Formal dining in the 19th through the mid 20th centuries could involve a wide variety of dishes and silverware, each piece with its special use. Guides were written specifying correct arrangement and usage--a matter causing anxiety for etiquette-challenged guests and hostesses. A set of "wedding china" plus another of "everyday china" were desired by every new bride.This is a sampling of china and dinnerware from the Clarke Museum's collection.
In the late 19th and much of the 20th centuries, a formal table setting involved silver service. The most prized was sterling silver. Next came silver plated over copper or other metal, and finally there was silverish pot metal. a variety of silver items adorned a well appointed table including some seldom seen today such as napkin rings, caster sets for condiments, and "epergnes", centerpieces for flowers or fruit.
Mid-20th century dinnerware reflected fashions of the times. The green "Colonial Homestead" pattern was part of a country nostalgia wave. This and similar sets were grocery store premiums. Bold patterns and turquoise and avocado green were typical of the 1960s and '70s. Plastic dishes were introduced for everyday use in the late 1950s. Stainless steel replaced silver for everyday.
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