Indiana, The Hoosier State Wednesday, Apr 20 2011 

Indiana

My Dad was born in Indiana, so this plate always reminds me of him. Its unmarked, so I have no idea who created it, but its an awesome example of a state commemorative plate.

First off, a “Hoosier” is basically just someone from Indiana – that’s the short version. If you want the long version, go here or if you want the holy cow! version, check here.

The plate’s center is dominated by this great state map, peppered with little icons, that remind the viewer that this is an important state. It also serves to impart little bits of the state’s culture.

State map

One of my favorite images on the plate is the burly farmer, toiling under the cloudy Indiana sky to bring food to our tables.

Farm Products

Just below our friend the farmer is the Geroge Rogers Clark Memorial Shrine (or as its known today, George Rogers Clark National Historical Park). Mr. Clark was quite the interesting American Revolutionary War figure.

GRC Memorial Shrine

The plate is rounded out nicely with images of The University of Notre Dame, The World’s Largest Steel Mill & Lake Shakamak.

University of Notre Dame

Steel Mill

Lake Shakamak

I’ve only been to Indiana once and I never left the Indianapolis airport, but this plate certainly makes it look like a nice place to visit. Next time, I’ll leave the airport.

Puerto Rico Tuesday, Apr 19 2011 

Puerto Rico

The Puerto Rico plate is a favorite of mine because of the riot of color on its face and because I know so little about Puerto Rico, its even slightly educational! How awesome is that? So let’s learn a bit about Puerto Rico together, shall we?

El Morro

El Morro or Port San Juan Light, is a lighthouse built atop the walls of Fort San Felipe del Morro in Old San Juan. It was the first lighthouse built in Puerto Rico. The lighthouse was damaged by American artillery fire during the Spanish American war, but was rebuilt in 1908.

Playa De Luquillo

The bit of art here that represents Playa de Luquillo doesn’t nearly do this place justice.  I like the way this looks much better. This beach is a big favorite with tourists.

Playa De Luquillo

Plaza de Colon

Plaza de Colón (Columbus square) was renamed in 1893 to honor Christopher Columbus on the 400th anniversary of his discovery of Puerto Rico. Bronze tablets at the pedestal of the Columbus statue record important episodes in the explorer’s life.

The other points of interest seem pretty self-explanatory: The University of Puerto Rico, The International Airport and the Capital building are all represented in full color. Once again, its the vibrant, exotic colors that make this plate one of my favorites.

Biloxi, Mississippi Tuesday, Apr 19 2011 

I love this plate from Biloxi, Mississippi because I spent a large part of my childhood there. I grew up vacationing in Biloxi mostly because my aunt and uncle owned a beach house there and always had a pile of sunburned kids running around tracking sand everywhere and leaving the screen doors open or alternately slamming them shut.

Biloxi, Mississippi

This plate was created by an outfit called Enco National, based out of New York and proudly proclaims that it was available “exclusively from Souvenir City in Biloxi, MS”.

Souvenir City

Souvenir City is prominently featured at the top of the plate & I can vividly remember heading there at the end of each summer’s stay to choose some choice beach junk to take home.

Beauvoir - The Jefferson Davis Home

Located at the bottom of the plate is a place I used to love to visit, Beauvoir (The Jefferson Davis Home). With beautifully maintained grounds and museum quality displays inside, it was a little shot of culture for us kids every summer. Sadly, the main house and library were badly damaged, and other outbuildings were destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. Luckily, the main house weathered the storm (like she weathered Camille in 1969) and is open for tour again.

Historic fort on Ship Island

Ship Island was another popular destination with us kids and we used to love to go out there and climb around Fort Massachusetts. The fort was originally built in 1859 and was full of scary, dark corridors and hiding spots for monsters. Going out there was always a treat.

Today, of course, the face of Biloxi has changed a great deal. Gone are most of the old landmarks I remember from my childhood, replace by fancy casinos  and hotels. The area was devastated by the 27-foot high storm surged that came ashore ahead of Hurricane Katrina and then 17 hours of hurricane force winds and water just about finished the job. But, Biloxi endures, just like she did after Camille and is still affectionately known as “The Poor Man’s Riviera”.

Oh, I’d love to be an Oscar Mayer wiener… Tuesday, Apr 19 2011 

Technically, this post doesn’t have anything to do with plates. True, I was in the process of dragging a good friend off to go plate hunting, but then this happened and I just had to share it. So it is about plates, sort of, but not really.

Is that the Wienermobile? OMG!

Now, what does any rational adult over the age of 45 do when they see the Wienermobile? I have no idea, but what I did was jump out of the car and run over to one of the young “Hotdoggers” (the nickname given to Wienermobile drivers)  and begin asking excitedly for a “wiener whistle”.  For those of you who have never been fortunate enough to acquire one of your own, this is a wiener whistle:

Behold! The Wiener Whistle

It’s basically a tiny replica of the Wienermobile and tweets shrilly when used. Get 10 or 15 little kids together with these things and its guaranteed good times.

Naturally, this close encounter of the hot dog kind got me to thinking about the old Oscar Mayer wiener song and so my poor friend was forced to suffer through a few rounds of the classic little ditty. Fortunately, our friend the Internet has preserved the whole thing for our viewing pleasure:

I also came across this interesting video, which is basically Jerry Ringlien, who worked in Oscar Mayer’s advertising department, discussing the story behind the wildly popular commercial:

So, no plate to offer up right now – the wiener whistle will have to suffice.

