Horn & Hardart
Known manufacturers: Mayer, Shenango
The authority on all things Horn & Hardart -- except seemingly its china -- is the book by Marianne Hardart and Lorraine Diehl, "The Automat: The History, Recipes and Allure of Horn & Hardart's Masterpiece." Refer to it for the history of the company and its locations in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The last automat closed in 1991. The automat used distinctive green-on-white patterned china in ever-so-slightly different variations carrying three known names: Marion, Nassau and Medallion, all made by Mayer; and Nassau, made by Shenango. Confusion arises in that these two companies, plus Homer Laughlin, Syracuse and Ohio Commercial Company, also made the same or very similar patterns that were not backstamped for Horn & Hardart.
In addition, an H&H-backstamped Medallion pattern made by Grindley has now surfaced.
Were all these patterns ordered for Horn & Hardart? Were any non-backstamped versions used there? The proper conclusion in the absence of facts would be that unless a piece is found with an H&H backstamp -- or in the case of very few ashtrays and bowls, topmarked -- the china cannot be considered to be authentic H&H.
To add to the confusion, an example of the Medallion pattern in brown has been found, backstamped for H&H. In addition, there are clear photos of Syracuse's St. Elmo pattern on page 53 of the Hardart book and on the label on H&H coffee cans, even though no H & H-backstamped pieces of St. Elmo have been found.
Again, just because we've raised these questions does not imply that the St. Elmo pattern was ever known to be used at Horn & Hardart. It may have just been used by the ad agency that put together the coffee can's label. It is an overstatement to say that the St. Elmo pattern was used at the automat.
And one more mystery: In the Hardart book, the Delmar pattern by Syracuse is featured in one of the promotional photos, from the movie, "Affair with a Stranger." Was it ever used in one of the automats? What do any of the mysteries mean? Probably that each automat was responsible for ordering its own china. If a distributor was out of what we think of as the H&H pattern, something else green and white -- like St. Elmo -- could have been substituted.
We'll continue to add information to this page as more information is collected.
The first Horn and Hardart Automat opened June 12, 1902 at 818 Chestnut St., in Philadelphia, PA. The first Automat in NYC opened 10 years later at 1557 Broadway, Times Square, between 46th & 47th St. The distributor noted in the backstamp, Wright, Tyndale and Van Roden, was based in Philadelphia, and went out of business circa 1928. As this backstamp occasionally specifies NYC, it seems that the distributor provided the china for both locations.
Click here to read a story about the Horn & Hardart history in the August 2001 issue of Smithsonian magazine.
MEDALLION BY MAYER, PRIOR TO 1928
BOWL: MARION, BY MAYER, 1912-1930S
NASSAU BY MAYER, PRIOR TO 1928
HOMER LAUGHLIN, 1972
THE SMALL BOWL, ABOVE, DISCOVERED IN 2009, ADDS A NON-UNITED STATES MANUFACTURER TO THE KNOWN MAKERS OF HORN & HARDART CHINA: GRINDLEY.
A FAMOUS DOLPHIN HEAD COFFEE DISPENSER -- ALMOST INTACT
THE ST. ELMO PATTERN, SHOWN ABOVE AND SEEMINGLY ON THE COFFEE CAN, THOUGH NO ST. ELMO PATTERN HAS EVER BEEN FOUND WITH AN H&H BACKSTAMP. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO TELL IF THE PATTERN DEPICTED ON THE CAN IS REALLY THE SYRACUSE PATTERN..
A NEW TOPMARKED BUTTER PAT (BELOW) HAS RECENTLY SURFACED (2010) THAT HAS A UNIQUE DESIGN AMONG ALL KNOWN H&H DESIGNS. IT IS UNMARKED ON THE BACK.
UNUSUAL TOPMARKED ASHTRAY. BACKSTAMP IS BELOW (1930S-??)
In the detail (above) from the postcard (above, left), you can see the same pattern in the cup and saucer.
The following two backstamps were found on 6 3/4" plates, one Nassau by Shenango and one Nassau by Mayer.
SHENANGO, PATTERN NAME UNKNOWN
MORE H&H CONFUSION: THE MEDALLION PATTERN IN BROWN, CLEARLY MARKED FOR HORN & HARDART BAKING COMPANY.