Collection inventory

Special Collections home page
printer friendly version

Robin Ptacek Collection

An inventory of his collection as it relates to melamine and Melmac at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Ptacek, Robin.
Title: Robin Ptacek Collection
Inclusive Dates: 1945-2011
Quantity: 7 linear ft.
Abstract: Collection contains research files written and compiled by Robin Ptacek as they relate to melamine and, most particularly, Melmac; bulk of the materials are advertisements, correspondences, and e-bay communications.
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

Robin Ptacek was an art historian, curator, community activist, researcher, and professor.

He earned an MA in Art History from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1982. His thesis was titled, "Highway culture iconography in pop art and superrealism." He eventually earned a PhD from the same school, completing his dissertation, "Bisson Freres: Two pioneers of photography" in 1989. In addition to teaching at various universities throughout his life, he also served as a curator of modern art at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. After retiring from his professional career, he became involved in community activism, primarily around senior and LGBT issues.

While he had maintained an interest in modernist and pop art throughout much of his life, his interest in researching and collecting Melmac was sparked during a vacation in Palm Springs, CA. He recalled entering a nearby thrift store to escape from a downpour of rain and, upon encountering some Melmac dinnerware designed by Russel Wright, his curiosity was immediately peaked.

He intended to have his research efforts culminate in the publication of a print or online encyclopedia of Melmac products, but passed away in 2012, before the project was completed.

Return to top

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Robin Ptacek Collection consists of research papers written and compiled by Ptacek as they relate to melamine products and, most particularly, Melmac. Melmac was the trade name of a melamine product created by the American Cyanamid Co. (it was also the name and elementary material of the home planet of 1980s TV character "Alf"). The collection contains mostly advertisements (originals and copies), communications with other melamine and Melmac collectors, and documentation of e-bay items and transactions. The collection also contains the research files of melamine collector and researcher Derek Schwartz, whose papers were given to Ptacek by Cindy Fahnestock-Schafer.

Advertisements contains original and copied clippings from magazines and newspapers, and bidding/transaction documentation.

Binders consists of 20 binders of research files of Melmac molders, producers, lines, and products.

Correspondence subject files contains mostly research and notes by Schwartz, including photocopied journals and book excerpts, inventories, contacts, and correspondences.

Return to top

Arrangement of the Collection

Material is divided into the series listed above, and items have been alphabatized.

Return to top


Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Return to top

Related Material

Special Collections Research Center has numerous holdings in the areas of plastics and industrial design. Please refer to the SCRC Subject Index for a complete listing.

Special Collections Research Center has made a concerted effort over the years to ensure that its manuscript and rare books holdings complement each other. As a result, many of our manuscript collections are supported by books, pamphlets, serials and other items which are cataloged in the Rare Books Collection. Please be sure to search the Classic Catalog for these related materials.

Return to top

Subject Headings


Ptacek, Robin.
Wright, Russel, 1904-1976.

Corporate Bodies

Allied Chemical Corporation.
American Cyanamid Company.
Bakelite Company.
Lenox China (Firm)
Royal China Company.


Moldings (object components)
Plastics industry and trade.

Genres and Forms

Research notes.


Art historians.

Return to top

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Robin Ptacek Collection
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Gregory F. Ptacek, 2014.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: DF
Date: 30 Jun 2014
Revision history:

