Flashback: Atterbury Designs for Covered Animal Dishes in Glass

April 16th, 2010

This article discusses the animals featured on Thomas B. Atterbury’s glassware, describing the pictured designs and quoting his patents. It originally appeared in the October 1945 issue of American Collector magazine, a publication which ran from 1933-1948 and served antiques collectors and dealers.

While doing research work in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area in 1933, it was my privilege to interview a large number of officials connected with glass companies, as well as actual glassworkers. It was disappointing to find that most of the officers were primarily interested in what they could make money on tomorrow, rather than in the products their grandfathers or the former heads of their concerns manufactured. They cannot be blamed for their attitude, even though it was disheartening for the interviewer and tended to remove some of the romance associated with our old glass.

ILLUSTRATION I: Lion Covered Dish: The date of this patent, taken out by T. B. Atterbury was August 6, 1889.

ILLUSTRATION I: Lion Covered Dish: The date of this patent, taken out by T. B. Atterbury was August 6, 1889.

It was largely through the men who worked in old-time factories that here and there a nugget could be gleaned. One man told me that he had been sent out to the Zoo to look over the animals and decide which ones might make suitable subjects for covered animal dishes. Having exhausted the domestic animals as models, new ideas were needed.

Apparently the tour of the Zoo bore fruit and we can now learn through reproductions of designs from patent files that Thomas B. Atterbury of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was largely responsible for many interesting dishes collectors enjoy today. From the reproduction of these patented designs illustrated here, one will note that they were usually taken out on the “dish cover.”

In Illustration I will be seen the majestic Lion. Mr. Atterbury’s patents were executed, in several instances, on August 6, 1889. Space will not permit coverage of all the text of the specifications for the dishes, but an example will be liven here of the Lion dish, so that the reader may understand the mechanical procedure. It reads as follows:

ILLUSTRATON II: The Fox Covered Dish: Also patented August 6, 1889, by Atterbury, in his specification he states that the top could be used with bases of several designs.

ILLUSTRATON II: The Fox Covered Dish: Also patented August 6, 1889, by Atterbury, in his specification he states that the top could be used with bases of several designs.

“To all whom it may concern: Be it known that I, Thomas B. Atterbury, a citizen of the United States, residing at Pittsburgh, a in the County of Allegheny and State of Pennsylvania, have invented and produced a new and original Design for Dish-Covers; and I do hereby declare the following to be a full, clear, and exact description of the same, reference being had to the accompanying drawing, forming a part thereof.

In the drawing I have shown a dish-cover in perspective having a lion thereon.

The cover, which is by preference elliptical and also of oval shape, has formed around its base a border, consisting of short upwardly-extending ribs or flutings, above which the top of the mound or oval portion is made in imitation of trampled grass or turf, and on which is a lion in an attitude of repose with the head raised.

A indicates the main body of the cover, which has the short longitudinal flutings or ribs, A extending around the base and the upper portion, B, roughened to represent long grass. On the top of the cover is formed the handle B, which represents a lion squatting or lying down with the head erect. What I claim is —

The design for a dish-cover, as shown and described, the same consisting of an oval or mound shaped cover A, having short longitudinal flutings or ribs extending around its base, above which it is made in representation of turf, the handle portion B representing a lion lying down the head erect.

ILLUSTRATION III: The Famous Atterbury Duck: The date of this patent is March 15, 1887 and its inventor referred to it as "in a sitting or crouching position."

ILLUSTRATION III: The Famous Atterbury Duck: The date of this patent is March 15, 1887 and its inventor referred to it as "in a sitting or crouching position."

In testimony whereof I affix my signature in presence of two witnesses, Thomas B. Atterbury.”

In Illustration II will be noted a similar-shaped cover, showing a fox. This dish was also patented by T. B. Atterbury on August 6, 1889. In patenting the cover, the manufacturer of the dishes could use more than one style of base — so long as the cover fitted! In the text of the fox cover the patent reads, in part: “and having on the top thereof and covering the greater portion of the same a configuration of a fox.”

Probably the most famous of Mr. Atterbury’s covered dishes today is the so-called “Atterbury duck” (Illustration III). Collectors do not refer to “the duck dish,” but in this particular instance, it is always termed the “Atterbury duck.” The patent was taken out March 15, 1877.

Nothing is ever said about colors, but this particular dish was made in a beautiful shade of amethyst glass and examples fetch a high price today. It was also produced in milk-white, in opaque blue and in white with blue heads. This dish has been widely reproduced in milk-white and in various colors, as well as in combinations of colors. It is not difficult to tell the old from the new, if one concentrates on the details of the design. Many of the covered dishes were sold “Eyed or without” and the Atterbury duck is a shining example. It is difficult to find one with the original eyes today.

