Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Vintage Thanksgiving ~ Turkey Platters and Thanksgiving Decor ~ Gobble Gobble


In 1869, during the Civil War,  President Lincoln proclaimed that the fourth Thursday of every November, would be recognized as a day of thanksgiving.  By the 1870's, Americans embraced the ideal of a Thanksgiving Day celebration.  What once was a somber feast amongst the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians in the Fall of 1621, some 200 years later, quickly became the American meal extravaganza, a real tour de force.

Honest Abe

So, with that bit of history behind us, let's take a look at the Thanksgiving Dinner Table Decor, first focusing on the Turkey platter.  By the way, Happy Thanksgiving.  I know everywhere around you it looks like Christmas, but it's not.  It is still FALL and I am loving it.  And, I am sharing my "still Fall" exuberance with a recipe for Pumpkin Coconut Soup down at the bottom of the post.  On with the story....

Gorgeous etched Pumpkins at the Remnants of the Past Vintage Show
Although my family was not considered financially wealthy, the income my father provided was adequate and sufficient to meet our needs. As the family brood grew, so did my mother's interest in antiques.  Buying and selling became a means to bring in additional funds for our ever growing family. Even though our life was simple, Mother made it a point that celebrations were as festive and memorable as possible. In earlier years we used our everyday dishes for special dinners but when our cupboards started to fill with china and boxes of sterling silverware my mother would buy at garage sales or auctions, our table settings became more elegant. Simple or elaborate, our Thanksgiving table was laid out on a white crocheted tablecloth and the turkey would be strategically placed in the center of the table. Us children would be bathed and dressed appropriately and convinced to maintain some dignity and composure during the meal.  This also allowed my mother the illusion of well behaved children (even if only for one dinner).  Well,  for goodness sakes, there was seven of us. We had no choice but to be unruly at times.

Starting with those two darling boys ~ the one clasping his hands is Jeff, Steve smiling at him, shy Vicki, Danielle holding the baby, Cindy and me. (Lisa was still a sparkle in my parent's eyes)

We never had Thanksgiving themed tableware or decorations, no Horn of Plenty, no autumn wreath on the door. We did, however, display our school made crafts - pine cone turkeys, construction paper Indian head bands or a holiday poem about what we were thankful for carefully written in childlike script on flimsy triple lined paper.

The Horn of Plenty, a symbol of abundance and nourishment

I have tried to keep up the family tradition, simple but elegant in the Thanksgiving table setting.  I now  use my collection of sterling silver, silver platted rimmed glasses, vintage wine glasses (can be seen in my blog posting about TRAYS) and mismatched china.....

those silver plated rimmed glasses once belonged to my mother-in-law
but recently I have had a desire to purchase a Transferware Turkey Platter.  I think it is time for me to have that special something to commerate a holiday that represents the blessings bestowed on us and to remind us what to be thankful for.  Okay, I know what your thinking.  The turkey would be sitting right on top of design, who would see it? But a Thanksgiving platter would be in the "thought"....the reminder and the looking forward of Thanksgiving meals spent with family and friends. 


This is a typical design found on vintage platters made in Japan

This affordable turkey platter was made in Japan for the American home.  Many could be found on American tables in the 1950's on.  The platter in the photo above with this particualar Transferware design can be found for a reasonable price at Etsy and Ebay or even your local antique or thrift store.  Look for Spode, Enoch Wood, Mason's, Barker Bros., Johnson Bros., Mid Winter and Crown Ducal for more upscale Transferware but only if you your taste is a little more refined and your wallet is deep ~ these are the "creme de la creme".  Get familiar with manufactorer's markings before making your quest.  And PLEASE .... when buying on a auction site or online store, read the fine print for words like "cracks, chips, repaired".  Personally, I would not want to use a repaired platter and have my turkey fall through a broken plate onto the table.  Sounds like a Thanksgiving nightmare to me!

This blue English transferware plate graced many a American tables for over 100 years.

Johnson Bros. transferware is highly desired by collectors.  A large platter like this can go for over $450!

A Johnson Bros. marking

This transferware pattern is called "Native Hen" by Barker Bros.  Price?  Can run up to $425! 

