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Pressed glass got its start in the early 1800's with the invention of the hand pressing machine. This machine allowed manufacturers to make many of the same items while maintaining uniformity and consistency in the pieces. This process also used less glass, making manufacturing cheaper, and increasing production dramatically.
To manufacture this glass, a number of hand carved molds usually made of brass or cast iron were needed. The molten glass was placed into the mold and a plunger was inserted, pressing the hot glass into the mold to form the item. Even though pattern glass is mold formed, each piece was worked on by a number of workers, which included hand shaping, fire polishing, (remove mold lines), engravers, etchers, and painters, to produce the beautiful glass that we know today as Early American Pattern Glass.
By the 1800's glass houses were located throughout the eastern part of the United States. An abundance of raw materials, fuel, and labor helped pattern glass reach it's zenith through the 1800's and into the 1900's and brought us companies such as Boston and Sandwich (Sandwich, MA, est. 1825), Adams and Co. (Pittsburgh PA, est. 1851), and McKee & Brothers (Pittsburgh PA, est. 1864 who began shipping their wares not only throughout the United States but also the world.
The glass made during this period is usually referred to as Early American Pattern Glass or Early American Pressed Glass-but it is also sometimes referred to as "Poor Man's Cut Glass". It was during this time period that the middle class began to emerge and the lady of the house could now set a beautiful table using pressed glass that fit into her budget.
The two best reference books on EAPG are both written by Danny Cornelius and Don Jones. The first, American Pattern Glass Table Sets, was published in 2000; and Early American Pattern Glass Cake Stands & Serving Pieces, came out in 2002, both published by Collector Books.
Carnival Glass gets its name, because you could literally win it at a "carnival". I can remember my Dad telling me about pitching coins at the carnival to try to win a piece of glass for his mother!
This glassware was mass produced between 1905 and 1930. Its trademark iridized look was achieved by spraying the surface of the glass before firing. Because of this spraying process, there are variations in the depth of color depending upon who did the spraying, whether or not it was the end of the shift, etc. For the most part, this glass was pressed, although some pieces were hand formed when removed from the mold.
Many companies, both domestic and foreign, produced Carnival Glass. England, France, Germany, Australia, Sweden, and Finland all made Carnival Glass. However, the majority of it was made in the United States. Dugan Glass Company of Indiana, Fenton Art Glass, Imperial Glass, Millersburg, and Northwood in Ohio were the major producers domestically. Other companies also produced Carnival on a smaller scale, including Cambridge, Jenkins, Westmoreland, Fostoria, Heisey, and McKee-Jeannette.
Unlike Depression and Elegant Glassware, Carnival was never intended to be "table setting" type of glassware. The emphasis was on accent pieces, such as candlesticks, pitcher and tumbler sets, bowls, bon-bons, vases, and candy dishes. All of these come in a multitude of patterns, shapes, and colors. While the most common color many associate with Carnival glass is marigold, a wide variety of other colors are available. These include amethyst, purple, blue, green, various shades of opalescent, pastels, and aqua just to name a few.
Several good reference books are available on Carnival Glass. Two of the best are the Standard Encyclopedia of Carnival Glass, 11th edition, by Mike Carwile and the accompanying price guide, Standard Encyclopedia of Carnival Glass Price Guide, 16th edition, also be Mike Carwile.
Depression Glass is commonly referred to as the colored glassware that was mass produced during the 1930's. In fact, it encompasses a longer time period than that. Earlier patterns began production in the late 1920's, and continued into the 1940's. It was inexpensive machine-made, pressed glass, but many patterns have a "killer" piece or two that today will set you back hard!
Many collections were started with "premium" pieces--dish night at the movies, glass with an oil change, or as a bonus in flour, cereal and oatmeal boxes. Additional pieces could be purchased at the local dime store or through the mail with coupons collected from a specific manufacturer. Depression Glass was made in every conceivable shape, style, and pattern. Most of the emphasis was on dinnerware sets, which included full table place settings as well as bowls, pitchers, cookie jars, and candy dishes.
While Depression Glass is noted for pink and green, it was produced in a wide variety of colors. These include amber, yellow, cobalt blue, light blue, ultramarine, crystal, black, red, white, and some opalescent colors. Each pattern is unique in terms of what pieces were available. There are some smaller patterns, such as Aurora, which was only produced in 7 pieces. This can be contrasted with pink Mayfair, which has almost 60 pieces. However, Mayfair was also produced in blue, green, and yellow, and pieces in those colors are much harder to find and more expensive. You may hear dealers refer to Depression Glass with "A-Z" or "Adam to Windsor" patterns. This is a reference to the fact that there were many, many patterns produced, and they range from "Adam" to "Windsor" alphabetically.
Many companies produced Depression Glass. The larger companies include Federal Glass, Hocking and Anchor Hocking, Imperial, Lancaster, Standard, and U.S. Glass in Ohio; Hazel-Atlas, New Martinsville, and Paden City in West Virginia; Indiana Glass of Indiana, and Jeannette, Macbeth-Evans, McKee, L.E. Smith, and Westmoreland in Pennsylvania. Most of these companies had plants in more than one location and state. Smaller companies put out only a few patterns. Some of these are Bartlett-Collins, Belmont, Diamond, Jenkins, Liberty Works, and Monongah Glass.