Las Vegas, Nevada Monday, Apr 18 2011 

Viva Las Vegas

This stunning plate was produced by Bradley Exclusives of Japan. Japanese pottery imports had a dramatic impact on the US in the years following WWII.  There were many imports from Japan coming in from small pottery shops, like Bradley.

The great thing about this plate is that it immortalized Las Vegas the way it was back in “the day”. The hotels and casinos depicted on the plate, in stunning color I might add, are legendary. Some, like The Riviera, The Sahara, The Tropicana and The Flamingo are still busily separating folks from their money along the famous Las Vegas Strip. Others, sadly, didn’t fare so well.

The Dunes

Originally built in 1955, The Dunes had a rather humble beginning at the southernmost part of The Strip, but was easily recognizable by the 35 foot tall fiberglass sultan towering over the main entrance. In 1993, The Dunes was destroyed during a massive implosion ceremony that included fireworks, cannons and over 200,000 spectators. The Bellagio now stands on the old site.

Desert Inn

Originally known as Wilbur Clark’s Desert Inn, this venue featured nearly every major star of the last 50 years. Its famous Crystal Ballroom hosted stars too numerous to mention here, including Liberace, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Cher and Tina Turner. In 2001, the main tower of the Desert Inn was demolished and the property was reborn as Wynn Las Vegas, a megaresort and casino.

The Stardust

The Stardust opened its doors in 1958 and may have been best known for the magnificent sign that graced its exterior. The Stardust sign became a sort of unofficial emblem for Las Vegas, with its 16-foot diameter model of the Earth surrounded by neon star bursts and 3 dimensional acrylic planets in what can only be described as a panoramic view of the Solar System. The Stardust enjoyed a long, star-studded history but was demolished in 2007.

The Sands

When you think of the The Sands, you have to think of the Rat Pack. Opened in 1952, The Sands was considered “the cool” place to be in Las Vegas. Its most famous claim to fame was in 1960 when, during the filming of Ocean’s Eleven, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford performed on stage together for the first time. They would forever be known after that as the Rat Pack. Despite its hip history, the hotel was demolished in 1996 and The Venetian was built in its place.

My Las Vegas plate is one of my favorites mostly because there’s a huge amount of brightly colored kitsch contained in a very small area and I like that in a plate.

What? No noms?

My neighbor’s cat is unimpressed with the empty plate lying on my lawn.

New Orleans 250th Anniversary Plate (1718-1968) Monday, Apr 18 2011 

New Orleans 250th Anniversary Plate

This beauty holds a special place in my heart, since I consider New Orleans to be my home. This plate was conceived by the artists at Kettlesprings Kilns of Alliance, Ohio, a company still happily designing commemorative plates today.

The plate has some beautiful detail work of various famous (or infamous) New Orleans locations. I’ve chosen a few of the most striking to highlight.

Jackson Square

Jackson Square

The centerpiece of the plate is a detail of Jackson Square Park, located in the heart of the French Quarter. A total of seven flags have flown over this square, representing five different peoples and their governments.

LaFitte's Blacksmith

LaFittes Blacksmith Shop

According to legend (and there are a few surrounding this little shop) the pirates Jean and Pierre Laffite used this little, ramshackle shop to conduct their smuggling affairs.

Old New Orleans Mint

The Old New Orleans Mint was the first mint in the U.S. to coin silver money. During the Civil War it was briefly converted into a Federal Prison.

The Cabildo

Built in 1795, the Cabildo was erected by the Spanish and was the seat of Colonial government in New Orleans. The ornate building has survived 2 fires, an attempt to have it demolished in the late 1800’s and, most recently, Hurricane Katrina. (And yes, if you look closely there is a tiny bug crawling across the front lawn of the Cabildo. That’s what I get for taking my pictures outdoors.)

Reverse side of plate

On the reverse side of the plate is additional, colorful information about each of the areas outlined on the front.

So, there we have it. The New Orleans 250th Anniversary Commemorative plate. Laissez le bon ton roulette!

Why Souvenir Plates? Sunday, Apr 17 2011 

Because they’re colorful, mementos of places frozen in time and I just find them fascinating. I have actually visited some of the places I have plates for, but the vast majority have been plucked from various thrift stores & flea markets over the course of many years. Most of my plates are the relics of other people’s memories, relegated to “junk” when their owners passed away or decided Rock City really wasn’t all that great. But I’m there, combing through the stacks of plates and crockery, hoping to find a gem hidden amongst the piles of odds and ends.

My plan here is to feature a few of my favorite plates each week and hopefully encourage some other folks to share theirs as well. I by no means consider myself to be any sort of expert on souvenir plates, just an avid fan and collector.

I suppose its only proper that I should kick this plate parade off with the famed “Behind The Frozen Window”, which is widely credited as the first limited edition collector’s plate. It was created in 1895 by the Danish company, Bing and Grondahl. Needless to say, this plate is NOT part of my personal collection but is definitely one of my favorites.

Behind The Frozen Window

In the weeks to come I’ll showcase some plates I actually do own and I hope that some of you will want to share your own favorites as well.