The year is 1938. Imagine for a moment that you are six years old and dreaming about what might be under your tree on Christmas morning. A doll perhaps? Or a warm pair of stockings? Perhaps even a tea set so you and the girl down the street can have tea parties.
Many fortunate girls probably found just that as that was the year that the Akro Agate company came out with their American Maid tea set. They're not china, nor metal, but a sturdy opaque glass that you might think looks familiar - like marbles perhaps.
|Child's Tea Set (large size) in original box|
You would be right. In 1911, the Akro Agate Company was established to make marbles, and they thrived primarily because marbles weren't being imported to America from Germany during WWI. They did so well, in fact, that after the war, they continued to corner the market on marbles since their production costs were low and they didn't have to charge import taxes. By the 1930s, the company began dabbling with other lines of glassware: ashtrays, bells, baskets, flower pots, jardiniered, lamps, powder jars . . . and then children's dishes.
The children's line came in two sizes: small (doll-sized) and large (child-sized). A set included a plate, saucer, cup, cream pitcher, sugar bowl, and pitcher with lid. They didn't take off at first as practical mothers preferred metal play dishes, but when the Akro Agate company began to make multi-color sets (like the one above), their popularity increased and continued throughout the forties. The dishes come not only in different colors, but also different patterns (octagonal, raised daisy, concentric ring, stacked disc, interior panel as well as others). Some of the colors are quite rare (pumpkin, purple, lavender) and all of them are difficult to find today as collectors (like me) have snatched them up.
My sister was the first to introduce me to these charming dishes, and I began buying them for her when I saw them (including a coveted lavender cup), and after a while, I decided I would start my own collection. I love them, and am fortunate to have received the boxed set above (original box which increases the value) from my mother's antique business after she passed away. Don't worry: My sister got the other boxed set!
I've placed some of the "small" pieces on a ladies handkerchief so you can get a feel for the size. A saucer is about 2 1/4 inches across.
|A collection of "small" Akro Agate doll dishes|
They're fun to collect, don't take up too much space, and are nice conversation starters.
Oh, yeah, if you were a boy in 1938, you, too, would've been happy with an Akro Agate gift under the tree on Christmas morning - A new marble set! Here are some that my dad gave me.
Akro Agate went out of business in the early fifties after forty years of bringing smiles to American kids.
What was the best gift you ever found under your tree on Christmas morning? Do you still have it?
Do you collect any unusual items?