This is a very hard-to-find piece of china from Stanley's T&P Cafe, a well-loved restaurant that was operated by former Texas & Pacific Railroad employee Frank Stanley and his family, just down the street from the T&P depot in Baird, Texas. Open 24 hours a day specifically to accommodate train crews (former co-workers among them), the restaurant became famous for being so closely associated with the T&P.
Frank Stanley obviously cared about the reputation and image of his operation, documented in part by their ordering expensive, top-logo custom ware, which is highly unusual for such a small establishment. A fabulous steam locomotive graphic charges out of the maroon red graphic rim band that adorns the dish, which has a light tan, off-white body. It is bottom marked IRO-TAN, from the Iroquois China Company, Syracuse, N.Y. There was never any actual railway marking on Stanley's chinaware.
SIZE is approximately 7.25 inches by 10.5 inches -- just right for a sandwich and side.
CONDITION is used, but it displays beautifully. Despite there being a moderate amount of wear in the center from use, you MUST tilt the platter to see any. There are NO cracks, chips, flakes or repairs.
The date code A-1 on the bottom is not helpful. Our Restaurant China Book Vol.2 (Conroy) states that Iroquois date codes are indecipherable - no record could be found of the year in which the first "A" was applied. However, Conroy states this Iro-Tan backmark was used between the 1940s and the early 1960s -- which fits with the timeline that Stanley's was in operation.
Special note: Stanley's T&P Eating Cafe was the subject of an article printed in the RCAI Express, the magazine published by one of the best known railroadiana collector groups in the USA. We will include a copy of the article with the platter.
BACKGROUND: Stanley's restaurant was owned and operated by Frank Stanley, who had been a brown hoist operator in the Texas & Pacific Railroad as well as a chef in hotels and restaurants in Springfield, Missouri. He and his family opened an eating establishment of their own, catering to railroad workers and friends he knew through his former employer. This was truly a family operation as well as a generous and outgoing community business, and successfully operated into the 1950s.
Technically, this is not "railroad china," but is "railroad-related." Stanley's T&P Cafe for many years played an undeniable, integral role in the history of the T&P in Springfield, Missouri. The Stanley family was as related to the T&:P (although on a much smaller scale) as famous restaurateur Fred Harvey was to the Santa Fe. There are no records about how much china the Stanleys ordered, but with their running only a single location, it cannot have been much. Also, the five pieces we have ever seen, all have noticeable wear, so clearly they kept and re-used dinnerware for a considerable time. We are GUESSING their orders from Iroquois would have been counted in the dozens, rather than the hundreds.
What a terrific addition to any collection of American western memorabilia, a better collection of railroad dining items, or a higher end railroad-related grouping !
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