Historical Cook and Serve Ware From Wilton Armetale

By: Daniel Cheng

Wilton was the founder and Armetale was a new metal developed by Wilton Brass Company in 1963. The name Armetale was coined to signify "art" and "metal". The new material had the look of pewter and silver, and also met the food service requirements of US Food & Drug Administration.

The Wilton Company used the material to develop cook and serve ware that had more than just utilitarian significance. The products were designed to be suitable for use in different environments - traditional, country, classic, contemporary, eclectic, American colonial, etc.

For example the 1840 Tea Service is a replica of an American pewter coffee pot made in 1840. The pots feature a hexagonal spout and have curved handles with a decorative thumb rest. The set comes with matching creamer and sugar server, and is suitable for use in a traditional or country environment.

Another sample of the Wilton Armetale approach is exemplified by the African series. The products in these series included pitchers, trivets, bowls, casseroles, chip & dip servers, trays and wine bottle coasters with rim designs derived from tribal art displayed on canoes, houses, fabrics shields and other objects in the African countries of Chad, Kenya, Mali, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia.

The African series was launched under a licensing program with CARE, the international relief agency. The agency was working in the above-mentioned countries at that time.

Wilton Armetale was developed from an aluminum-based alloy and the material was suitable for creating antique and other kinds of looks. The Wilton Armetale Art and Pattern Departments worked to create different designs in Art Noveau, Traditional, Grand, Classic, etc. environments.

Users trying to recreate their favorite environments found these products ideal to recreate an authentic ambience as far as cook and serve ware were concerned. And the products achieved great popularity.

The environments to which Wilton Armetale catered were varied. There is the 12 Days of Christmas series for a holiday environment, a Classical series based on the decorative designs used by ancient Greeks, ACOMA series using the repeated geometric patterns found on the pottery of New Mexican Pueblo Indian tribe and an Acorn Chip & Dip inspired by the acorn from nature.

Many of the themes were related to Americana, based on uniquely American sources. The MAFA collection was inspired by Museum of American Folk Art, the Beat Up Mug was an authentic reproduction of an early American antique pewter mug to create a rustic American Country home environment.

Wilton Armetale also participated in commemorating the American Bicentennial in 1976 with two reproductions of Revolutionary period pieces, with Bicentennial Seal of Approval marked on them.

Another example of the Wilton Armetale approach was the acquisition of the Bruce Fox collection of over 100 pieces of sculpted and decorative serving pieces. The collection was acquired from the family of Bruce Fox (1902-1960), who had studied the intricate skills of ethnic communities working with metals.

The overall impression of Wilton Armetale is of a company enamored of tradition that is also capable of modern innovation.

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