Melamine by Any Other Name

It’s that time of year again! Yay! All the snow is gone, the weather is warming up in waves and the leaves on the trees are all green again. I can open the back slider and let the late spring air in. And wafting in on that breeze, making my mouth water, is the smell of someone grilling a steak or hamburger. There’s nothing like that smell drifting over the neighborhood that says summer is almost here!

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Yellow Melmac by Aztec (photo courtesy of Vintage Eve’s)

Speaking of grilling, it makes me think of that great picnic product, Melmac. That is the brand name of a type of Melamine plastic that came out in the 1930s. I think we think that plastic is a fairly recent invention but it has been around for quite awhile.

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Russell Wright Turquoise Gravy Boat or Creamer (photo courtesy of Red River Antiques)

Melamine was an early plastic that was actually used in WWII. According to Collectors Weekly, Watertown Ware was one of the first Melamine Dinnerware collections.

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Watertown Ware Cups (photo courtesy of JewelRosesNRust)

Watertown Manufacturing Co. made melamine ware for the Navy. They liked it because it was “lightweight, inexpensive, and virtually unbreakable.” (Collectors Weekly). It was actually invented in the 1830s by a German scientist (Time).

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Boonton Melamine Dishes (photo courtesy of Gumdrop Vintage)

When the war was over, Watertown began designing for the consumer market. They created Lifetime Ware. Airlines were also in the market for melamine ware for the same reasons the U.S. Military liked it.

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Kasen Melamine Set (photo courtesy of HeadSwankstress)

Collectors Weekly goes on to say that melmac was the most popular brand of melamine. American Cyanamid sold the molding powders to third parties and they actually manufactured the product.

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Branchell Melmac (photo courtesy of Lisa’s Retro Style)

Russell Wright designed the first really popular dinner set in 1944. Some of the brand names of melamine or melmac are Aztec, Kasen, Boonton Ware, Branchell, Windsor and many others.

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Windsor Melmac Dish with Floral Motif (photo courtesy of East Idaho Company)

Like with all plastics, it can be shaped into just about anything. Complete dinner sets, serving dishes and anything else you can think of that would complete a set can be made. It lasts a long time because it doesn’t break easily and it is lightweight. It can also be made in just about any color.

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Mid Century Modern Covered Nesting Containers (photo courtesy of Julie’s Foolery)

This was just a quick look at melamine and melmac in general. There’s a lot more information for the serious collector out there. The sources I’ve quoted, as well as collector sites are all out there to help you make the most of your collection. Visit Vintage Eve’s for more melmac ware.

I’ll be partying this week at Adirondack Girl @ Heart.

Check out the Etsy Christmas in July blog for information on their Christmas in July event!

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6 thoughts on “Melamine by Any Other Name

  1. We had a set of melamine dishes we used every day of my early childhood. It had a Currier & Ives sort of design on it. I’d love to get my hands on some of it! Thanks so much for sharing all of your knowledge with us at Vintage Charm, Rheta 🙂 Love having you party with us–

    Liked by 1 person

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