Vintage Melamine Dinnerware
Russel Wright Melmac History

Retro Chalet Presents:

  My new Melmac Site is up and running.  Be sure to visit it at  http://RetroChalet.blogspot.com or http://www.MelmacCentral.com 

This above site contains 25+ years of research and counting, being updated all the time! I've compiled every bit of extensive history possible, colors, pieces produced, rarity, and up to date values.  Much of this information is not available elsewhere.  Let me backtrack. 

I've been collecting melmac since 1988 including Russel Wright.  I streamlined my collection to ONLY Russel Wright in the early nineties, -thanks to Dennis Teepe.  I suppose you could say the rest is history.  I had questions.  There were no answers.  So I went on a journey to find them.

At the time,  Ann Kerr had been instrumental in her Russel Wright Encyclopedias, and I was happy to see Russel Wright melmac in print, (even if that section was limited to only but a few pages.)   In corresponding with Ann, she explained to me at the time there was not a lot of interest in the plastic.  Most of her information was obtained from serious plastics collector at the time BA Wellman, but many questions remained. 

I soon found she was right. The world was full of avid Russel Wright pottery and dinnerware collectors, and the ceramic lines seemed so extensive in comparison. I wondered why though, most collectors balked at the melamine designs? 

That was okay, there was more for me.

Once frowned upon as "crap plastic", I'm happy to report melmac is more and more desirable thanks to domestic diva's like Rachel Ray and Martha Stewart bringing vintage housewares to life again.

Ann urged me to tell my story someday.  I  had a basic information site for ten years but I had more questions to answer before I compiled it all. I'm only sorry she isn't here to see this today.

In comparison to the plethora of melmac on the market from that era, it is my opinion Russel Wright's designs were the best.  There are a few reasons why.  Overall design was amazing.  My research shows that so much time, care, and concern was put into the forethought and design of lines Many people don't realize, he designed most everything down to the brochures, and the in-store packaging so that the dishes would display properly. Weeks were taken finding the right cardboard distributor.  Fighting with factories for the exact design needed when machinery and production problems ensued. Sadly, battling for his royalties on questionable contract fallouts, most of which he never received.  The most amazing thing is this: 

 There was no other designer, NO ONE, selling millions of units of melamine and millions of units of china at the same time except for Russel Wright.  Essentially Wright's melamine was competing with his own American Modern ceramic dinnerware and both were selling and in homes all over the United States.    Is this not amazing in itself? 

 "Residential" went head to head with "American Modern" dishes.

So, in these pages you will find my summaries talking to people that worked during the initial product testing of "Meladur" at American Cyanamid.   I interviewed people who worked at the Lapcor Plastics factory in Manitowic, Wisconsin, where the original Meladur molds ended up. I spent over a week at Syracuse University covering every single box and every document looking for clues. I interviewed other collectors, and stockpiled info along the way.  I spent hours on old microfiche and perusing vintage bookstores and collecting ever Modern Plastics Encyclopedia. magazine, and book possible stockpiling information that is obsolete.  I hob-knobbed with the folks in Newark, NY where the Stuart Company's Home Decorators sales offices were and relatives gave me some answers I was looking for. I even tracked down designs to Canada, and interviewed the man whose families owned the melmac plant for years. 

Then there was Derek Schultz, whose friendship with me was short but taught me that anything is possible.  His desire and love for all things Russel Wright was so great, that he was intending on writing a book encompassing all melmac designs.  He was battling cancer, and gave me his entire research and collection before he died.  I was more in shock than anything, and it's taken me some time to get myself in gear.  I donated all his personal notes on other melmac lines to Robin Ptacek, hoping he'll write a comprehensive melmac book.  I know now, there is no one else however, that can write the Russel Wright chapter like I can.  So here it is. A whole website full of it.  I'm still poking around, and updating information all the time.

I've been a firm believer in sharing this information with others, and promoting the beauty and integrity of Wright's Melamine dishes. When I first started collecting, none of this was out there for me. This site contains everything I've learned along my travels history, values, rare colors, and the ability to have me answer all your questions regarding your Russel Wright Melmac or Melamine dinnerware. 

I urge anyone interested in Russel Wright to visit Manitoga's Official Site and give to them either by making a donation or purchasing a membership -- will help preserve this lifelong home of the  designer.  

 As to my collection, my Russel Wright melmac collection now spans every line, and includes some pieces thought to not exist.  It's been shown at the San Francisco Airport Museum, and subject of blogs, articles, and newspapers from Wisconsin to Newark, NY.  I've been labeled a "Russel Wright Melmac Expert".  Here is my set that I lent for photographing to the book below

To see more great photos, and to purchase books available about Russel Wright (all topics) visit Russel Wright Studios.

I hope you will enjoy that site, all about RW plastic, and melamine dinnerware.  contact me with questions, feedback or suggestions. Happy Collecting!

 

 


Cindy Fahnestock-Schafer

Email: IraMency@verizon.net

http://www.MelmacCentral.com

 

 

 

 

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