Whilst sorting out the cutlery when I am volunteering at the Hospice Shop I see a lot of ‘Community Plate’ silverware – does anyone remember this? It was very desirable when I got married in the early 60s and it is still turning up.
My web savvy helper did a bit of research for me and the history of Community Plate is rather interesting:
In America in the mid-1800s a small association of men began an experiment in communal living at Oneida Creek, creating a utopian community based on the religious movement known as Perfectionism. In 1877 the Oneida Community began the manufacture of tableware. The production of iron spoons called “Lily” and “Oval” manufactured by the Wallingford branch was the direct ancestor of the Community Plate line.
In 1880 the activity was incorporated in New York as Oneida Community Limited and the factory was moved to Niagara Falls. Oneida was one of the earliest joint-stock companies in the United States in the late 1880s. Its religious philosophy helped inform the early development of the company, in which members of the Oneida Community received shares in the company. Its progressive nature also allowed for a woman, Harriet Joselyn, to sit on the board of directors — a departure from the norm for the time.
Oneida’s production at the time couldn’t compete with the higher quality silver being made by other companies, so they decided develop higher quality and better designed lines. The new pattern “Avalon” was exhibited at the 1901 Buffalo Exposition.
In 1902 the new line of Community Plate was introduced, “Community” for the Oneida Community and “Plate” for the fact that they were electroplating silver onto a stronger base metal. The success was not immediate, but an innovative campaign of advertising in high-priced, large-circulation magazines proved very effective for the sales of Oneida silver and had a profound effect in the whole American advertising business.
In 1926 a plant was opened in Sheffield, UK and a further five factories were bought in the UK over the next few years, expanding the UK market for the community plate silverware.
If you are interested in silverware may I recommend the Silver Threads WordPress site, it hasn’t been updated for a couple of years but there is a lot of information on there.