Life’s a picnic

By Karla Klein Albertson — For Antique Trader

As plans are being made for Labor Day picnics and fall tailgating at football games, collectors look back with nostalgia to an age when eating outdoors meant more than just a throw-away bucket of chicken. Before the introduction of drive-through windows and plastic forks, dining away from home meant packing specially made food and a complete table setting in a portable hamper. Americans have a long tradition of picnic baskets and covered-dish gatherings, but the English perfected the well-fitted food hamper accompanied by the famous line: “Champagne, anyone?”

The goal was the ability to serve a full meal outdoors in a delightful setting, and the widespread use of the motorcar in the 20th century made destination picnicking increasingly popular. Now collectors have discovered the beauty and practicality of the vintage English sets and — because of  the automobile touring connection — the best often turn up in auctions of antique cars and accessories.


This 1930s English traveling picnic set for four persons made by Sirram brought around $800 when sold in London last December during Christie’s auction of fine motor cars and automobilia. The price reflects its amenities and excellent condition. The case covered in “Rexine” (a type of artificial leather) can be converted into a table on detachable legs. The well-equipped interior contains hand-painted china, nickel-plated cutlery, sandwich boxes, flasks and condiment containers.

Read the full story in the August 30 issue of Antiique Trader