ILLUSTRATION IV: The Large Rabbit Dish: This the inventor called a tureen or dish in patent specifications dated March 9, 1886.

ILLUSTRATION IV: The Large Rabbit Dish: This the inventor called a tureen or dish in patent specifications dated March 9, 1886.

On March 9, 1886, Mr. Atterbury patented the large rabbit dish (Illustration IV). This is described by him as “a dish or tureen.” Collectors will discover them today in milk-white or in opaque blue, sometimes with red-inset eyes. Any other color would be a rarity.

A popular covered dish more Victorian in appearance than the others described is shown in Illustration V. Among collectors it is known as the “hand with dove” dish, but not so with Mr. Atterbury. His patent was taken out August 27, 1889, and is described as follows:

ILLUSTRATION V: Hand With Dove Dish: Atterbury described this as a dish cover in his patent dated August 27, 1889.

ILLUSTRATION V: Hand With Dove Dish: Atterbury described this as a dish cover in his patent dated August 27, 1889.

“The design for a dish-cover, the same consisting of a rectangular slab with slightly-rounded corners having the configuration of a hand holding a bird between the index-finger and the thumb extending over the same, said bird extending up above the hand and has its head turned toward the hand in the attitude of pecking the index-finger.”

Factually, the bird appears slightly sad at having been captured! The dish may be found with or without a colored stone of sorts, set in the ring on second finger of hand. Milk-white is the most common color of the cover, which rests on an “open-work” or lace-edged base. Any of the “hand with bird” dishes are difficult to find these days, because they have been so widely collected.

Among other Atterbury patents on covered dishes may be included one seldom seen, probably because it is not a pleasing design, which the description notes: “consists in the configuration of two or more fishes symmetrically arranged around a central portion, which extends above the fishes a little distance in the form of a truncated cone, having a shell on top thereof, which forms the handle of the dish-cover.”

ILLUSTRATION VI: A Covered Mustard Cup: This was patented July 17, 1888 and the specifications describe it as the "head and neck of a bovine…the head being detached from the neck portion."

ILLUSTRATION VI: A Covered Mustard Cup: This was patented July 17, 1888 and the specifications describe it as the "head and neck of a bovine…the head being detached from the neck portion."

Other animals include the cat; also “a pyramid of eggs, the handle portion of the cover representing a chicken which has partly broken its way out of its shell”; (this is a large dish, usually milk-white, with a lace-edged round base), and a novelty mustard cup (Illustration VI). The detail of this dish displays excellent workmanship. Usually it is seen in a distinctly opal-white, the tongue of the cow forming the handle for a mustard spoon. The patent was issued July 17, 1888.

Undoubtedly there are other Atterbury dishes. An upright owl, which I have found in opaque blue with red eyes; in milk-white with or without eyes and in opaque lavender, without eyes, appears to be from the hand of the same designer.

This article originally appeared in American Collector magazine, a publication which ran from 1933-1948 and served antique collectors and dealers.

12 comments so far

  1. katie billingsley Says:

    i have a lion covered dish (candy bowl) but mine is not slag glass it is clear the lion is frosted and on the underside of the lion (the top piece of the covered bowl) it has patent aug 6th 1889 now does this mean it is that old or another company used this pattern and had to use the patent on it? i have seen so many of the slag glass ones but have never seen another clear on bottom with the lacey glass and frosted on top with the patent..any information you can give me would be appreciated . i am moving and if its not “real” its going into a yard sale..thank you so very much!

  2. J Simons Says:

    Hi, it may not be an Atterbury original but it is a very good reproduction made by Imperial Glass Co. Imperial is not in business so this will increase in value as time goes on. I wouldn’t put it in a yard sale!

  3. Linda Fink Says:

    I have a rather large collection of Lion dishes that I inherited. I want to know more about the history, the entire collection, etc. I have not only Lion jars but flat pieces.
    Thank you.

  4. debbie Says:

    I have acquired the dove in hand dish and would like to replace the eye and ringstone. Ive looked a sawvorski crystals. I just dont know the color that was the most original. Does anyone know?? thanks debbie

  5. Danielle Says:

    I have the lion dish cover. I put the info into Google and it led me to this page. I have wondered about it for years. Thanks so much for posting the article. The base was broken when I was a child. I wonder if I can find the base somewhere? i have no idea how much this lion is worth but I’ve always loved it and have been in awe at the date on the inside.

