Fanciful Victorian tableware

Spooners, cruet sets, and biscuit barrels are among the items respectable Victorians had in their dining rooms.  A well appointed 1890’s home contained these as well as other items that elevated the presentation of food to high art.

RumRill Pottery : the Ohio years 1938-1942 : identification and value guide
Francesca Fisher ; photography by Carl Fisher.
Paducah, Ky. : Collector Books, c2008.
Includes bibliographical references.
Hot kitchen & home collectibles of the 30s, 40s and 50s : identification & values
C. Dianne Zweig.
Paducah, Ky. : Collector Books, c2007.
This guide spotlights over 700 full-color photographs of kitchen and home collectibles, and offers a fresh approach to collecting retro housewares, textiles, and decor.
Collector's encyclopedia of American dinnerware : identification and values
Jo Cunningham.
Paducah, Ky. : Collector Books, c2005.
Jo Cunningham is back with an all-new, revised edition of her bestselling Collec tor's Encyclopedia of American Dinnerware. In this collector's encyclopedia, hun dreds of pieces of American dinnerware are illustrated with both color photos an d black and white original catalog pages and advertisements. Included are backst amps, advertising, company information, and values for every piece. There is als o a fascinating section on how dinnerware is made and a brief history of the Ame rican pottery industry. There is expanded coverage of some company histories. So me of the manufacturers represented include Bennington, California Potteries, Ha eger, Hall, Hull, Pfaltzgraff, Purinton, Red Wing, Shawnee, Stangl, Steubenville , Homer Laughlin, Limoges, Paden City Pottery, Jackson China, and many more.

At no other time have so many specific objects been made to serve one type of food, and at no other time have the objects been so elaborate. Butter dishes were multi-part with a dish for the butter, a knife, a dome to cover, and a stand to hold all the pieces. Berry sets celebrated fruit at the meal’s end, and special bowls and cutlery were made for this course. Figural silver knife holders displayed fruit knives in style.

Pickle Castors

Very popular with today’s collectors of Victoriana, pickle castors are the apotheosis of ornamental tableware.

A silver plate frame contains a glass inset (to hold the pickles), a lid, and often tongs or a fork for serving. Meridian and Rogers Bros. Were among the makers of these items.

Glass inserts can be simple or elaborate and are made in a range of colors and patterns. Vaseline glass and Cranberry glass were especially popular. There were hundreds of designs of these items made for the American and European markets.

more about pickle castors

Food trends required new tableware. When ice became a standard item in each home, a tippler set was designed to serve ice water, the new drink. Pickle castors were designed to hold pickled vegetables, all the rage.

Many items were made of silver plate. When the electroplating process for silver was perfected, suddenly “silver” was affordable for the masses. Thousands of middle class households purchased silver plate dinnerware to emulate the upper classes with their sterling. Manufacturers of silver worked with glassware makers to design and market the elaborate tableware that appealed to Victorian sensibilities.

To our modern eyes these items seem overdone, but the Victorians set a standard of abundance for their tables. The Victorians knew how to dine in style!

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff