Dating your Vintage Tablecloth Collection

Tablecloth design, like any other fashion art form, reflected existing tastes and styles of the period. We can use the records of these fashions and moods to generally determine dates. Although in some cases the tablecloths can be assigned to a general decade, as I have done in my book, or even to a specific group of years, the lack of manufacturing records or other cataloguing of these delightful keepsakes makes assigning any one date extremely difficult. For my book, I researched the history of the dyes, copyright & trademark records and poured over vintage catalogs to come up the a “quick reference summary” to help you date your tablecloths. .

Quick Reference Summary

Victorian: 1840 – 1899

        • Turkey Red
          Dark crimsons, maroons, browns, gold colors
          Felted table covers
          Rich tapestries
          Home spun textiles (uneven weaves, fringes)
          Wavy undulating stripes, “snake like designs”
          Delicate hand worked, drawn work, bobbin lace, or embroidered tablecloths

Art Nouveau: 1900

        • Deep wine color
          Turkey Red damasks
          Crisp Linen damasks
          Dark cheddar yellow
          Green, purple were fugitive dyes
          Good luck symbols
          Hearts, ribbons, bows
          Hand worked designs

World War I: 1910s

        • Colonial early Americana
          Long haired girls
          Stylized floral
          Oriental themes
          Pastel colors
          One directional designs
          Stamped designs one color on linen
          Turkey Red damasks without fringe

Art Deco: 1920s

        • More use of pastel colors
          No “true” greens were possible, but light sage was possible
          Colors in opposites of the color wheel
          Lighter color red
          Increase in number of printed colors (2 or more)
          Designs are larger and usually in the corners
          Cocktail party themes
          Egyptian themes
          Aztec themes
          Oriental themes
          Damask and cotton tablecloths with colored striped borders

The Depression: 1930s

        • Home yard goods fabrics.
          Repeating patterns across the fabric
          Homemade feedsack tablecloths
          Small 31″ squares “breakfast cloths”
          Bright, clear, multi-color prints up to three colors
          Colors opposite the color wheel, i.e., orange/blue, orange/green, purple/yellow
          Red/white floral designs with green leaves. First use of true “color fast” green around 1935
          Florals with flowing ribbon designs
          Lily of the Valley, cottage roses
          Larger “groupings” of florals in corners
          Large areas of grinning/shadowing around motifs
          Linen tablecloths with wide plaid edges
          Increase in “imports” from Japan, Checklosvakia, Ireland
          Vat Dyed,Merchanized terms used

World War II: 1940s

        • Use of terms hand printed, Made in America, Color Fast, Sanfordized
          OPA” Office of Price Administration price sticker (1942-1947)
          ;Florals, specially Roses, Dogwoods, cherry blossoms, Tulips
          Use of the term “Screen printed”
          4+ color combinations
          1946: Delicate shading in designs, more “realistic” three dimensional designs
          <indent>Ethnic themes, Mexican, Black Americana, Indian, Oriental
          Garden, vegetables designs
          Farm themes
          Cute children, people themes
          Western themes
          State souvenir tablecloths in larger sizes with coordinating napkins
          Coordinating dinnerware pattern tablecloths
          Hall “Autumn Leaf” (1937- 1957)
          Blue Willow
          Russell Wright
          Rayon/Cotton “blends”

Prosperity: 1950s

Continuation of 1940s designs but with richer colors and patterns
Use of kitchen themes, dishes, bottles, spices
Food themes
Whimsical funny designs
More use of bold synthetic dyes
Metallic dyes, especially gold and silver
Metallic threads running throughout
Synthetic fabrics
Black outlined designs
“Kitchey” quirky, fun prints
Exaggerated florals and bold geometric designs
Modern, Space age
Heavy Danish/Swedish influence
1958: Tags were sewn in
1958: Percentage of fibers in fabrics labeled, Ex: %20 rayon %80 Cotton.
Circles, squares and other geometric shapes
Designer “signed” tablecloths

4 Responses

  1. I loved your website. I have some tablecloths which were used to cover our leftovers from one meal to the next during the 1950’s.

  2. I hope that you continue with your blog. It looks very helpful. I like the old tablecloths and will visit your blog to see what’s new.

  3. Thanks for this great guide. I linked it to my Squidoo article on Vintage Tablecloths:

  4. You ‘re so innovative! I don’t guess Ive read anything like this before. So effective to find somebody with some unique opinions on this topic. I like reading a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to remark!.

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