Vintage Vernonware – “Gingham” and “Tam O’Shanter” Dishes

I last wrote about why antiques and vintage are good value for your money, and today I would like to introduce my extremely durable and lovely plaid Vernonware dishes. These beauties are hand painted heavy pottery, American made, and dishwasher friendly. Although they are around 60 years old, they are still used every day in our house and they are our only set of dishes. I have never cracked or broken one, and they have a fantastic cheerful vintage style. How’s that for great bang for your buck?

Vernonware was a popular pottery line produced by the Vernon Kilns company from Vernon, California in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. Over the years the Vernonware line included a variety of designs including solids, plaids, and florals. Vernon Kilns went out of business in 1958 and its molds and patterns were acquired by Metlox Pottery. Metlox produced some of the Vernon Kilns patterns as well as new patterns under a “Vernonware by Metlox” mark until Metlox went out of business in the 1970s.

Between 1937 – 1958, Vernon Kilns produced six lines of plaid dinnerware. The original pattern, “Organdie” was designed by artist Gale Turnbull and the other patterns were inspired by his original design. I collect two of these subsequent designs – “Gingham” and the very similar “Tam O’Shanter”. You can see the difference in these patterns, as well as their individual marks, below:

“Gingham” design on left, “Tam O’Shanter” on right

Vernonware “Gingham” mark

Vernonware “Tam O’Shanter” mark

I found a quote from a vintage advertisement that enthusiastically called the Tam O’Shanter design “fresh as Highland Heather …and warm as a Scottish brogue!” Who wouldn’t want dishes that charming serving up their cornflakes in the morning?

The “Tam O’Shanter” design in all its Scottish majesty.

Vernonware was advertised as durable and versatile. They boasted a 25 year warranty against fading or cracking. They even suggested you could bake your meal directly in their dishes – taking dinner from oven to table in one step. I’ve never baked using my Vernonware dishes (nor do I use them in the microwave). ** UPDATE** : One reader did warn that her Vernonware plate did not survive her toaster oven. Use caution with oven heat! Also, for about two years I put my Vernonware in the dishwasher and thought they were fully dishwasher safe. HOWEVER, I recently noticed that the glaze on some of my pieces is getting a bit dull. Thankfully the damage is minimal but I now hand wash my Vernonware. The little extra time and effort to hand wash will keep any vintage dishes looking shiny and new.

This vintage ad suggests you can fill a giant serving cup with chunky stew. Yum? Image from The Vernon Kilns’ Plaid Dinnerware Website

My generous and stylish mom got me started on these dishes years ago when I was in University. She began by buying a few pieces here and there off eBay. A few pieces turned into a few more, and soon we were delighted to see we had a full set of the plates and bowls. Eventually we were able to add cups, saucers, bread and butter plates and a few platters to the mix. I’m still adding to the collection, and finding new and unusual pieces is a big part of the fun. My dishes are a growing collection and a continuous source of  joy for me. I know that sounds crazy but it’s true! Often the best place to inject a little beauty is in those “mundane” items you use everyday.

Cupboard full of vintage Vernonware

Much like my vintage McCoy planters, vintage plaid Vernonware is a great thing to collect on a budget. The individual pieces can range from around $5 for a small plate to $50 or more for an unusual serving dish or coffee carafe.  I would suggest that if you decide to collect Vernonware, you should snap up the really funky dishes when you see them. Regular shapes like the plates and bowls are somewhat common, but you can wait a long time before you see that two tiered cake stand again. As with many lovely vintage items, Vernonware rewards the vigilant and patient collector.

The plaid stripes and the rims were hand painted.

Pretty, cheerful, full of mid-century modern charm, durable, versatile and high quality. Is there anything my vintage Vernonware can’t do? If you’re interested in adding some of these lovely pieces to your home, start by seeing what’s available on eBay and keeping an eye out at your local antique, vintage and second-hand shops. You can also find some good information online, including the following websites:

The Vernon Kilns’ Plaid Dinnerware Website

Vernonware FAQ



17 responses

  1. It was so great to find your post. Our family used the Organdie design dishes when I was growing up and I found them again going through my mom’s things recently. I don’t have them with me (yet), so I was trying to find out what they were on the internet. Your posts about the Vernonware are great, and they inspire me to enjoy them once I can get my hands on them!

