Sunday, February 21, 2016

Color in the Kitchen

    The country was staggering it's way out of the Great Depression in the late 1930s. There is no other way to describe the recovery, it was uneven and spotty depending on where you lived and your circumstances. Our parents, grandparents and in many cases great-grandparents lived through rough times.
   Frugal rural and small town housewives managed to keep food on the table from their gardens, orchards, fields, livestock, and woodlands, but it was a constant struggle against uncompromising  nature with floods, droughts, and tornadoes to add to the economic collapse of the period.
   The Homer Laughlin Company of Newel, West Virginia in response to a growing trend from the buying public for color in their lives introduced a new line of kitchen and tableware. For the first time a talc body with their four carefully selected brilliant colors (red, blue, green, and yellow) were encased in a semi-glaze to the delight of American housewives.
   In January of 1936 Fiesta was born. It wasn't until late in 1936 that a rich ivory was added to the line. The original assortment of mix and match pieces included 54 items.
   Color had entered the kitchen were women spent most of their lives. Maybe just one treasured platter, but it was a spot of color especially when winter skies were dull and grey. Fiesta remains today - 80 years later a highly cherished collectible that is an overture to a lifestyle long gone. It is not safe for use in the microwave, but the dishwasher is kind to Fiesta, while the companion Kitchen Kraft line does work in the oven.
   Rapidly, on the heels of the success of Fiesta, HLC introduced  their Harlequin line with more colors. It was lighter in weight and less expensive, but retained Art Deco shapes in the cups, teapot, and cream soup bowls. It was sold through the F.W. Woolworth Co. Stores we refereed to as "dime stores." Harlequin remained in production through the early 1970s.
   Another colored line was Riviera that was produced in four colors. Red and light green using Fiesta colors and blue and yellow from the Harlequin line. Marketed in 1938 and sold only by the Murphy Co. If you take the ivory from an earlier Century line it is possible to collected Riviera in five colors. Production of this line ceased in 1950 and is harder for the collector to find.
  The photo shows some of my Riviera collection with a few pieces of the Hacienda decal that was added to Century shapes. The cream and green milk jug is over 100 years old, HLC made in 1912 and marked on the bottom.
   My sister was the Fiesta collector and at her death her extensive collection made a special trip to Texas to the home of a nephew who'd asked for the set when he first started housekeeping. Riviera is my collectible, but the cabinets do contain items of Fiesta and Harlequin in the proper colors to add sparkle to a dreary winter kitchen.
   It doesn't matter how professionally employed or community busy a woman is today she still finds herself spending time in the kitchen and loves a bit of color to brighten her day.
   Holiday splendor is a Fiesta punch set using Medium Green (1950 color) mugs with a 14 inch platter and a red footed salad bowl. It took over 35 years to assemble this set.

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