While there are many books on Depression Glass, they fall into three categories. Books have been published covering a specific manufacturer, all pieces in one color, and overall encyclopedias with price guides. If you're trying to research a piece you just can't find, look in Colored Glassware of the Depression Era, Book 2, by Hazel Marie Weatherman. It was published in 1974, and is considered by most of the dealers as the "bible of the industry". It won't give you a value for your piece of glass, but you may be able to identify that mystery bowl in the cupboard. However, it is out of print and difficult to find. For the "A-Z" patterns, Mauzy's Depression Glass, A Photographic Reference and Price Guide is the current standard. Barbara and Jim Mauzy travel the country doing shows and research in an effort to keep their prices current. The latest edition is the 7th, published in 2011.
The 40's-50's-60's Glassware category was originated by Gene Florence to cover those patterns which have all the characteristics of Depression Glass, but which were produced later. These characteristics include that fact that this glassware was mass produced, cheaply made, and pressed from a mold.
However, there are idiosyncrasies to be found here. For example, the Iris pattern was manufactured by the Jeannette Glass company in crystal from 1928-1932, with just a few pieces made later than that. However, the iridescent Iris was made in the 1950's with reproductions into the 1970's. Similar information can be found on the Sandwich pattern by Hocking, with the colors appearing much later than the crystal.
As is true with Depression Glass, colors include pink, green, yellow, crystal, red, blue, amethyst just to name a few. Also, as a parallel to Depression Glass, there are many different companies that produced glass at this time. Many of these companies are the same as those of the Depression Era. Fire-King dinnerware patterns almost all fall within this time period.
Elegant Glassware companies also fall into this time frame. For example, although Cambridge Rose Point started production in 1936, it continued to be made until 1953. Several of the Elegant etched patterns do fall entirely within these three decades. Fostoria's "Buttercup" and "Corsage", Fenton's crest series, New Martinsville's "Prelude", and Heisey's "Rose" are just a few examples.
As with Depression and Elegant glassware, there are books which concern a specific company or color. However, the only book that covers this era specifically is Collectible Glassware of the 40's-50's-60's, by Gene Florence. As he is no longer doing shows or researching and publishing books, the most recent 10th edition, published in 2009, will be the last.
Elegant Glassware was produced during the same time period as Depression Glass. However, that's were the similarity ends. Depression Glass was mass produced, with little care taken to ensure "quality control". Elegant Glass was largely hand-worked, sometimes blown, acid etched quality glass. There are several major manufacturers who account for the majority of the glass made during this time. These include Cambridge, Heisey, Fostoria, Tiffin, and Imperial. Other companies involved, but to a lesser extent, were Duncan Miller, Fenton, Morgantown, Central, and New Martinsville.
Cambridge Glass was established in Cambridge, Ohio in 1901. Although most people know Cambridge because of their large line of etched glass patterns, they were instrumental in the introduction of colored glassware. In the early 1920's, and throughout that decade, new colors continued to emerge from the factory. Many books have been written exclusively on Cambridge Glass and their pattern lines. In order to give you an idea of some of their production, a few of their major patterns include Rose Point (the top of their line), Chantilly, Diane, Elaine, Portia, and Wildflower. These patterns were produced on the same shape, or "blank". If you hear that term, that's what it refers to. Other top designs were Caprice and Cleo. There are many others, in a multitude of shapes and colors.
Heisey was founded in 1893, in Newark, Ohio. Its production included blown and pressed stemware and dinnerware. In contrast to many others of that time, Heisey limited its production to handmade rather than automatic methods. The quality of the glass and workmanship made it highly sought after in the time of its production, and that remains true today. Most of the glass found is crystal, in contrast to the abundance of color produced by Cambridge and Fostoria. Orchid was the most widely produced and marketed pattern, but Heisey also produced Rose, Minuet, Ridgeleigh, and Empress to name a few. As with the other major companies, reference books specifically dealing with Heisey and its production are readily available.
Moundsville, West Virginia has been home to Fostoria Glass since the late 1800's. Functional items, such as lamps, were the early productions staples of the company. In 1915, it began production of its American line, which was by far the most extensive Fostoria produced. That pattern continued in production into the 1980's. During that time, the company began to shift its emphasis to glassware for the home and dining table. In 1925, Fostoria because the first major company to introduce an all-glass dinnerware line available in color. This set the tone to rival Cambridge in color designs. Some of its etched designs include June, Navarre, Rogene, Royal, Shirley, Vesper, and Versailles, most on the Fairfax blank. Baroque, Colony, and Priscilla have no etch, but were also widely produced. Reference books on Fostoria can also be easily found.
