In 1834, a German scientist by the name of Justus Von Liebig first synthesized the crystalline compound melamine in his lab. He was considered one of the principal founders of organic chemistry and was known as the “father of the fertilizer industry” for his work with nitrogen and plant nutrients. Without any immediate use for the substance, the wonder plastic compound remained idle for many years.

Melamine dinnerware was made popular during the 1940s and 1950s with its initial application as messware used by the U.S. Navy. The unique shatterproof and chip-resistant qualities make the substance ideal for high-use and high-impact dining. Melamine made a comeback during the 1970s when outdoor leisure activities regained popularity. The hardened dinnerware was widely used in camping and outdoor recreational dining.

Vintage collectors of melamine dinnerware place a high value on these retro-style plates, bowls and mugs. One of the most coveted collectible melamine companies is Melmac. Melmac is a vintage melamine manufacturer most popular during the 1940s to 1960s. The nostalgia surrounding melamine stems from the limited styles and colors available during that time. Due to advancements in the melamine manufacturing process, there are many possible styles and colors now available.

Today, melamine is an FDA-approved plastic widely used in the foodservice industry. The futuristic wonder plastic from the 20th century is now used in high-end hotels, cruise ships, restaurants, grocery stores, and theme parks because of its resilience to breakage. Melamine is known today for its reusability, durability, and its inexpensive price tag compared to its ceramic counterparts.