Oneida Community Tudor Plate

“Queen Bess” pattern Tudor Plate, 1924

Designer Grosvenor N. Allen created the 1924 Queen Bess design for the Oneida Community Made Tudor Plate. The Oneida Community was established in 1848 in Oneida, New York–not to manufacture silverware, but as a “small group of Christian Perfectionists” who lived in a commune. They were sometimes called ‘Bible Communists’. The original community was the Society of Inquiry established by John Humphrey Noyes and some of his disciples in Putney, Vermont in 1841. His ideas were extremely controversial for the time. Noyes rejected the idea of monogamy and led to the “practice of complex marriage” meaning every woman was the wife of every man and every man was the husband of every woman” (Oneida Community, Encyclopaedia Britannica). The group left Putney in 1847 to found a new community at Oneida, NY, where they flourished and grew as farmers, loggers, animal trap makers (thanks to a new recruit who shared his ‘Victor trap’), and silverware makers for the next 30 years. They were governed by ‘departments’ supervised by ‘committees’. Women kept their hair short and wore trousers under a tunic, for practical working reasons.

“Though marriage was complex, sexual relations were strictly regulated, and the propagation of children was a matter of community control. Those who were to produce children were carefully chosen and paired. Children remained with their mother until they could walk but were then placed in a common nursery” (Encylopaedia Britannica).

The hostility of surrounding communities grew and in 1879, Noyes advised the group to discontinue the practice of complex marriage. He and a few members went to Canada, and the remaining members set up a joint stock community in 1880 known as Oneida Community, Ltd. They carried on the various industries in which they had been engaged, including the production of silver plate. You can see historic photographs, Oneida Community advertisements, and a more complete history at the Collectors Weekly, Lisa Hix, June 14th, 2016. Frankly, I doubt I will ever pick up my Oneida fork again without thinking about the origins of the company. Historical accounts of the Oneida Community and its goals for harmonious living differ significantly from that of the newspapers’ opinion pages of the time, as you can imagine. Perhaps they were the original paparazzi–relentlessly hounding folks minding their own business and publishing outrageous stories which may or may not have been accurate, but based on the unlikelihood any of those editors ever actually visited the community, I speculate it was lurid fantasy for a good deal of it.

Tudor Plate Oneida Community Made

The new design of community plate was introduced in 1902 in an effort to design and produce a higher quality of silver plate. Advertising in large-circulation magazines such as Ladies Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post fueled their growth and success. They bought the William A. Rogers Ltd. company in 1929, along with other factories and brands and changed the name to Oneida Ltd. in 1935.

The Los Angeles Times, Aug. 10, 1924, p. 38
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Mar. 7, 1923, p. 11

A year earlier in 1923, Oneida introduced the Baronet design, also known as Algonquin and designed by Grosvenor N. Allen.

“The Baronet” aka “Algonquin” Butter Knife, Tudor Plate, Oneida Community Made 1923

The butter knife appears to have fared better than its younger fork sister, but likely care of the pieces makes a good deal of difference.

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8 Responses to Oneida Community Tudor Plate

  1. Beth says:

    Oh my! This has to be one of the most interesting start-up stories ever! However, like the Shakers and other sects of that time this one has to have a bizarre twist with matching partners together for producing children. My stainless set has a new meaning to it now that I know its origins! 🙂 Thank you for this great research!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Betty says:

    Oh my! I shall never look at the name “Oneida” the same again. They can stick a fork in that “complex marriage” idea as far as I am concerned. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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