A Gray City Dinner Party: Commemorative Dinner Plates from the University Archives

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Exhibition curated by Daniel Meyer, Assistant University Archivist.

In June 1930, the University of Chicago Magazine notified the alumni of the creation of a special set of Spode dinner plates featuring views of twelve of the University's Gothic buildings. The plates were to be manufactured by Copeland & Sons, in a run of three hundred sets. As appropriate for the Grey City, the Spode plates were to be produced in a "soft grey" tone, with a border of Gothic arches, ornamented at three points by the image of Douglas Hall, the original home of the Old University of Chicago at 35th and Cottage Grove. The plates were obviously inspired by the "Eastern universities," that had already issued similar sets celebrating their own campuses, but the Alumni council also hoped to capitalize on the enthusiasm for the University's recently completed Gothic quadrangles. By November 1930 the Magazine was able to announce that 515 orders had already been received, and the order from the manufacturer had been increased to 600 sets. Alumni interest continued to grow, and in January 1931the Alumni council again increased the size of the run, this time to 1490 sets in total. The exhibit offers these notable artifacts of the University's invention of its own self-imagination along with documents and advertisements from the original release.