Like a lot of plastics that were developed in the late 1930s, melamine was first pressed into service for the military during World War II. One of the earliest lines of melamine dinnerware was Watertown Ware, which was made by the Watertown Manufacturing Company for the U.S. Navy. Melamine ware was appealing to the Navy because it was lightweight, inexpensive, and virtually unbreakable. After the war, Watertown designed a line for the consumer market called Lifetime Ware. Concurrently, melamine ware became popular with airlines, from United to Pan Am.

The most widespread brand of melamine ware was Melmac, a product of American Cyanamid, which sold molding powders to third parties who actually did the manufacturing. After his success with the American Modern dinnerware line of 1939, Russel Wright was hired by American Cyanamid to design a test line of Melmac, which was eventually named Meladur. That led to Wright’s colorful Residential line, which won the Museum of Modern Art’s Good Design Award in 1953. Other brands and manufacturers to look for include Texas Ware, Miramar, and Boonton.


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