Hart's Turkey Farm's Vintage Turkey Plate Collection

The collection started with a single plate

Hart’s turkey plate collection is said to be the largest in the world.
photo by melissa boulanger

On Thanksgiving Day at Hart’s Turkey Farm in Meredith, a ton and a half of turkey, 50 gallons of gravy, 5,000 dinner rolls, 1,200 pounds of potatoes and 150 pies are served. For Americans, as important as the food eaten this time of year, is the china on which it’s served. Enter what we like to call turkey-o-bilia and the nearly 60-year-old Hart’s has gobbled up first place when it comes to its fowl-festooned dinnerware. At the iconic Lakes Region eatery, where “every day is Thanksgiving,” more than 600 vintage turkey plates and platters are on permanent display, according to Dale Hart, the third generation co-owner of the restaurant, whose specialty is, of course, turkey in all its permutations, from croquettes to Alfredo. Some think it may be the largest collection of turkey dinnerware in the world.

Hart says the collection began with her grandmother Mae’s vintage flow blue turkey platter, which was used for the family’s annual Thanksgiving celebration. The collection decorates the knotty pine walls throughout the restaurant and includes china from America and around the world, like Limoges from France, Spode, Barker Brothers, Johnson Brothers and Staffordshire transferware from the United Kingdom.

 “My mother and father used to go to antique auctions looking for the dishes,” recalls Hart. “The Lakes Region has a lot of antique stores and they checked them out too. They spent part of the year in Florida and bought some there as well.” A friend of the family, Ray Baker, an antique dealer, traveled widely and brought back turkey platters from Europe and Mexico.

Hart says the family’s collection was sometimes supplemented by turkey plates from estate sales, and some diners even brought in their family heirlooms after a loved one died.

She says she is not surprised that the collection has grown over the years from one solitary plate to hundreds. “It was a passion for my father. And when he did something, he went all the way.”  

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