  6. MARLENE UHLIR DeFRENN Says:

    None of Imperial animals on baskets are former Atterbury. Information published by the N.I.G.C.S. is that they were all Imperial moulds made at Imperial in the likeness of the Atterbury. Atterbury moulds went to Westmoreland; lids/bottoms do not interchange on Imperial. The only two original Atterbury animals Imperial issued are the Owl Sugar Jar (Imperial issued as Instant Coffee Jar) and the Long Rabbit Box, which does have the Atterbury mark. However, the bottom of the dish was stippled around the mark and the IG is present. Atterbury issued the Owl Jar to keep ground sugar (sold in hard bricks) from reclumping, using lugs to hold the lid tight. They chipped up terribly, causing flakes of glass to go into the dish contents. Imperial removed the lugs. Do note there are fakes in these two made by other glass houses with original maker marks left on. Summit Art Glass issued both the Owl Jar and the Rabbit; then created the unregistered AIG mark on the Owl, which people confuse for Imperial. There is no such mfg American Imperial Glass either, as some sellers on eBay claim their wares are. Mosser Glass recently issued wares using old moulds with original trademarks and not their M. Ask questions before buying, and learn your original trade marks. Bases and lids can be purchased separately. Measure your lid bottom and base ledge to make certain they will fit. Glass color can vary due to exposure to sun light.
    I believe all of the stones are flat back which is called cabochon. Get the millimeter size of the original and there are some sellers on eBay and elsewhere who deal in original glass stones. However you may need to buy them in quantity to get the pair you need. Imperial’s transparent glass eyes were made at Imperial and are not replicated. Atterbury eye size is the same as Imperial’s: Long Rabbit Box: 10mm; Owl Jar: 11mm. The original dark Rabbit eyes are actual purple/amethyst. NOT black amethyst. There is a seller on eBay who offers the ruby red (looks just like the original) 11mm cabochons for Rabbit and Owl. It is convex. Hope I gave you all the information you are seeking. I am from the Imperial Glass family. Mother’s family retired from Imperial. My Uncle Stanley Krupinski was their cutter for many years and Grampa Joseph Dvorak worked in maintenance. Numerous other relative held other positions. I am a member of the N.I.G.C.S. (Do consult Westmoreland books to learn how their wares were issued comparing to Atterbury.)

  7. Phillip D Babb Says:

    I believe I have an original Atterbury Duck. On the bottom it reads PAT_D
    March 1887, Has been in the family for over 100 years . It has a blue head and white body. It is eyeless

  8. MARLENE UHLIR DeFRENN Says:

    Apparently Atterbury’s beloved Owl Jar was not their mould. On eBay recently were two “Toby”owl jars identical to that issued by Atterbury, made by MATTHEW TURNBULL, CORNWALL GLASSWORKS LTD. England (1859-1953). Trademark for the owl jar registered 19 10 1888 / October 19, 1888. This factory fell on hard times and must have sold the mould to Atterbury. Atterbury then must have added the locking lugs. Turnbull owl was originally issued as tobacco jar.

    Atterbury’s LONG RABBIT BOX replacement parts may be an issue. I have 2 of these dishes and their lids/bottoms do not interchange well and neither fit well. Many gaps, especially along the jaw line. They do not interchange with Imperial, although I found Imperial’s replacements seem to fit well. As a note on the eyes, last month I saw Atterbury issued some of these rabbits with dusty rose colored eyes; may have been early ones for up to now all have had purple. Imperial’s have a candy pink eye.

  9. Maureen Says:

    I have a boar white milk glass nesting dish but it is not just the head of the boar as I have seen when searching online. It is the entire boar (w/body), sitting, and is similar to the lion dish. The bottom does not have an open scalloped decorative edge – just the regular “basket weave” pattern base with tiny scallops on top. Base measures approx. 4″ X 5″ and is about 5″ tall. I purchased it at an antique store, in England, 15+ years ago. I have tried to identify it and am wondering if you have ever seen this? Could it possibly by Atterbury? I greatly appreciate any help you may offer. Best Regards, Maureen

  10. David Says:

    I inherited a large collection of lions glass from my mother .(She was a dealer and this came from her personal collection ) I would like to know where can I find info on this collection.

  11. MARLENE UHLIR DeFRENN Says:

    You will have to find the id of each individual dish, value, and go from there.

  12. Kathryn St. Peter Says:

    I just purchased two glass baby cups with a heron (stork) on one side and a peacock on the other. One cup is a creamy colored milk glass and the other one is clear glass. Would these have been made by the Atterbury glass company?

    The milk glass cup was reported to be from the 1880’s.

    Thank you for your help.


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