Return to top


Oversize 1 American Cyanamid Co. 1946, 1950-1952, 1957, 1959, 1962
Oversize 1 Aztec undated
Oversize 1 Beetleware undated
Oversize 1 Boonton 1954, 1958, 1960, undated
Oversize 1 Branchell 1956-1957 undated
Oversize 1 Brookpark 1955, 1958, undated
Oversize 1 Fostoria 1958, 2001
Oversize 1 Kenro undated
Oversize 1 Lenoxware undated
Oversize 1 Lifetime 1955, 1957, 1959, undated
Oversize 1 Melamine Council undated
Oversize 1 Monsanto undated
Oversize 1 New England Advertising catalog 1958
Oversize 1 Oneida 1959, 1960, 1969
Oversize 1 Plakson 1956, undated
Oversize 1 Prolon undated
Oversize 1 Royal China 1958, 1962-1963
Oversize 1 Sears undated
Oversize 1 Texasware 1953-1956
Oversize 1 Top Value catalog 1956
Oversize 1 Woodbine undated
Oversize 1 Miscellaneous 1952-1952, undated - includes advertisements that feature melamine products in the background, and catalog excerpts that include multiple brands
Oversize 1 A 1998, 2007-2008, 2010 - includes research on ABC, airline usage of melamine, Adam's House, Allied Chemical Co., Apolloware, and Aztek
Oversize 1 Ba-Bo 1998, 2007-2008, 2010 - includes research on Bakelite, Beetleware, Bessemer, Bolta, and Boonton
Oversize 2 Branchell 1998-1999, 2007-2008, 2010
Oversize 2 Brookpark 1998-2000, 2007, 2010
Oversize 2 C 1948, 1998-1999, 2007-2008, 2010 - includes research on Clai-Ware, Capac, Carleton (Basdonware), Carlisle (Kenro), Cathamware, Chicago Molded Products, Cody, Colorado Ware, Coldspot, CMP (Malibu Ware), Corelle, Corning Ware, Couroc
Oversize 3 D-Fr 1945, 1951, 1954, 1998-2000, 2007-2008, 2010 - includes research on Daileyware, Dansk, David Douglas, John Derian, Devine Foods, Dinah Ware, Diplomat, Don Wonder Ware, DOW, Duraware, Ebonyte, Ellinger's, Endura, Envoy, Evermaid, Fiesta Flatware, Fitz and Floyd, Flintwood, Fostoria, and French Bull
Oversize 3 Fu-H 1948, 1954, 1956, 1997-2000, 2007-2008, 2010 - includes research on Futura, Gaydon, Gencraft, General Tire, GET, Gothamware, General Plastics Ltd., Grant Crest, Michael Graves, Hazel Pearson Handicrafts Co., Harmony House, Heller, Hemco, Hi Snack, Hollywood, Home Dynamics, and Hunter
Oversize 3 Halsey 1998, 2008, 2010-2011
Oversize 3 I -L 1954, 1957, 1998-1999, 2004, 2007-2008, 2010 - includes research on Ideal Plastics, Ikea, Imperial International, Imperial Ware, Irwin Willert Co, Jamboree, Jason Products Ltd., Jaydon, JC Penny, Jewel Tea, Karefree, Karoff, Kartell, Keller Charles, Kenro, Kingline, Kingsway, Kirk, Krenit, Krista Ware, Kusan, Kys-ite, Laguna, Lancaster Colony, Lenox, Lexington, Libbey, and Luauware
Oversize 4 Melmac ads and brochures 1945-1966, 1998-1999, 2007-2008, 2010-2011 - includes digitized ads and brochures from American Cyanamid Co., Plakson, Allied Chemical, Boonton, Branchell, Brookpark, Fostoria, Kenro, WorthPoint, Oneida, Texas-ware, Prolon, Watertown Ware
Oversize 4 Melmac logo pcs. 1998-1999, 2007-2008 - includes research on promotional Melmac items, such as those made for Barbie, McDonald's, Pacman, and Smokey the Bear
Oversize 4 Melmac research 1998-1999 - articles, print-outs, e-mails, and handwritten notes
Oversize 4 N-Pl 1998-2000, 2007-2008, 2010 - includes research on National Home Products, Nemir Industries, NFC, Nichols, Noritake, Northern Air Ware, Northern Industrial Chemical, Oneida, Peoria Plastics, Plakson, Plastics, Inc., Plastomer, and Precido
Oversize 5 Prolon 1998-1999, 2007-2008, 2010-2011
