Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tradition to Treasure! A Panacea?

I've set a table for you before (HERE) that featured vintage Cape Cod glassware by Imperial Glass Company of Bellaire, Ohio. That post, "A Subtle Shine," featured vintage aluminum serving pieces and restaurant dinnerware. Today I thought I'd make Cape Cod crystal the primary focus of the table setting.

There's a wonderful book on the subject, "Imperial Cape Cod Glass" by Myrna and Bob Garrison, that's filled with helpful information for collectors. See it
HERE. Here's a quote from a chapter on the history of the pattern:

"A piece of Cape Cod history was found in some old papers during the liquidation of Imperial Glass. It reads: 'The pattern (Cape Cod) was originated in Ireland by the Waterford Glass Company during the sixteenth century and was designed to go with Spode and Wedgwood earthenware patterns. Cape Cod Crystal was the first pattern made by the Sandwich Glass Comany of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. When Sandwich went out of business, Pairpoint Glass Company of New Bedford, Massachusetts, acquired all rights for hand-cut as well as pressed Cape Cod. They continued making only the hand-cut Cape Cod until 1926 when Pairpoint dropped the hand cut lines. In 1931, Imperial started production of Cape Cod Crystal. This pattern has been sold continuously for nearly 400 years.'"

Imperial, which had previously been known for making utility glass, art glass, and colored glass (forerunner of what we now refer to as depression glass), was saved from its first bankruptcy when the president, Earl Newton, negotiated the sale to Quaker Oats (to be given as a premium in Mother's Oats) of five train carloads of Cape Cod glassware, packed in barrels. Not content, Newton then moved to capture a part of the high-end retail glass market. No longer restricted to the 'Five and Dime' ware, Imperial would attempt to compete head-on with the likes of Heisey, Cambridge, and Fostoria.

I created a collage for you (below) featuring Cape Cod ads and catalog pages from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. It's easy to see how the pattern became so successful -- those creative advertising writers (mad men?) didn't hesitate to idealize their products. They'd use phrases such as: "Tradition to Treasure" ... "Aces With Men Too" ... "to men who might have a penchant for poker" ... "a panacea for coping with the day" ... "Pattern for Pleasure" ... "Every piece of Imperial's scintillating Cape Cod hand-crafted crystal is a gem!" ... "Cape cod Crystal for the gay, informal settings that somehow go with sunshine and a garden full of flowers" ... "pattern that adds to the blithe spirit of camaraderie wherever gather people of good taste" ... and (sounding very sexist in these days of political correctness), "Sportsman's Favorite -- Bringing home prize pieces of Imperial Cape Cod Crystal is as thrilling to a woman as the bagging of prize game to the sportsman!"

We're in the sunroom on a beautiful afternoon.

The garden's suffering from the heatwave we've been experiencing, but I managed to put together a centerpiece without going shopping. Believe me, it was a challenge!

I found this pretty little marmalade container, with lid and underplate, in a consignment store in Nashville. I filled it with homemade pear preserves (from a tree in my father's orchard).

I was thinking in terms of a Sunday brunch or a luncheon as I set the table. I used blue placemats (from Goodwill) and Enoch Wedgwood "Countryside" (1966-68) blue plates.

A quick company history: Enoch Wedgwood (b.1813 d.1879)Wedgwood & Co, Unicorn Pottery and Pinnox Works, Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, operated by Enoch Wedgwood (a distant relation of Josiah Wedgwood I) and his younger brother Jabez. The firm became a limited company in 1900 and effective control passed out of the hands of the Wedgwood family. Previously Podmore, Walker and Co* Renamed Enoch Wedgwood (Tunstall) Ltd 1965

I was inspired by the vintage ads to include tea in the pitcher (with a few lemon slices), wine in glasses, and a pat of butter on each bread plate. I opted not to follow the stylists' examples of providing cigarettes and individual ashtrays -- how times have changed!

The sherbet glasses are perfect for appetizers, fruit courses, and desserts. These have the fancier stem (often called the miter, strawberry, or pineapple stem); pre-1943 Imperial catalogs offered a wafer stem. Therefore if you find Cape Cod stemware with simple wafer stems, it dates between 1932 and 1942. Imperial continued to produce Cape Cod until the company closed in 1983.

The silverplated flatware is 1847 Rogers Brothers Garland (1965-73). I found this set on eBay. The listing was from a pawn shop in California. The sleek box contained the complete service for 12. All the pieces were tarnished but unused, still in the original plastic sleeves. I wondered who had owned it, why it was never used, who took it to the pawn shop ....

Another view of the sherbet sitting in the center of a Cape Cod salad plate.

Closer view of the flatware. I like the overall simplicity of the design.

Looking down the table ...

