Back in 1999 at an antique store in Frankfort, Kentucky, I came across a very striking electric coffee pot. Painted in an abstract design in bold colors it almost bordered on the avant-garde. I had never seen anything like before, so the $110.00 price was not much of a purchasing deterrent. To me the it exemplified the exuberance of early Art Deco design of the late 1920’s. A crazy, optimistic style that produced Roseville Futura pottery and the Chrysler Building and wouldn’t last long once the Great Depression hit in 1930. Made by Robeson Rochester under their trade name of Royal Rochester, a company well-known for the manufacturing of kitchen appliances.
Modernistic Royal Rochester coffee pot. Ceramic body made by the Fraunfelter China Company.
Once I had the coffee pot, now I wanted to add more pieces and have a complete set. This wasn’t going to be easy because other pieces weren’t turning up. A couple of years later the teapot, creamer and sugar were up for auction on Ebay. The three-piece set ending up selling for over $500.00 and way out of my price range. And once that auction ended more pieces with the same design were not coming up. And I had never come across these pieces at any flea markets or antique malls. But I did learn from that Ebay listing that this pattern’s name is “Modernistic”.
The Fraunfelter China Company of Ohio produced the ceramic pieces purchased by Royal Rochester for their various lines. “Modernistic” is only one line that used these shapes. The lusterware tan stripe and lilac stripe pieces turn up a lot more often and even though they have the same shape those designs are nowhere near as striking as “Modernistic”
“Modernistic”, like all Royal Rochester lines had a full range of pieces to make any breakfast stylish and up to date. Beside the coffee pot and sugar and creamer, a smaller sugar and creamer came with the teapot. The center piece of the line was the large coffee samovar. Small ceramic cups in metal holders were good for both coffee or tea. A waffle set included a syrup jug, batter bowl and ladle and of course the waffle iron. Completing the line a casserole and pie plate, both came with chrome stands.
The “Modernistic” pattern made its debut during the Christmas season of 1928. What we now call Art Deco made its American debut only less than two years before. Modernistic styles proved to be popular with more well to do people living in major cities. To the average American the new style seemed as foreign as a martian. Traditional styles, like colonial revival, remained the most popular in the United States through the 1940’s. Radios or refrigerators tended to be the only moderne style pieces in the house. Because of this Royal Rochester’s “Modernistic” ended up being a huge flop. The company’s advertisements for the 1929 Christmas season no longer mentioned this bold and colorful pattern. Since it was only available for a year or less, it makes the pattern extremely rare and hard to find today.
I never knew, until recently, how short a production time “Modernistic” had. This explained why it took eighteen years to find more pieces. Finally this summer in an antique mall in Wisconsin I found the large creamer, casserole in holder and pie plate. The dealer seeing a good customer told me she had more of this pattern in another mall nearby, just over the Illinois state line. There I picked up many more pieces, including the very rare waffle iron and batter bowl. Being very reasonably priced and 20% off, I took the plunge. I still need to get a few pieces, including the samovar, cups and the probably nearly impossible to find ladle. So the hunt continues!
Anthony (A Freakin’, Tiquen’ Guy).
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