Sunday, September 13, 2009

"Wooden" it be lovely??

Oh, bad pun, I know...could not resist...anyway, although country decorating lends itself to wooden bowls year round, I tend to think of them as fall/winter accessories. (Yes, I am one who changes with the seasons!) It is something about the texture and color of woodenware works with the fall/winter colors.

In the 18th century, woodenware was sold by street sellers in cities, and in the country, the utensils were made by hand. Treenware is another term for kitchen woodenware, but ebay and online sellers have taken the term to extremes. Truly old wooden bowls...bowls made from burls (growths on trees) do command higher prices, but the bowls shown here are not precious like a 19th century hand crafted bowl despite what some would have you think. I believe good old woodenware is hard to distinguish without handling. I have even seen flea market sellers trying to pass off resin bowls as wood.

Sometimes the large oblong bowls were called trenchers. Originally trencher was a piece of stale bread, cut into a square shape and used as a plate. At the end of the meal, the trencher could be eaten with sauce but was more frequently given as alms to the poor. It evolved into a name for a plate of metal or wooden bowl.

The one bowl that shows up most in the resale market is Munising. The plant opened in Munising, Michigan in 1912. Their story ends with situations that many small companies are facing today. Here is an excerpt from a history of their factory about their demise. That old "foreign" competition started when we occupied Japan, and Americans desire for cheap and quantity runs through many of these stories.

May 27, 1954
Foreign competition in the woodenware line hit Alger County this week when the Munising plant of the Munising Wood Products Co. reduced its operation schedule to a 4 day week. The cutback to 32 hours per week took effect Monday and will continue into July at least, according to Manager Howard Norton. Inventory at the Munising plant is high because of slack sales.

June 13, 1962
The former Munising Wood Products Co. plant on Cedar St., which for many years made wooden bowls, clothes pins, salad forks and other articles of top quality, is now in the process of being torn down. The long storage shed on the east side was taken down first and now the remainder of the plant, all except the concrete building, are now being razed as well. At its peak the "Wooden Ware" employed 300 people.

Another bowl maker was Parrish. Years ago I purchased a large lot of these bowls with a note about the company's history. It said that the stock was discovered in storage, and that the plant had closed during the depression. Supposedly it was located in Indiana. Parrish bowls sometimes are marked with the name in a triangle on the bottom, but one of the main differences seems to be the size of the bottom of the bowl. Parrish bowls have a larger circumference from my observations.

How to care for these bowls is not difficult.
The old bowls will have chopping marks in the bottom because they were sold with chopping knives. They have morphed into salad bowls also. But, this advice is from Heloise...remember her? First, wash it with a mild liquid dishwashing detergent and warm water. Next, rinse well and dry thoroughly. To restore the patina, coat the entire surface carefully with mineral oil. Let stand overnight, then wipe with paper towels. To keep the wood in tip-top shape, repeat this process several times a year. Wooden bowls and wooden utensils should never be washed in the dishwasher or soaked in water.

I caution about using salad oils to coat wood because they can turn rancid, and I advise against any sealer.

And, remember, life is just a chair of bowlies!

7 comments: said...

Wow, I thought they were just "bowles".I've always been attracted to wood bowles, but I've never gotten one.

Nice article.


Just a bed of roses said...

All week I wonder "what is Susan going to write about next week?"
Wooden bowls are just not my thing, sometimes I come across a neat one though and it sells. they are fantastic for this time of year, your right. So old fashioned Thanksgiving/Christmas, neat to fill with goodies in them etc.
Okay...will be back next week to see what I can learn, hope school has been fun and challenging so far.

Karen-CharmingsCollectibles said...

Good tip about the mineral oil, thanks!

Michelle May-The Raspberry Rabbits said...

Life is just a chair of bowlies! Love that saying. Love your new blog look too my friend!
Have a great week.
bunny hugs,

gail said...

Hi Susan,, How is school going? I hope you are enjoying the fall semester. Its still hot as blazes here. I sure hope in the next couple weeks to see some signs of fall. I bet the squirrels are storing for the winter? Well, I enjoyed your post. I always do and learn something! Have a super week. (()) gail

DoreAnnDave said...

Good Day:
My wife, Dore Ann, recently purchased a 20" wooden bowl by Parrish, in Purciville, VA. It's now a working part of our home/kitchen. I was just wondering how old it is, and its value (since she paid $7.00).

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