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Midcentury Modern dinnerware dishes out durability and taste

March 3, 2015

Filed under Collections, Community and Domestic Life, Pennsylvania Treasures

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Popular throughout the 1950s and 1960s, this type of durable dinnerware known for its bright, fashionable colors and varied shapes earned its place among other innovative products that swept America following World War II.

Popular throughout the 1950s and 1960s, this type of durable dinnerware known for its bright, fashionable colors and varied shapes earned its place among other innovative products that swept America following World War II.

Popular throughout the 1950s and 1960s for its bright, fashionable colors, incredible durability and varied shapes, melamine dinnerware earned its place among other innovative products that swept America following World War II.

This Color-Flyte set by Branchell, chosen by CAP Curator Jennifer Gleim as this week’s Pennsylvania Treasure, was purchased by the donor’s parents in the mid-1950s to outfit their newly-built ranch house in Langhorne, PA.

One of the early lines to hit the American market was Color-Flyte by Branchell in 1952. Designed by industrial designer Kaye Lamoyne, the Color-Flyte line featured a palette of four colors (Mist Grey, Glade Green, Glow Copper and Spray Lime) that complemented one another and could be easily mixed and matched to suit any décor. A 16 piece starter set of Color-Flyte sold in 1952 for $15.95.

Melamine traces its roots to the 1830s when a German scientist developed the chemical from a compound of nitrogen, carbon and hydrogen. The compound came into fashion in the late 1930s as ways were sought to make more stable plastics and laminates. Recognizing the potential uses for the plastic, which when combined with formaldehyde became stronger and dishwasher-safe, chemical company American Cyanamid hired Russel Wright in the 1940s to make an attempt at creating dinnerware. Wright experimented with various melamine compounds and dinnerware prototypes. Eventually, Wright settled on the correct compound to create good-looking and durable melamine dinnerware. American Cyanamid licensed and sold the compound in powder form under the name Melmac to various companies that began to use it to manufacture different styles of the colorful and durable dishes.

 

About Pennsylvania Treasures:
In early 2012, The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission launched the Collections Advancement Project (CAP), a program to inventory and catalog our vast and significant holdings of art and artifacts. These efforts are resulting in better stewardship of our collections which represent Pennsylvania arts, culture, history, sciences, business and agriculture. As a component of the project, CAP curators have researched rarely exhibited artifacts and works of art. We are sharing these Pennsylvania Treasures with the public through weekly updates.