Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Peter Terris Shenango China (1950's)

Good morning!!

Did you think I'd up and quit on you? No chance, no chance. Not while there's still breath in my body and tons of vintage stuff to discuss...and today, there's both! :) I was telling my friend Eartha Kitsch the other day that in spite of not having blogged for a few months, I still constantly get a pang of, "Hey! That would make a great blog idea!", and isn't it just about time that I heed the tugging of my vintage writing heartstrings and tell you the good news about Peter Terris Shenango china. 

Hold your hats, kids, there's some INSANE deal-getting going down in this post. And not a little midcentury marvelousness! Let's talk brass tacks.

Proof of life...I should be holding up a newspaper with today's date on it...

For anyone just tuning in, my parents and I have gotten into the swing of hitting estate sales pretty much every...single....weekend in the last couple of years. Hey, everybody's gotta have a hobby! And truth be told, I'm happy to have accomplices in crime-- we usually have a good time even if we don't find anything. Of a regular week, Matthew works Saturday morning into the early afternoon, so this girl reporter is free to roam the 615 in search of vintage paydirt and get home with just enough time to clean everything up and present it to the man of the house. ("Look, bebe, I got this...and this...and this was only freakin' $5...and I probably shouldn't have bought this for $15 but I wanted it..." [Matthew, examining the umpteenth vintage swing coat to join my closet] "Well, that looks EXTREMELY Babbish..." #hesanenabler #maisjelaimecomme├ža). So two weekends ago was no different than any other, my mom and dad and I were tooling around West Meade in search of the third phase, third day sale that was going on at the piquantly named "Gun Club Road". The house, when found, was gorgeous....the house, when found, was also still P-A-C-K-E-D to the rafters. Score! The race was on.

Marking on a Peter Terris Shenango set
Saturday, as opposed to Thursday or Friday, is an interesting day to make a "day" of sales, because whereas you might have missed the McCoy planter or Eames knockoff that got snatched up on the first day, what you will FIND are items that were too high on the first and second day of the sales, and are now on the chopping block for criminally low prices. Best case scenario, you can find something that was fairly priced on the first day, a pretty good bargain on the second day, and a no brainer on the third and final day of the sale. I was a victim of "75% off everything panic" upon entering the house, which is how, in spite of a new age of austerity in vintage buying, I ended up with a pole lamp, a framed fan photo of Gregory Peck, two 1940's frames, four 60's peignoir sets, a bunch of various and sundry smalls, and an extensive set of Peter Terris china for about $40, "But I thought you said you were done buying china," a close reader of She Was a Bird might remind its authoress. Guess I was wrong! Couldn't pass it up. $7 was the total cost expended cost on the two boxes of paper packed china . Remind me to tell you about the rest of it later, but for now, here's a picture of the service altogether, and the best part is-- that's only HALF. I have a mint condition setting for eight! Eight plates, saucers, tea cups, bread and butter plates, and a gravy boat.  I don't even know if my table, leaf added , will seat that many people-- but if it does, I'm prepared!

The whole megillah...weirdly enough, the gravy boat is just a bowl permanently affixed to a saucer in one piece. I scared Matthew by turning it upside down the other day without explaining it was a single piece of china, haha. Poor bub.

This pattern is called "Calico Leaves". How do I know that? I popped "Peter Terris Shenango", "Peter Terris Shenango midcentury", and "Peter Terris Shenango leaves" into an Etsy and Ebay search and scrolled through the for sale and sold results until I could find items that matched, trawling for any history or additional info I could. It never ceases to amaze me how 99% of post 1920's things I've bought are somewhere posted on the internet somehow, no matter how weird-- this was an easy one, but I've found bi-zarre things I would have thought were rare as hen's teeth or at least a little unusual being sold thither and yon on the world wide web...usually for a higher price than I paid for it, comfortingly, but the fact that it's out there is crazy! Mass production in the midcentury means most things we drool over at the flea market and estate sales were produced in numbers you couldn't imagine back in the day... which is good news when one passes up a crazy cool thing. Odds are, you'll find it again (though not always at the price you wanted to pay for it, haha).

I digress...here's the plate in detail:

I love the colors.

While the pattern is pretty enough, what drew me to these plates more than other midcentury sets I've passed on (other than the price), was how heavy these plates are. The thin, fine (and oh-so-breakable) 1930's and 40's china I'd been collecting at thrift stores and estate sales are about a fourth the weight of the Shenango plates. I decided then and there to go out of the shabby chic china business and embrace the "dare you to drop it" (but seriously, please don't try to drop it) thickness of the new plates. Side note: if you're looking for some bargain shabby chic china in Nashville, GIRL, I have got you covered on Craigslist (see link here). I kept one set of gorgeous handpainted plates/cups/etc, but listed all my others to make room for four of everything for everyday use, and four of everything for replacement/dinner parties. We're moving up in the world, cabinets!!

