Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Teacup from Wanamaker's

Lately I've been researching historic recipes from the department store tea rooms of yesteryear, and that's how I stumbled across this French teacup from Wanamaker's on Etsy. The aster design is just lovely, and I love knowing this teacup hails from a famous American department store.

What really grabbed me, though, was this handle. Frankly, I don't think I've ever seen a prettier handle design, but then I absolutely adore bows. I love, love, love things with bows on them, and I wish more teacup makers had added bows to their handles!

The interior of the teacup is highly decorated as well. I was surprised to find the design all over, since normally I just see, at most, a single sprig of flowers at the back of the teacup as you're looking down into it.

The backstamp reads "GDA France, John Wanamaker." The GDA mark stands for Gerard, Dufraisseix & Abbot Limoges china.

I enjoyed learning more about the store in the book "Wanamaker's: Meet Me at the Eagle" by Michael J. Lisicky. The original and most legendary of the Wanamaker stores was in Philadelphia (it's a Macy's now), but there were also branches elsewhere in Pennsylvania and in New York. I assumed my teacup was simply an item sold in one of the stores, but Jan Whitaker (of "Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn" fame) is quoted in Lisicky's book as saying that Wanamaker's Crystal Tea Room in Philadelphia used French china. Was my teacup used there? I'd love to think it was, but of course I have no way of knowing. Lisicky's book also includes a few recipes from the tea room, which I plan on trying soon.

And let me end today's post with a request: Did any of you grow up with a famous department store in your town or a nearby town? If so, please share the name of the store because maybe I can unearth a recipe from a tea room there as well. I've already found several from the old Rich's Department Store here in Georgia, but I'd love to find more!


  1. I grew up going to the Magnolia Room at Rich's, but when I lived in Virginia the local department store was Hecht's (now Macy's). They had a tea room in downtown Norfolk. I don't know what the name was but I will find out!

  2. Being Canadian I have never heard of Wanamaker's but if they did in fact use fine china in their tea rooms, how fantastic is that!
    In Toronto, Eatons had a ritzy tearoom with a balcony that overlooked the shopping area below. I remember as a child seeing ladies with fancy hats and gloves up there but my mother likely didn't have the money for us to have tea there.
    It does make you wonder where everything went when the Eatons stores all closed. (they also had a quality catalogue to order from)

  3. My mom worked at a Woodward and Lothrop (spelling may be wrong ) in DC area. Don't know for sure if they had tea room . But I do remember the employee ladies had a luncheon Pat Nixon attended.
    That cup is a beauty. Can't beat BOWS!

  4. That is a beautiful teacup and the handle is striking. The history of Wanamaker's does sound interesting.

    I also grew up shopping at Eaton's in Toronto. As children we couldn't wait to receive their special Christmas catalog. There was also Simpsons and The Bay - not sure if they both had tearooms.

    Eatons also has an interesting history - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eaton's

  5. You have the most interesting blog, Angela! I just love it! There were a few department store in my area, but the "ONE" to visit was J.L. Hudson's flagship store on Woodward Ave. in downtown Detroit. As of 1961 it was the tallest dept. store in the world --25 stories! Sadly it was demolished in 1998 and the suburb stores have all become Macys. I loved going there with my mother when I was growing up. They were known for their Maurice Salad. I have no idea of any of their china still exists, but it wouldn't be as pretty as the one you just acquired from Wanamakers.

  6. I am not sure how widespread it was but I remember a Hess's department store. It was located in Lancaster, PA. I looked it up and apparently it started in Allentown, PA.
    I remember going with my mother to Hess's for strawberry pie when I was young.

  7. The famous department store near me was Rike's in Dayton, OH. I am told they had a tea room but unfortunately I was not interested in tea at the time and never went. Would really be interested if you found out anything about them.

  8. I LOVE the handle! So elegant! Thanks for posting.

  9. Hutzler's and Hochschild Kohn's in Baltimore both had a wonderful tea rooms with their own china. Hochschild's was purple transferware (made by Woods and Sons of England) with pictures of famous Baltimore landmarks on each piece, a few of which I have found in local Baltimore antique shops. My happiest find was at a huge antique market in Newark, England, two years ago---on a long table in one of the buildings was the lone purple piece there, and it was a single serving fruit or ice cream dish from Hochschild's! It came home to Baltimore with me!

  10. An exquisite tea cup and the pretty bow handle is indeed special. A wonderful find!

    I have fond memories of different department store tea rooms I would visit with my Mom and my Aunt Emma.
    O'Neils in Canton OH, Rikes in Dayton, Higbee's and Halle's in Cleveland.
    I did some research for a tea I was giving last year and found lots of great information on this blog called The Department Store Museum.


  11. Wonderful post today, Angela!
    That teacup is so lovely - I have never seen a bow handle before, how unique.

    In Miami, there were three really nice department stores:
    Burdines, Jordan Marsh and Richards. The downtown stores all had lunchrooms and on your birthday, it was a treat to get the birthday 'doll cake,' (mainly made of whip cream) with a small glass doll topper, on top.
    We loved going there - thanks for inspiring fond memories, Joanie

  12. Cherry and Webb in Providence Rhode Island and The Carl Company in Schenectady, NY. I don't know if the latter was famous, but it was where my Grannie would take me to lunch and allow me to order for myself!

  13. Love the bow on the handle too! Oh I do remember Wanamaker's. So many of those old department stores were companies that I communicated with many, many years ago when I worked in collections for Catalina Swimwear. Wanamaker's was one of my accounts. Love that you found this cup and it is from France. I would definitely imagine having tea at Wanamaker's with just that cup.

  14. Oh, how I love the bow! I've never seen one on a teacup! Just lovely!

  15. Lovely teacup.

    We always went to Belk, but I don't think they had a tearoom.

  16. I remember as a little girl in the early 60's going to the J.C.Penny store in downtown Fairfield, California. I don't remember a place to eat there but I do remember the escalator because halfway down, off to the side, was a mannequin on a stand. I was SURE it would come alive and snatch me from my grandmothers hand! After a few trips like that, my grandmother made me stay with my mother downstairs!
    I believe the building, which is still there, now houses a mortgage company.

  17. I Loved the Tea Room at Wanamakers and my kids loved the Santa Head Christmas cookies they used to serve at their bakery in the Phila. store. Does anyone know what bakery they used and was it "in house" or did another bakery service them and bring them in? I would love to have that recipe! Please e-mail me if there is any info to risingmoonwest1@gmail.com Happy Holidays

  18. I love your blog about Wannamakers Tea Room. I grew up in Iowa and worked at Younkers in Des Moines for my college summer job. The Younkers Tea Room was so amazing. In 1979, I moved to the Philadelphia area and visited Wannamakers Chrystal Tea Room.


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