish portraying a different scene of life in early America. The depicted scenes fed my active imagination and I daydreamed about what it would be like to be part of any particular scene. There was ice skating on a frozen pond; riding in a horse-drawn sleigh; helping with a harvest; making maple syrup; a girl swinging on a gate; harvesting ice; or drawing water from a well. Sometimes there were just buildings and trees in a winter setting.
The dishes were manufactured by the Royal China Company in Sebring, Ohio. Designs on the dishes were taken from scenes from lithographs that were manufactured by the printmaking firm of Currier and Ives. The dishes continued to be made into the 1970’s. Besides the most common blue and white dishes, they were also made in brown, green, red and black.
Today the dishes are collector’s items. Some pieces such as dinner plates, cups and saucers and berry bowls are quite common. Others such as teapots and covered casserole dishes can be quite expensive because they are not easily found. Sometimes rather large sets can be found at very reasonable costs. There are some imitations but it isn’t hard to learn what characteristics are found on the true Currier and Ives pieces. They do not all have back-stamps so whether or not there is a back-stamp is not proof of authenticity.
My mother passed her dishes on to me. I built up my set further bu buying other pieces at antique stores and thrift stores. Some pieces were given to me as gifts. I still love those dishes. With a small family unit now, there are not many sit-down dinners with multiple guests and several courses. When we do have dinner parties the table is proudly set with the Currier and Ives dishes which I think of as part of my heritage. I have no need for fancy china when I have these dishes that remind of many meals from my youth. I am quite confident that many people recognize these dishes, may have eaten meals on them and possibly also own them, even if they use them as their everyday dishes.
Nostalgic Currier and Ives dishes, just another thread of my life.