Teacup and saucer design
And why are the dishes so heavy duty? Because turns out, the Shenango china company happens to specialize in restaurant ware!  Ah HA. The Peter Terris line was their attempt in the mid 50's to capitalize on suburban consumer culture...what if you made dishes as cute as they were contemporary, and as HARDY as commercial grade cafeteria plates? You can see some of the ads for the line from 1956 issues of Life below. Nota bene: while $12.95 sounds like a deal, that actually works out to $113 and some change in modern money. Historical inflation data, as always, bowls me over. Actually, mine probably consists of two 16 piece sets (as said, I have 8 of everything and a gravy boat)...that's $226! Which is $219 more than I paid for it. YES.

I saw a few sites mention 1957 as the year Peter Terris was discontinued, and that makes sense, as these 1956 ads were the only thing to pop up on the usually generously populated midcentury Google books archive. And why, I wonder! Information is scant outside of listings for sale and this master's thesis (!!) on Shenango in general from a student at Kent State University. Thank goodness for the latter! Page 104 brings up the info we want-- Peter Terris was a less expensive option than Shenango's expensive Epicure line (the author describes the Terris line as "thinner"...can you imagine!) and, as said above, was marketed at housewives for its sturdiness and practicality. I will gladly have this marketed at me in spite of being employed and it being the year 2015. By the time Shenango changed ownership in the early sixties', the Epicure and Terris lines had both been abandoned in favor of a focus on the commercial restaurant ware that made the company's name in the industry.

I couldn't find many other "atomic" or "midcentury" looking Shenango patterns online except this one, the "Charpinx" pattern, which is for sale for $48 on Ebay as we speak! Not bad, and honestly a little cuter than mine (sssshhh, don't tell my plates I said that). Here's the link and a picture:


Anyway, I have to get back to work, but I missed you guys! What in heck have you been up to? Have you seen any of these pieces in the wild, or do you have a dish or a set at home from the Peter Terris line? What kind of vintage china do you favor, if you do? I will once again make fervent promises to get back here before too long-- especially to tell you about my exploits on Craigslist as a seller rather than a buyer for the first time! But again, we'll get to it, soon. :)

Take care!! Talk to you later!


  1. It's funny, I keep scouring Etsy for china (I have several boxes of china in semi-permanent storage because my tiny apartment barely has room for regular dishes, but I keep wanting!) and I see that set around fairly frequently. So if you find that you're missing some, or break a dish, I'd check Etsy for replacements.

    I have to say, it's a MUCH prettier pattern than I'd thought -- the Etsy pictures don't show all the little details of the leaves. Congrats on your magical find!

    1. It's hard NOT to buy dishes, right?! I'm glad someone agrees!! :) And thanks, they're really cute in person! And like I said, S-T-U-R-D-Y. Every time I pick one up, I'm surprised at how heavy it is just like the first time! :)

  2. 1. There is always room for more china! And my basement is proof of that.
    2. That's a completely adorable set.
    3. You totally have to blog about the Omni Hut, because I need more details on that place.

    1. Yes, yes, and YEEEESSSSS. I need to go back to the Omni Hut for more, uh, research (read: polynesian food).

  3. We missed you too! Tell us more about the new gig! And more winter coats, please!

    1. Thank you! And def more about the job and coats to come. SO. MANY. WINTER COATS. You know I'd never let you down in that category! ;)

  4. I'm also a shameless china collector from way back, and while hunting for extra pieces at goodwill have run across the aforementioned gravy bowl/with attatched saucer. Super odd, and in fact I inherited a collection from Andy's Nana that had one. When I first saw the piece at goodwill, I could have sworn it was a pinterest creation, haha!

  5. I'm also a shameless china collector from way back, and while hunting for extra pieces at goodwill have run across the aforementioned gravy bowl/with attatched saucer. Super odd, and in fact I inherited a collection from Andy's Nana that had one. When I first saw the piece at goodwill, I could have sworn it was a pinterest creation, haha!

  6. Hello! I am from and live in New Castle, PA were Shenango China was produced! Although the Peter Terris line is older than I, it is by far my favorite of their lines. Seeing Shenago China growing up was just part of life. Diners, churches, friends houses and at home it was nothing special.
    I love seeing people like yourself fall in love with it. Like you said, it is pretty and heavy! The Calico Leaves were always a personal fav, but I have turned to the Charpinx due to it being less available.
    Congrats on your find, so many should be jealous!!

  7. I enjoyed reading your blog on and viewing your Peter Terris
    dinnerware--thanks! Interestingly, I am responding a year-and-a-half to the day that you posted it. I'd like to offer a correction on when the line was discontinued. Many, but not all, pieces are date coded in the name stamp--go to
    for the chart. I recently saw a PT piece in the Wild Strawberry pattern which was coded N-22 (1964). So, it seems that PT dinnerware was manufactured at least through the mid-1960s. Also, did you know that one of calico's definitions is "multicolored"? Hope you're still enjoying the dinnerware!



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