FLIPS. Flip-top salts. Flip-top sugar bowls. They don't even have an official, decent, dignified name.
They're the covered bowls that served everything from salt to sugar to cheese and crackers to sundae toppings. A flip was manufactured primarily for commercial use and could be found in restaurants, diners, fine hotels and soda fountains – everywhere from haute cuisine to roadside hot dog stand.
NEW COLOR OF McKEE FLIP! Just added to the site is this heretofore unknown (to me) Seville Yellow flip with ugly decal, joining its more beautiful Chalaine and Jadite relatives (who might have had these decals, too, but mercifully didn't show up wearing them). Click here to read more about it. (Would it be heresy to remove what's left of the decal?!)
NEW DELPH FLIP! Here's another flip with the design placed on the inside of the rim in addition to the full design on the outside. And it has the same James M. Shaw distributor backstamp (without manufacturer's mark) as the Blue Willow version. Click here for more photos of the Delph bowl.
It was constructed in two parts. Its bowl (from 4 1/2" wide to larger than 10") was made of heavy, vitrified china; heavy, molded glass; and rarely metal. Its lid – its most distinguishing characteristic – was fabricated from metal and either crimped onto the bowl or screwed on. With few exceptions, hinges on the lid were continuous – like piano hinges – and allowed the lid to open (usually) halfway and to flip back onto itself.
Known dates of manufacture spanned from the mid-19th century to approximately the 1970s. (The first flips that I've heard about were shown in an 1859-60 McKee catalog featuring an 8-inch pedestal "cracker bowl.") The lids are usually scratched, discolored, dented and warped. The bowls frequently are perfect.
These pages are the result of a collaboration between me and my friend John DeGrafft. We met virtually as ebay competitors but drew up a truce long enough to merge photos and info for this site. We believe that this is the first time anyone has grouped these containers together based on their unique lid design.
In most cases the companies that made the lids and bases are no longer in business. My research efforts can best be exemplified by one company that I tried to find: Bloomfield Industries. It had been based for decades in Chicago but was sold, and by the time I got to them they had relocated to the Southwest and were no long making flips. All original employees retired before the move, all records were purged. That was the end of the line.
On the other hand, there have been a few surprises, such as the e-mail sent from the granddaughter of the founder of Utilities Specialties. She was doing her own research to try to find examples of her family’s wares and at the same time was gracious enough to share with me what she knows of the company’s fascinating history.
I just received this postcard at right of a 42.5-foot soda fountain at the Eckerd's Drug Store in Columbia, S.C. In the foreground there's a flip peeking around from behind a menu. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)
Also, a friend tipped me off to this wonderful old photo, right, of the interior of Art's Hot Dogs in Atlantic City, with what looks like a green Hall flip on the counter. It's used with permission of Art's grandson Robert Flank, who said, "My grandfather would yell 'Our dogs don't bark and they don't bite, they just delight your appetite.'"
Check back occasionally as we have many more interesting flips that need to be added to the site. And feel free to share photos of your finds with me as well.