I realize we don't need to light candles this time of day ... but I had to show you these unusual candleholders. They weren't labeled Cape Cod when I spotted them at an antiques mall, so I suppose the dealer didn't know the pattern. The Garrison book states that they're "one of the most elegant of the Cape Cod candleholders and often overlooked as being the Cape Cod pattern."

I think I'll name this bouquet "Slim Pickins'!" Sometimes it's fun to create a garden arrangement when none of the usual suspects (roses, hydrangeas, lilies, etc.) are at their best. I gathered hosta leaves and their sweet-smelling blossoms, liriope (turf lily/monkey grass) flower spikes, Japanese painted fern, crepe myrtles, and Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) -- the result is below.

As you'll see in the following photos, Cape Cod really comes to life as it responds to natural light.

The little cruet below still has its original Imperial sticker.

The pattern is distinguished by three characteristics: depressed circles (thumbprints), large depressed diamonds surrounding the thumbprints, and an outer band of small diamond points.

The white cutwork napkins are from a recent estate sale. They were unused and very reasonably priced.

I hadn't intended to upload so many photographs, but I loved the way the light was playing off the Cape Cod.

To keep everything from being too "matchy matchy," I used a differently patterned butter spreader at each place setting. They're often available in dig boxes for $1 or less. Generally they're blackened with tarnish, but I enjoy the instant gratification of bringing them back to life with Wright's Silver Cream (now merged with Weiman Products).

If you're interested in starting your own collection of Imperial Cape Cod glassware, beware of similar patterns you'll find at antiques shops and malls. There's "peanut butter glass" -- tumblers and sherbets made by Hazel Atlas. They have a vaguely similar look, but they're a simpler, lighter weight pattern, with less clarity and sparkle. It was the equivalent of jelly jar glasses, containing Big Top Peanut Butter (a Procter & Gamble product) in the 1950s. Cups, saucers, and plates were sold together in sets of four, probably as a sendaway premium item. Many people collect peanut butter glasses, and they certainly have their charm. It's just unfortunate that some antiques dealers, either unknowingly or unscrupulously, label them as being Cape Cod.

Wexford by Anchor Hocking is another similar pattern, but it lacks the rounded indentations/thumbprints. It's a nice pattern, but a less expensive one, so be careful if you see Wexford mis-labeled as Cape Cod.

Imperial promoted Cape Cod as a versatile pattern. One ad headline read "as you like it ... IMPERIAL Cape Cod" The text continued: "For a gay informal luncheon or a beautiful formal dinner, you can have a table setting as you like it with Cape Cod Crystal Glassware by Imperial. Cape Cod is a perfect complement for color -- always pretty, so very practical ... the more you use it, the more you'll love it ... moderately priced in leading stores everywhere. American handcrafted for lasting beauty by The Imperial Glass Corporation, Bellaire, Ohio."

Let's see how versatile it is, OK? I think I'll change to a softer color palette for evening.

Three changes: plates, Shelton by Haviland (1952-85); flatware, Gorham's La Scala; and peachy-pink placemats, Dollar Tree.

I also added tealights in Cape Cod stemware, using sand to protect the glass from heat. Afterward, I poured out the sand and rinsed with cool water (using my fingers to make sure every trace of sand was gone prior to handwashing in warm, sudsy water). By the way, Cape Cod glasses are used on a daily basis in our household. They've survived hundreds of trips through the dishwasher unscathed (a sort of controlled experiment, since the ones at the back of the cabinets are rarely used). Whether frequently used or sitting idle -- they all look new and shiny!

Having a solid dinner plate underneath makes it easier to appreciate the glassware's pattern.

Closer view of the silver ...

The entire place setting ...

Overview of the table ...

The wine is semi-faux. I poured just enough Merlot into a small pitcher to tint the water a pale pink. It looks pretty, doesn't it? A glass of iced tea sounds good about now --

Just more views of the table -- different angles as the sun's getting lower in the sky ...

I almost forgot one other little change -- a silverplated water pitcher on the corner of the table.

Are you a Cape Cod collector? Would you like to start a collection?

Thank you to Artie of Color Outside the Lines. Artie was kind enough to direct his readers to tablescape posts by Susan, Julio, and me. You can see Artie's post HERE -- what excellent company: Susan and Julio -- two of my favorite people in the world!

Artie mentioned my Etsy shop in his post, which reminded me that I needed to re-stock. I really forget about the shop, until I receive an e-mail saying there's been a purchase. I much prefer buying over selling, but it's time to add new items or "call it a day." So ... I'm adding a set of 8 iced beverage glasses and a set of 8 sherbets to the listings. I found them the other day at a local antiques mall at a good enough price that I wanted to pass the savings along to my readers.

You can visit the shop HERE. Thank you to everyone who has stopped by, commented, and (best of all) made a purchase!

Thank you, as always, to Susan of Between Naps on the Porch for making Tablescape Thursdays possible. Be sure to stop by and visit Susan and all her wonderfully talented tablescapers!