Tiffin glassware was produced in Tiffin, Ohio. Originally part of the U.S. Glass "family", Tiffin became a stand alone company (similar to Duncan Miller's history). Similar in quality and workmanship to other major producers of the time, Tiffin used color very effectively. It produced pressed dinnerware lines and blown stemware, both plain and etched, in crystal and colors. Some of its many patterns include Cherokee Rose, Classic, Empire, Flanders, Fontaine, Luciana, and Persian Pheasant. Deerwood was also produced, but is sometimes labeled as Tiffin and other times as U.S. Glass. Several quality reference books are available on Tiffin.
Imperial Glass began production in 1904 at Bellaire, Ohio. Its two most widely manufactured and marketed patterns are Candlewick and Cape Cod. In fact, some people think that's all that Imperial made! In reality, like most other companies, a multitude of patterns were made. Some of these include Pillar Flutes, Spun, Fancy Colonial, and Tradition. Unlike most of the Elegant Glassware companies, Imperial crossed over to Depression glass as well, producing Beaded Block, Diamond Quilted, and Twisted Optic to name a few. And yes, reference books abound concerning Imperial and its wares.
Because of the abundance of "smaller" companies, we've decided not to write much about them here. Suffice to say, if you're willing to do the research, information can be found on all of them. However, we will give you a smattering of pattern lines and lines. Duncan Miller produced Canterbury, Caribbean, First Love, Nautical, and Terrace. Central is responsible for Balda, Harding, and Morgan. Morgantown manufactured American Beauty, Golf Ball, Queen Louise, and Tinkerbell. New Martinsville did some patterns in Depression as well as Janice and Heraldry. Fenton really isn't a "smaller" company. There are so many books on Fenton, they are hard to count. We've listed them here because they didn't do much dinnerware, but rather concentrated on decorating pieces. Patterns produced by Fenton include Aqua, Silver, and Emerald Crest, Opalescent Hobnail in a myriad of colors, Coin Dot, and many opalescent and overlay patterns.
Because all of these manufacturers have books written exclusively about them, we've decided to only list two that cover many of them. Elegant Glass, Early, Depression, and Beyond, by Debbie and Randy Coe is out with its third edition from Schiffer publishing; and Elegant Glassware of the Depression Era, by Gene and Cathy Florence was published by Collector Books. This is the thirteenth and last edition due to the retirement of the Florence's.
If any category of glassware is self-explanatory, this was to be it! Kitchen glassware was designed to be used in the kitchen, as opposed to other varieties that could be used to set a table or decorate your home. Found in all colors, the major manufacturers were Anchor-Hocking, Fry, Hazel-Atlas, Jeannette, McKee, and Pyrex. All of these companies also produced glassware that falls into other categories, primarily Depression.
Anchor-Hocking is responsible for the sapphire blue casseroles, bowls, pie plates, and refrigerator containers as well as many decorated bowl sets including tulips, and Gay-Fad. Fry glass manufactured the easily recognizable opalescent covered casseroles, bowls, custards, and other kitchen utility ware. Hazel-Atlas is best known for blue, crystal, green, and pink criss-cross butter dishes, reamers, bowls, and refrigerator dishes. Jeannette introduced measuring cup sets, butter dishes, bowls, and refrigerator sets in ultramarine, pink, and crystal. McKee was primarily responsible for individual casseroles with covers, measuring cups, coffee pots, and a distinctive heart-shaped pie plates and casseroles. Pyrex is most recognized for mixing bowl sets. They also produced covered casseroles, measuring cups, and refrigerator sets.
In addition to many of the items listed above, other pieces were also in production. These include batter jugs and bowls, canisters, cruets, ice buckets, knives, ladles, napkin holders, range sets, rolling pings, salt boxes, spice shaker sets, straw holders, and water bottles. Although kitchen glassware is available in many colors, the two most often thought of are blue and jadite. Blue tones include chalaine, peacock, cobalt, and delphite. Jadite became quite popular when Martha Stewart used it on her television show. In fact, Ms. Stewart put out her own line of jadite kitchen ware, so make sure you know what you're buying.
Several reference books are available for specific manufacturers or colors used in the kitchen. There are two "overall" guides. The first is Kitchen Glassware of the Depression Years, by Gene and Cathy Florence. The most recent edition is the seventh, published by Collector Booksin 2009. The second is Mauzy's Kitchen Glass: A Photographic Reference, published by Barbara and Jim Mauzy in 2004.
If you're thinking about starting a collection but are afraid of buying a reproduction, rest assured. Most reproductions are well documented as soon as they come out. If you consider the thousands of piece of glassware produced, only a handful have been reproduced. Authors Barbara & Jim Mauzy and Gene & Cathy Florence list all reproduction information in their books, along with tips to distinguish between the original and the new. To give you the best example we can think of, Florence's four books on Depression, Elegant, 40's-50's-60's, and Kitchen Glassware contain 1015 pages of pictures and information on glassware. Of that total, only 17 pages show and explain reproductions. Barbara & Jim Mauzy show their reproduction information with each pattern, so that type of comparison is difficult for them. Many patterns that are listed as "reproduced", may be only one piece in one color. NO pattern, in its entirety, has been reproduced. There just isn't as much as many people think. If you're unsure, you have to do the research and/or trust the reputation of the dealer you're buying from.
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