    • Thank you for your kind comments! I really like the Organdie pattern, and they would be great for display and regular use. The fact that the dishes will remind you of your childhood makes them even more special! Enjoy!

  2. I put my Metlox Vernon Daisy plate in the toaster oven on toast, and I heard a loud ‘pop’ noise and saw that it cracked all the way thru, even though it said “safe in oven and dishwasher”.

  3. Loved the information on this site regarding Vernonware. I inherited a 100+ piece collection including the miniature display piece and was going to just donate it to a local charity. I might just have to keep it now – or sell most of the more unusual pieces = soup crocks, coffee cups, salt and pepper shaker, etc.

    • Wow Lori, that sounds like an impressive collection! What pattern do you have? If you don’t want all those pieces, I think donating a small set of the most useful pieces to charity would be great (plates, bowls etc). The charity would appreciate it and you might start someone on a new collection. I would probably keep the whole set, or at least the really unusual pieces, but of course I’m a bit biased 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  4. This was a very intresting site I came across. I have a pink vernonware butter dish . I was just trying to find out things about vernonware. It has a lid . I am giving it to my niece as she collects pink stuff for hr kitchen. :-))

  5. HI, reg VERNON KILNS & Vernonware:
    Hate to brag, hehe, but I’ll be 60 next week! And I fell head over heels in love (truly, in rapture) with 2 little bread plates of Tam’O’Shanter I found at a junk store, when I was 15 yrs old. Had to have them, luckily I had a dime on me! Never fell out of love.. I too grab every piece, always have all of my life, and all 3 of my grown kids love the stuff still! I was lucky enough to find not one, but 2 full sets (Homespun & Organdie) some yrs back. My kids follow my rule of not using the dishwasher on them, and hand wash the dishes separately daily. After all these years, they look great, just like new. But I have seen a few pieces along the way I did not purchase, as the top glaze was worn down, from dishwashers. The gloss was gonzo. ~I do think our dishwashers and detergents today might be slightly better, but I would still caution about regular dishwasher use. Microwaves are a no-no for ANY vintage pottery/china not specifically made for such. Lead in the glaze can wreak havoc, air bubbles blow, you really don’t want to try it, nope! (don’t even try it). Toaster ovens,..well, no old pottery is made for having sudden heat strokes in spots. And again, remember glazes of yesteryear can get very hot, and be unevenly tricky, unlike glazes generally used today. The molecules heating at different rates will affect the brittle clay body within, too. Have a heart, be kind to your vintage sets, and you will still find them sparkling 40 MORE years from now!!

    • Thanks for the comment Suze! Great advice. I’m very careful to stop using dishes with any break in the glaze, and never put my dishes in the microwave or oven. Vintage does take a little more care but it’s still very durable and worth it for the beauty!

  6. Do not, I repeat, do NOT put your Vernonware in the dishwasher. Over time, the colors will fade tremendously. These dishes were never made to be put in a dishwasher and were actually manufactured before dishwashers were household items. They were NEVER meant to withstand a dishwasher. I have a love affair with my vintage dishes and spend the extra time to wash them all carefully by hand. Trust me… don’t blow it!

    • Thank you Wendy! I appreciate the words of wisdom and in fact you are right. I’ve updated the original post to correct my dishwasher position. I found the glaze getting a little dull after a few years of the dishwasher and now I hand wash my Vernonware. It’s not hard at all (especially when the cutlery and everything else can still be put in the dishwasher). Thankfully the damage is very minimal. Cheers!

      • Haha!! Good job! I love your gorgeous dishes and would hate to see them ruined – My mother routinely put her wedding dishes in the dishwasher, but dishes from 1948 couldn’t take it, and those lovely pink roses got horribly faded… (They rarely used the teacups, so now I have a sweet reminder – among others – of my dear parents.) Enjoy those dishes of yours!!

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