Today, many people are going retro in their kitchens. That calls for CorningWare and Corelle dishware. You can find it practically anywhere — thrift stores, garage sales, flea markets, malls and online. This is the dishware you pick up and say, "My mother or grandparents once had this."
CorningWare was the result of an accident. Corning Glass Works, founded in 1851, was a leader in the introduction of new products. The search for a glass that was resistant to thermal shock (that is, breakage due to extreme changes in temperature) led to the introduction of Pyrex in 1915.
In 1952, Corning research scientist Dr. S. Donald Stookey was working on a piece of photosensitive glass when the oven he was using malfunctioned and heated to about 900 degrees Celsius (1,600 degrees Fahrenheit). To his surprise, the glass didn’t melt in the high temperatures; instead it kept its edges and turned a milky white. And when Dr. Stookey took the piece out of the oven he accidentally dropped it on the floor and it didn’t break.
He named and patented the new glass as Pyroceram. It was not until the introduction of CorningWare in 1958 that the public discovered its many qualities. CorningWare was not just resistant to stains, chips and breaks. It was completely versatile. It could go from freezer to oven to tabletop; it could be used in the broiler and microwave; and, most importantly, it was the only product of its kind that could be used on the stovetop. The material became available in dozens of products, from skillets to teapots to casserole dishes. And it was stylish — you can find it in a variety of decorative patterns, starting with the iconic Blue Cornflower pattern.
In 1972, Corelle was introduced with the first and most popular design, the "Old Town Blue" pattern designed by artist Cynthia Gerow. The mark on this ware says "Corelle by Corning."
In the summer of 2012, pieces were still going strong, and with the trend moving torward retro/vintage and the popularity of vintage Corelle online, the company brought back the classic "Old Town Blue" as "True Blue." This Corelle is Livingware by Corning. The goal was to create something that kept some aspects of the original pattern but also gave the pattern a fresh new spin. (For more information, see "The Complete Guide to Corning Ware & Visions Cookware," by Kyle Coroneos.)
Local collectors and dealers
Brenda Jannsen, owner of Treasures Under Sugar Loaf Antique Mall, Winona: "We have many pieces of Corelle, including the ‘Old Town’ Corelle pattern! Most plates are priced in the neighborhood of $2-$3 each. Cereal bowls are around $4-$5 each. Serving pieces vary in price. Sometimes customers purchase just a piece or two as replacements for their set. But sometimes a complete small set is purchased if the person is just starting out. One recent customer picked it out as her wedding present.
"I personally LOVE Corelle and use it for my everyday dishes. It’s pretty and kid-friendly. We received it as a wedding gift. One nice thing is that Corning made the Corelle patterns in everything from plates to casseroles to cutting boards. Your whole kitchen can be coordinated easily!"
Jan Larsen, of Oronoco, vendor at Old River Valley Antique Mall: "I have several pieces of CorningWare. I use Corelle for everyday dishes and I use some of the pie plates. I have a box with a bunch of Corelle in storage, just haven’t decided to keep or sell. I have accumulated what I have from estate sales and auctions over the years."
Joan Thilges, owner, New Generations of Harmony: "I’ve got at least eight pieces in my kitchen right now. Part 1972 wedding gifts, part estate auctions and several from New Generations where we have a TON of it and one of our vendors specializes in all things CorningWare and has a lot of Cornflower! I still make meatloaf in my Cornflower Blue "meatloaf" pan and baked beans in another. I use ours constantly. Corelle ware — we don’t have any right now in the mall."
Betty Jean Brevig-Schmidt, Wykoff: "I have nearly the whole set, all given at my wedding 1967, and I pick them up at garage sales every year and sell at least six at my garage sales. I am always amazed on how many pieces are available."
Roberta Schlesselman, Fountain City, Wis.: "I got a few pieces for our wedding and picked up a few more at yard sales. I use them ALL the time, and now that I’m going back to blue, how perfect!"
Rachel Magnuson, owner, Realm Collectibles, Austin: "I have a huge set! We use them for our daily dishes. My husband bought them for me five years ago at an auction. I think he paid $10 for the whole lot."