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Chinese Restaurant Wares and Ephemera

About 1950, the F. S. Louie Company of Berkeley, California, began wholesaling china to restaurants. Following the founder's death in 1996, his son continued the business for a few years. Before closing the business, he generously gave the AACC many examples of Chinese restaurant wares that remained in the company's inventory. In addition, the AACC has two company catalogues, from 1960 and 1983. When compared, these show differences in patterns offered for sale and in prices charged to restaurants. The major patterns are God of Longevity, Dragon/Phoenix, Bird/Flower, and Women/Characters. As the paper sticker indicates, most of this ware was made in Japan because, for political reasons, the U.S. government did not allow U.S. firms to import anything from The People's Republic of China for many years. For more information on the F. S. Louie Company, from which this brief account was taken, see Amber Creighton, "Chinese Restaurant Ware and Its Importance to Asian American Archaeology," Journal of Northwest Anthropology, 36(2):227-240, Fall 2002.

Ashtray from Tea Garden Cafe, Portland, Oregon
Ashtray from Tea Garden Cafe, Portland, Oregon, AACC-2004-1, in the "God of Longevity" pattern. Donated by Elaura Niles.
Base of  Tea Garden Cafe ashtray, showing logo for F. S. Louie Co., Berkeley, CA, partially covered with "Made in Japan" paper sticker.
Base of Tea Garden Cafe ashtray, showing logo for F. S. Louie Co., Berkeley, CA, partially covered with "Made in Japan" paper sticker.

At the time of her article, Ms. Creighton had located wares marked with the F. S. Louie name or logo and bearing the names of Chinese restaurants in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Washington and Washington, DC. Since then, others from Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Virginia and Wisconsin have been offered for sale on the Internet. The AACC is always happy to learn of additional F. S. Louie wares marked with restaurant names and addresses.

The F. S. Louie Company has used several different base marks during the course of their operation. They are based on stylizations of (a), the Chinese character for thunder, pronounced "louie" in Cantonese. Mark (b) is probably the first one used by the company; mark (c) is later, and mark (d) is the most recent (Creighton 2002:235). All three marks are represented on F. S. Louie ceramics in the AACC.

Another F. S. Louie mark is represented in the AACC by an oval platter in the "Longevity" pattern, AACC-2001-258; the "Longevity" pattern is different from the "God of Longevity" pattern.  This mark appears on F. S. Louie ceramics manufactured for the company by the Sterling China Company; see Barbara J. Conroy, Restaurant China Volume 2: Identification & Value Guide for Restaurant, Airline, Ship & Railroad Dinnerware (Paducah, KY: Collector Books, 1999), 616.

F. S. Louie mark found on ceramics manufactured by the Sterling China Company.

Asian American Comparative Collection

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University of Idaho
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