Updated: Jan 7
Many a middle-class family dinner have been served using the recognizable mid-century tableware known as Hammered Aluminum, Hand-Wrought Aluminum, Anodized Aluminum, Poor (Po') Man's Silver, or Pressed Aluminum.
Raise your hand if you remember this lightweight somewhat flatly finished metal serveware from a meal at your aunt's, grandmother's or mother's house.
Your own table? Your secret is safe with us here, after all, we are A Vintage Addiction.
I proudly own some inherited pieces I won't part with and I have several beautiful examples of the made-in-the-USA metalware in my stores. The three-piece casserole set pictured above, made by Everlast, is hard to find complete with the Pyrex glass insert. The bamboo design has a minimalist feel to it, making it a bit more modern than many other serving pieces. My mother would have served a vegetable medley of scalloped potatoes in it. For company.
Aluminum tableware had five decades of popularity in the 20th century, The 1920s and 1930s depression era had aluminum giftware as a popular choice for wedding gifts. Homemakers in the 1940s desired more functional pieces for entertaining. Serving dishes from those years can be described as culinary modern chic. They were pretty to look at, lovely to use, and easy to care for.
Improved methods of working with aluminum in the 1950s sent manufacturers scrambling to create hostess dishes for middle-income families. The factories Continental, Cromwell, Everlast, and Buenilum were busy mass-producing trays, candy dishes, and bowls which were relatively inexpensive for women accustomed to shopping at J.C. Penney, Sears, Montgomery Ward, and Woolworth,
Companies with metalsmiths such as Wendell Forge and Alfred Day chose to up the artisan value of their pieces to compete for a higher dollar from shoppers at Bloomingdales and Bonwit Teller.
All the while, the Krisher Company was instrumental in developing the design enhancements of applying metal on metal.
Layers of petals and leaves, curls and swirls, ornate handles and pedestals enhanced their aluminum. Their Rodney Kent line - named after a street corner, not a person - was a game changer not only aesthetically, but for the types of product that became available.
Ornately decorated casseroles, covered dishes, trays, coffee and tea serving sets, cruets, and other table accessories took aluminum beyond hammered and pressed and filled many more kitchen cabinets with aluminum.
So, what do we do with all this sempiternal metal? It won't go away. It is practically impossible to destroy. There are boxes of metal bowls in attics. We see dull aluminum trays at yard sales. We own table accessories our great aunt insisted we take home with us. And, some of us have Grandma's wedding gifts from 1932.
We respect it as American Industrial Metalware.
We love it because some close to us did.
We use it.
We repurpose a candy dish as a desk caddy.
We reuse a serving tray as a vanity table cosmetics tray.
We use a pitcher as a garden watering can.
Novelly, we serve with it.