Vintage Print Tablecloths
Fruit, Flower and Florida Fantasies for Your Table
Popular Vintage Print Tablecloths are both affordable and available
Art for Your Table
Prized for their vivid colors and graphic appeal, Vintage Print tablecloths from the 1940's are practical and affordable. Twenty dollars can buy a cloth dripping in hand printed daisies or cherries. Because the cloths were mostly manufactured of pure cotton or linen in a durable, heavy-weight fabric, many of these vintage tablcloths have survived in useable condition. Careful laundering can sometimes remove even fifty-year old gravy stains, but many owners feel that the imperfections make them more useable since the presence of existing stains releases one from worrying about spots of more recent vintage.
Textiles for the home were manufactured in the 1940's by Martex, Wilendure, St. Regis, Prints Charming, Bucilla, Startex, Table Tempo, Garden State and California Hand Prints, among others. Typical sizes include 36 x 36, 40 x 40, 48 x 50 and variations on the square or nearly square version for bridge tables and small kitchen tables. Rectangular cloths can be 54 x 60, 58 x 60, 60 x 72, and sometimes larger. The larger sizes are more expensive as they become increasingly harder to find. A typical tablecloth has two hemmed edges and two selvages (literally self-edge, the finished edge that is produced as the cloth is woven).
1940's Graphic Style
Unlike fabrics before or since that rely on an overall pattern to create interest, 40's textiles frequently made use of negative space as a major design element. Tablecloths and towels often have elaborate borders rendered in the background color (usually white) that mimic the shape or outline of the motif. The result is lively and eye-catching, more effect for the effort, an important aspect of a pattern that was created by a hand screening process. Even the plain geometric borders are frequently scalloped or wavy to create the impression of movement that makes these cloths so visually dynamic.
Artwork became even more flamboyant after World War II. Flowers and fruit had always been popular, especially roses, daffodils, iris, pansies, dogwood, daisies and tulips, but one is just as apt to find fanciful blossoms composed of a composite of many blooms rather than any adherence to real botany. As the decade progressed, the forms became more abstract until they evolved into the futuristic shapes of the 50's. Not only were flowers abstract, so were colors, and blue tomatoes or maroon peaches abound. After years of fabric in primarily patriotic colors, the post war years brought with them a new palette of chartreuse, rose and gray and brilliant purples.
Popular Souviner Tablecloths
Lively prints were often combined with geography to create souvenir tablecloths. These cloths usually depict a central outline of the state with pictures of enticing attractions in their approximate locations. Texas, California and Florida are the most popular states to collect, with Florida and California being the easiest to find. A 48 inch square Florida cloth in a popular colorway like red and blue in excellent condition can bring as much as $75, but the average is between $40-50.
Cheerful Cherries and Dancing Dishes
Other popular cloths feature south of the boarder, Black memorabilia motifs, and kitchen accessories depicted as dancing spoons and coffee pots. Most sought after are cherries. A cloth in the larger sizes with a scalloped border and the cherries delineated in a cheery red can sell for as much as $60, but only in mint condition. Typically, cherry prints bring between $35-40, more than cloths featuring other fruits or flowers. Behind cherries in popularity are strawberries, and both are hard to find in excellent condition, Murphy's Law of Textiles stating that the most popular forms in the prettiest colors are in the worst shape because their owners loved them and used them.