First developed in the 1940's, Melamine resin is easily molded into a number of different shapes and is extremely durable. In fact, one of the main attributes of Melmac is the durability. Its construction holds up well, although they do retain scratches quite easily. Some of the most popular Melmac dinnerware was Boonton, Texas Ware and Kempo. So if you can find some collectible pieces that haven't been used much, you should snatch it up! During the mid-20th century the dinnerware could be found in almost every home in the U.S.A. It didn't cost much and it was easy to take care of. Either hand washing or dishwasher worked equally well.
In the 1950's solid muted colors were the fashion, like pea green or sea foam. The 1960's produced many interesting color combos, some that reflected the psychedelic look that was very popular then. If you went to school during this time cafeterias often used trays divided into sections that made it possible to place each food item into the sections as you went through the line. I remember well how the trays looked. They even had a special square slot that was perfect for a half-pint of milk.
It's not a good idea to place melamine in a microwave, though, because of the plastic components that might seep into the food. Other than that regular cold or heated food is fine served on the lovely combinations that are still available if you can find them! Households with children found Melmac to be ideal for use either as informal dinners as well as picnics or barbeques in the back yard as they didn't shatter when dropped.
Some rather clever people even took mis-matched pieces of Melmac and made them into lamps. The most famous was Christopher Poehlmann who in 1995 created sconces and chandeliers made of Melmac cups and saucers and placed them at the entrance of an installation and created a sensation. Unfortunately I could not find any photos of them.
I did find two pictures of other small lamps that show what someone could do with unwanted pieces of Melmac. I think they are rather clever! It gave me some ideas except I like to keep them as a set or as cup & saucer rather than glue them to something else!
The green set is by Laguna out of L.A. California, orange dish is Colorflyte by Branchell
made in St. Louis, Mo. Single tumbler is by Raffiaware Thermal Temp
Orange cup and bowl has no mark, ashtray designed by Kaye Maloyne, blue and dark red cups and saucers are Holiday by Kempo of Fredonia, WI. Salt & Pepper shakers are not marked, but are in neat atomic age style shaped like small rockets
Different view of cups and saucers, plus cool Minerware orange and green pitcher from NYC
Complete set of Melmac in pink and gray by Boonton in New Jersey. Salt & Pepper shakers are in a deco style and made by Carvaniti from L.A. CA.
More pieces from the pink and gray set by Boonton
Handmade lamp with mismatched Melmac cups and saucers atop Maxwell House coffee tin
Another example of a Melmac cup & saucer lamp on top of books
This set was sold, but I loved the design--Pink & Blue leaf by the Kenpo Corp.
Another favorite....already sold! This one is Robin's egg blue & Cream Ovation by Westinghouse in Bridgeport, CT