(thanks to Country Living for their articles on Turkey platters .... a wealth of information)



So, I was sitting at my computer, doing all of this research on transferware for my blog and I decided to go scour my local thrift stores to look for a turkey platter.  I realized the odds were stacked against me.  First of all, I live on a tiny island and the number of thrift stores on Maui can be counted on one hand.  Secondly, it was 2:30 on a Saturday afternoon.  I felt a determination, however, so I grabbed my keys and wallet and was out the door in a flash.  My first stop at a consignment store was a bust but I like this shop as the things I am looking for are usually under priced.  Next stop, Salvation Army.  Hum, well here is a cute little wooden cane bottom chair, $15, I'll take that.  Nothing looked promising in their holiday displays or shelfs with sparkle and shine.  I figured I would look at the kitchen utensils.  I love old kitchen tools and gadgets.  My eyes were darting to and fro until ......

Enoch Woods English Countryside Transferware Platter ~ $3 at Salvation Army!
they fell on the prettiest site ever!  A transferware platter.  I gingerly pick it up, turn it over and ......

This marking not only tells me who made it but how old it is .... have to be a detective at times.

I can't breath!  My husband is texting me....sweet words ... he misses me, he can't wait to get back home .... I text back, "I can't breath". He is confused, concerned, then laughs when he realizes I have found a bargain.  

Look at the rich and gorgeous detail in the pattern.

It may not have a Turkey design but what "serendipity".  I was just educating myself that very morning about Enoch Wood and less than six hours later, I owned a piece .... for $3.


This is where it is important to know your stuff or have internet service on your phone (or take a $3 chance like I did) when looking at ANYTHING with markings, stamps, etchings which specify the maker, date and/or composition of the piece that you are considering to purchase.  

Enoch Wood Turkey Platter, $487 @ Replacements on Ebay

What I learned about Enoch Wood, I will share with you.  My platter's pattern is called English Countryside and has the urn marking pictured above.  While doing some research, I was able to establish the date on this piece.  

If the markings says "Wood & Son" it dates from 1894-1907.  Evidently, Wood was blessed with more sons as pieces from 1907 to 1910 were marked "Wood & Sons".  After 1910, the marking changed to "Wood & Sons, Ltd."  How fun it that information?

Also, another thing I learned about all transferware.  Pieces marked "detergent proof", "colours under glaze", "resistant to acid and alkali" and other such "care" information indicates the piece was made at a later date, in most cases, the 1960's on.


There is more to Thanksgiving than platters.  Here's a brief glimpse at other vintage items to dress up the Thanksgiving table......

A Vintage Table Cloth to brighten up the Table Setting.  "Turkeys and Pumpkins and Cranberries, oh my"!

Libby Fall glasses, very popular in the 50's, 60's and early 70's.  Inexpensive and easy to find on Ebay.

Have you ever heard of vintage candles?  Here are two Gurley (not "girlie") Turkey Candles to add to your Thanksgiving table decor.  But if they are vintage, you may not want to burn them.

Darling vintage salt and pepper shakers depicting a Pilgrim couple.  Turkey shakers are also popular in the vintage market.... but enough with the turkeys!  Pilgrims were the reason we celebrate Thanksgiving.


In closing, dear readers, have a wonderful Thanksgiving and may you be blessed with a "sunshiny" heart.  I am thankful for many things in my life but right now, I am thankful for you....for those who take the time to read my blog and who are hopefully inspired  by my writings and musings ~ my passion for the old, the past, the vintage. **************************************************************


As promised, from Sunset Magazine Nov. 2004

Pumpkin Coconut Soup

Traditional tastes go tropical in this comforting holiday soup. Make it up to a day in advance, and store, covered, in refrigerator. (Note: It also freezes well.) Reheat over medium heat, adding more broth or water to obtain desired consistency.
YIELD: Makes 8 cups COOK TIME: 20 Minutes PREP TIME: 15 Minutes COURSE: Soups/Stews


1 tablespoon canola oil 
1 onion, chopped (1 cup)
2 carrots, chopped (1 cup) 
2 cloves garlic, minced 
2 (14-ounce) cans chicken broth, divided 
2 (15-ounce) cans unsweetened pumpkin 
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk 
2 tablespoons lime juice 
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper 1tablespoon sugar 
1 1/4 teaspoons salt

Garnishes: drizzle of whipping cream or creme fraiche, toasted coconut, lime zest curls

1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add onion and carrot, and cook, stirring frequently, 5 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften. Stir in garlic, and cook 30 seconds. Add 1 can of chicken broth; bring to a simmer, and cook 10 minutes or until vegetables are very tender. Remove from heat; cool 10 minutes.

2. Transfer mixture to a blender, and puree until smooth. Return mixture to Dutch oven, and add pumpkin, coconut milk, and remaining can of chicken broth, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; stir in lime juice and next 3 ingredients. 

Garnish, if desired.


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