Referring to collectors' books is one of the best ways to date a vintage tablecloth. References that would-be collectors can refer to include Colorful Tablecloths and Threads of the Past, by Yvonne Barineau and Erin Henderson, and The Collectors Guide to Vintage Tablecloths and Vintage Souvenir Tablecloths & Linens, by Pamela Glasell.
Vintage tablecloths can be identified from either their patterns or their manufacturers' labels. When attempting to look up a certain pattern, collectors look up the cloth in references such as the aforementioned Colorful Tablecloths and Threads of the Past, which contains an exhaustive glossary of patterns for tablecloths manufactured in various locations during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One of the most influential locales for vintage tablecloth design is Ireland, which has long had a culture of embroidery and damask design.
The Collectors Guide to Vintage Tablecloths and Vintage Souvenir Tablecloths & Linens are excellent references for finding tablecloth manufacturers' labels. Some of the best-known manufacturers included Turke Red in the 1880s, Simtex in the 1940s and Dervan in the 1950s.
Tablecloths can also be dated by posting pictures on a tablecloth and embroidery website and asking for assistance from an expert. The Vintage Tablecloth Lover's Club is one such place.