Picking out Kitchenware: Large Scale Purchasing at MSU
Where did the kitchenware at MSU come from during the early years of the school? As it was not economical to purchase dinnerware sets in the same way families purchased dishes for their home, the college most likely turned to catalogue companies, the Costco of the past. Evidence for this large scale purchasing of dinnerware and kitchenware items lies in purchasing logs and archaeological evidence. As discussed previously, the college purchased many different types of plates, bowls, cookware, and glassware in order to accommodate the students living in the dormitories on campus. Several ceramic sherds have been uncovered through Campus Archaeology excavations at the Brody/Emmons site, the first East Lansing dump, with the makers mark present showing that they were from “Albert Pick & Company.”
In 1857, Albert Pick and his brother Charles founded ‘Albert Pick & Company’, based in Chicago, as a kitchenware and furniture supplier for hotel and restaurant markets (Clayman, Made in Chicago Museum). The company grew steadily, and by the early 1900s, it had become a major supplier for hundreds of leading hotels, selling tables, chairs, silverware, linens, dinnerware, and even the first dishwashers! While most of the earliest ceramics purchased by MSU were from England, ‘Albert Pick & Company’ wares became more popular in the United States during the 1910’s, 20’s, and 30’s, corresponding well with the time period in which the Brody/Emmons dump was in use.
Among their many items for sale, Albert Pick and Company offered a wide variety of dishes, as can be seen in the photos below from their 1913 catalogue. Not only were different types and designs of dinnerware available, but a range of sizes were also provided. For example, six different sizes of plates were advertised in ‘The Green Newton Pattern,’ allowing the purchaser to tailor their choices based on their specific needs.
Pictured below is an example of one type of Albert Pick and Company plate or saucer bought and used in the East Lansing area. Unfortunately, we are currently unable to narrow down the manufacturing date of this dish, or find the name of its pattern, but future research may be able to address these questions. The makers mark below states:
Albert Pick & Company
While there is no direct evidence that this specific dish was purchased by MSU, as it was recovered from the first East Lansing dump, it is possible that it was bought for use on MSU’s campus or at a restaurant or hotel in East Lansing.
Author: Autumn Painter
Sheridan Plaza Hotel Silverplate Creamer by Albert Pick & co., c. 1920; Andrew Clayman – https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/single-post/2016/02/03/Sheridan-Plaza-Hotel-Silverplate-Creamer-by-Albert-Pick-Co-c-1920s
Trade catalogs from Albert Pick & Co. http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/SILNMAHTL_32473
The Archaeology of Shopping: Variations in Consumerism in the Past https://campusarch.msu.edu/?p=5070
From China to Historic MSU: A Not-so-Short History of Porcelain Part 1 https://campusarch.msu.edu/?p=4869
From China to Historic MSU: A Not-so-Short History of Porcelain Part 2 https://campusarch.msu.edu/?p=4943
Aren’t Bowls Just Bowls? Not for the First Students at MSU https://campusarch.msu.edu/?p=4541
1 thought on “Picking out Kitchenware: Large Scale Purchasing at MSU”
This is fascinating, thank you! I had no idea of the supplier side of the business… when I think of Albert Pick and East Lansing it’s the Albert Pick Motel that once stood at the southeast corner of Saginaw and Coolidge. It was operated by the same company, but it was built a few years after the Brody dump closed (so this piece could not have come from there).