The History of Wilendur Tablecloths
How lucky are those of us who remember outdoor birthday parties as children of the 1950s and 60s. Gentle, wafting summer breezes carried the sounds of children at play and the clink of horseshoes. Games of tag stirred colorful tablecloths on tables that groaned under the weight of homemade birthday cake and Mom’s home baked goodies. Today, outdoor entertaining looks a little different, but the fascination with the colorful, durable tablecloths that defined an era has remained among collectors.
Some of the most notable of these table linens were manufactured by the Weil and Durrse Company for more than 60 years. Also producers of kitchen towels, aprons, table runners and other kitchen linen essentials, Weil and Durrse is best known for their tablecloths manufactured under the original brand name Wilendur beginning in 1938. In 1958, Weil and Durrse added an “e” to the end of the original name Wildendur and redesigned the paper labels that boldly identify these linens.
These highly prized tablecloths were made of sturdy sail cloth and imprinted with colorful, bold floral and fruit prints in distinctive patterns that became the Wilendure trademark. So successful was this line that they added three more lines, “OppaTunity”, “America’s Pride” and “Sitting Pretty” in the early 1940s. “Pride of Flanders” was their first line printed on linen and “America’s Pride” was made from a rayon-cotton blend, however, the Wilendure brand became synonymous with the name Weil and Durrse name, due to the durability and the popularity of the line which was produced until the late 1970s. Weil and Durrse, sadly, went out of business in the early 1990s, cut their linens are still prized by collectors for their bright, cheery designs.
Wilendure tablecloths are printed in a unique repeating block pattern often referred to as “3-across” or an “array” of the chosen floral design. However, other linen manufacturers also used the staggered, 3-across pattern arrangement for their designs, so this cannot be used as the sole identifier. Weil and Durrse also employed several other design patterns, just to confuse things, including designs the fell well outside their known tendencies. Floral designs clustered around the edge of the cloth was known as the Border design. The Selvage had one design the length of each selvage and another design down the center. In the Arc, the arching design across two ends creates the appearance of a border on square cloths.
Weil and Dunne often let the patents run out on their patterns which were then copied by other manufacturers. For instance the popular Wilendure pattern “Royal Rose” has grey leaves in the authentic version. Later copies produced the design with green leaves, a small clue for collectors.
The hundreds of vintage hand made aprons that I have each have their own artistic style and each have a distinct personality as well as an interesting story woven deeply within the fabric.
Books To Consider
Elegant Table Linens from Weil and Durrse Including Wilendur by Michelle Hayes.
Collectors Guide to Vintage Tablecloths by Pamela Glasell