Oversize 5 R 1998-1999, 2007-2008, 2010-2011 - includes research on Raffiaware, Rainbow Plastics, Reed Prentice, Regaline, Reinecke, Riviera Ware, Rosti, Royal China, and Rubbermaid
Oversize 5 S 1998-1999, 2010 - includes research on Sakura, Sellex, Serv-rite, SiLite, Space Age Products, Spaudling Dinnerware, Stetson, Stotter, Strawweave, StyleHouse, Styson, Syscoware
Oversize 5 Texasware (PMC) 1998-1999, 2004, 2007-2008, 2010
Oversize 5 V-W 1998-1999, 2010 - includes research on Vacron Ware, Warwick, Watertown (Lifetime), Waverly, Westinghouse, Windsor, and Russel Wright
Oversize 6 Wright, Russel 1998-1999, 2007-2008
Oversize 6 Miscellaneous 2010 - includes notes and articles on designers, makers, materials and processes, and other categories
Correspondence subject files
Oversize 6 Allied Chemical Co. 1957, 1959-1961, 1963, 1965-1966, 1990
Oversize 6 American Cyanamid Co. 1960, 1990, undated
Oversize 6 Apollo Ware 1990
Oversize 6 Bakelite 2002
Oversize 6 Bidding 1998, 2001 - contains e-mails about bidding on e-bay
Oversize 6 Book preparation 1990-1991 - contains outline and other preparatory materials for Shultz's book project on collectible melamine dinnerware
Box 1 Boonton 1972, 1990 (2 folders)
Box 1 Branchell 1957, 1989, 1999
Box 1 Brookpark 1959, 1990, undated
Box 1 Contacts 1990 - list of contacts for Schultz's melamine dinnerware project
Box 1 Design history 1991, undated
Box 1 Fostoria 1959, 1989-1990
Box 1 Fugleman, Marv 1989-1990
Box 1 Good Housekeeping 1957 - several pages (including the cover page) of the Good Housekeeping Christmas issue
Box 1 Inventory 1990, 1992
Box 1 Jorgenson, Jay 2000 - photography
Box 1 Kenro 1990
Box 1 Lenoxware 1962, 1967, 1990
Box 1 Lines 1955, 1957, 1990 - list of melamine product lines from North American companies and some photocopied advertisements
Box 1 Lucent 1956, 1958, 1990
Box 1 Manitoga 1990 - map to and newsletter for Manitoga, the estate of Russel Wright
Box 1 Melamine: general 1989-1990, 1997 - includes a copy of Antinque Trader weekly from Feb 1997
Box 2 NHMA 1990 - National Housewares Manufacturers Association
Box 2 Oneida 1959, 1962, 1990
Box 2 Plastics 1945, 1989, 2002, undated - includes photocopies of "The Watertown book of plastics" and a "Plastics Newsfront" (newsletter of American Cyanamid Co.)
Box 2 Plastics dinnerware articles 1955, 1989, 1993-1994, 1996, undated - clippings from The New York Times, Boomer, Better Homes & Gardens, an issue of Antinque Week, and The American Design Adventure
Box 2 Pricing lists undated
Box 2 Production/logistics 1989-1992 - information and correspondence about publication for Schultz's book
Box 2 Prolon 1962, 1990
Box 2 Questions 1988-1999
Box 2 RW IdealWare 1990
Box 2 Smithsonian 1990
Box 2 Society of Plastics Industry 1990
Box 2 Stern, Bill 1990, 1999, undated
Box 2 Texasware 1962, 1970, 1990, undated
Box 2 Thayer, Robert 1989
Box 2 Timelines and genealogy 1990, 1994
Box 2 To call 1990
Box 2 US Navy 1990
Box 2 Watertown 1947 - photocopied clippings from House Beautiful
Box 2 Westinghouse 1990
Box 2 Miscellaneous 1947-1948, 1950-1951, 1954, 1956, 1962-1964, 1986, 1989, 1998, undated - includes photocopied advertisements, library request forms, magazine and newspaper clippings, "The dawn of a new age: Russel Wright Melmac" 2 folders
Oversize 6 Miscellaneous 1948, 1950, 2005, 2010, undated - one binder including e-mails and research files

Return to top