Monday, July 16, 2012

Celery at the Dining Table

Fig. 1  Celery vase with celery
stalks. Photograph©The Strong
Museum, Rochester, NY
No dinner in the Victorian period was complete without a side of celery.  For most of the nineteenth century, celery was perceived as a high-status food and occupied a prominent position on the dining table.  From approximately 1830 to 1890, celery was served “in the rough” with the leaves still attached, in a celery vase made of blown or pressed glass.  Together, the leafy celery and glass vase created a decorative accent for the dining table, similar to a bouquet of flowers (fig. 1).

Fig. 2  Celery vase, E. V. Haughwout
and Company (active 1855-1861), 
1855-1860, New York City, New
York. Cut glass. Dallas Museum
of Art, Dallas, TX
Celery vases consist of a tall, narrow, tapered bowl above a pedestal base. These vases were made in blown glass with cut and faceted motifs or in pressed glass shaped and decorated in a mold. Some examples were produced in earthenware with a Rockingham or flint-enamel glaze (fig. 5).  The form always remained essentially the same—that of a vase—but the decoration varied from the geometric to the naturalistic.

Fig. 3  Celery vase, 1850-1870,
America. Pressed glass. The
Metropolitan Museum of Art,
New York, NY
The most expensive celery vases were made of blown glass cut either with slightly concave panels or with faceted motifs such as relief diamonds (fig. 2).  Occasionally the cut patterns were combined with engraved decoration.  Pressed glass examples were much less expensive and therefore accessible to middle class families (fig. 3).  Whether blown or pressed, celery vases were typically made to match a glass table service consisting of wine glasses, water goblets, compotes, pitchers, decanters, and other pieces (fig.4).

In the final decades of the nineteenth century, celery dishes appeared alongside traditional celery vases.  A celery dish usually assumes the form of a long, narrow oval, frequently with handles at the ends.  Unlike the tall and vertical celery vase, the celery dish is low and horizontal.  Both forms were offered by manufacturers into the early twentieth century.

Fig. 4  Wine glass, celery vase and water bottle from
a cut-glass table service, Bakewell, Page and
Bakewell (active 1808-1882), 1829-1830, Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania. Cut and engraved glass. Collection
of the White House, Washington, D.C.


In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, celery dishes were manufactured in a variety of materials including porcelain, cut glass, and pressed glass.  Examples made of porcelain frequently feature painted decoration of sprays of flowers and a border of slightly raised gilt scrolls.   A large proportion of porcelain celery dishes were manufactured in Europe by companies such as Haviland of Limoges, France, and R.S. Prussia in Germany.

Fig. 5  Celery vase, Lyman,
Fenton & Co. (active 1849-
1852), 1849-1852, Bennington,
Vermont. Earthenware with
flint-enamel glaze. The
Metropolitan Museum of Art,
New York, NY
At the turn of the twentieth century, porcelain dinner services made in France, England and Germany flooded the American market.  These services usually included a dish for celery in addition to many other serving pieces.

Between 1890 and 1920, celery dishes were also manufactured in American Brilliant cut glass (fig. 6).  Made of a heavy lead glass deeply cut with diamonds, stars, fans, hobnails, and other faceted motifs, Brilliant glass celery dishes beautifully refracted the light and, in combination with other cut-glass tableware, created a lustrous effect at the dining table.

Fig. 6  Celery dish, 1890-1900, America. Cut glass.
Historic New England, Boston, MA
The patterns in pressed glass celery dishes made at the turn of the twentieth century frequently imitate the high-relief faceted shapes found in Brilliant cut-glass examples.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for this article. I've referred to it in my own blog about historic cooking.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Informative article, but it is not true that by 1900 celery vases were all but obsolete. They were prolifically offered by the glass companies after 1900, well into the teens. The glass companies began offering celery trays along with celery vases beginning in the very late 1880s into the early 1890s, and the two forms co-existed. There are many original glass company catalogs available for study. In them you will see the vast array of patterns in which celery vases were produced after 1900.

    Regards,

    Paul Kirk
    EAPG Historian

    ReplyDelete
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