Did you know that Thanksgiving wasn’t officially declared as a holiday in the United States until 1863? During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that a national day of thanksgiving should be held each November and our day of feasting was born. Even before then, a number of American presidents called for days of giving thanks, although it wasn’t yet an official holiday.
But the first feast, the one that we generally think of as the first Thanksgiving, was held in 1621.
The colonists who landed at Plymouth Rock shared a harvest meal with the Wampanoag Indians widely viewed as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations, according to History.com. Those first feasters dined on their corn harvest along with wild game, but it’s not clear whether or not turkey was on that early menu.
Nevertheless, the turkey has become synonymous with Thanksgiving feasting, and it has been that way for more than a century now. Along with eating the turkey, comes with serving it and all the fancy platters and plates made to help with that task. Many of these were imported from Staffordshire, England where the production of fine dinnerware was prolific from the early 1800s onward.
Some of the companies that made a variety of Turkey dinnerware and platters include:
When it comes to transferware, Johnson Brothers made some of the most popular patterns used in American households and their turkey designs quickly became a holiday favorite.
With regal names like His Majesty, Barnyard King, and Autumn Monarch, these patterns featured a fancy turkey surrounded by brown and white transfer designs. The Wedgwood Group acquired Johnson Brothers, along with all their turkey-themed patterns, in 1968. They worked with Williams-Sonoma to reproduce these beautiful platters from 1999-2004, according to an article appearing in Southern Living magazine.
Those reproductions can be found less expensively than the antique to vintage versions.
Royal Doulton is known for its fanciful Toby mugs and jugs, but they made dinnerware as well including a number of turkey designs. These are usually just referenced by china matching services as simply “Turkeys.” Some were colorful in nature, but a number of them were plain blue and white. This includes a couple of flow blue dinnerware sets dating to the late 1800s with coloring much more vivid than traditional blue and white transferware (as shown here). A single Royal Doulton flow blue dinner plate can sell for as much as $200 and platters will be even more.
Another company famous for transferware, Spode produced many designs featuring the majestic turkey that have been popular with American homemakers for decades. These include Woodland and Thanksgiving, the latter of which comes in brown and orange versions. These patterns have a colorful turkey in the center surrounded by brown transferware designs. Other patterns, such as Festival, have a turkey in the center with overall coloration of brown, blue or pink. Spode also made a newer collection called Harvest Figural with shapes including turkeys and other fowl along with leaves.
These coordinate nicely with any of the Spode dinnerware sets and platters regardless of the age.
Setting a Table with Turkey Dinnerware
Many turkey dinnerware patterns and platters, regardless of the maker, have brown transferware designs along the edges. Don’t feel like a table has to be boring to go with brown. For patterns with colorful turkeys in the centers, draw on those hues for table accents such as red, yellow and green. Depression glass tumblers and accent pieces, especially those in green, can brighten up a Thanksgiving table.
If your preference leans toward the flow blue or blue and white transferware turkey patterns, consider incorporating rich colors such as deep red and magenta into your spread, as suggested in Southern Living. Cobalt blue glassware also makes a beautiful accompaniment on a table set with blue and white dinnerware.
And, of course, you can always use one or more of your beautiful antique turkey platters as a backdrop on your Thanksgiving buffet if you don't want to risk actually using them.