Flashback: Selected Rarities in Lacy Glass

March 13th, 2009

The following piece describes the most desirable pieces of Lacy Sandwich glass at the time it was published, such as oblong dishes, sugar bowls, and trays, and focuses on the design, patterns, and rarity of each. It originally appeared in the October 1939 issue of American Collector magazine, a publication which ran from 1933-1948 and served antique collectors and dealers.

In every branch of Sandwich collectibles, there are exceptional pieces which are interesting to collectors, either from a standpoint of rarity or historical association. Among the Lacy Sandwich examples there are a few outstanding pieces which, for one reason or another, are of particular interest and therefore should receive special treatment.

Illustrion I - A Truly Representative Piece of Lacy Glass: No other Sandwich dish is more superb in its lacelike appearance than this. It is oblong in shape and shallow and combines both beauty and rarity. The shell-like motif predominates. The dimensions are 10.75 by 9 inches.

Illustrion I - A Truly Representative Piece of Lacy Glass: No other Sandwich dish is more superb in its lacelike appearance than this. It is oblong in shape and shallow and combines both beauty and rarity. The shell-like motif predominates. The dimensions are 10.75 by 9 inches.

Curiously enough, all of the items selected for this group are somewhat miscellaneous in character. There are three large oblong dishes, four trays, and an oblong covered dish. It is well to bear in mind that the word “rarity” does not necessarily connote beauty, though the selection considered here happily combines the two.

The rarest and perhaps one of the handsomest pieces ever produced at Sandwich is the large, oblong deep dish with open handles at each end and open chain border along the sides. A perfect specimen is illustrated on the cover of this issue. I may add that perfect specimens are few and far between. It is the superlative in Lacy Sandwich.

The mold must have been extremely difficult both to make and to manipulate by the glassworkers for it is evident, from surviving examples of the dish that they did not fill readily in the handles. I have seen several where the handles failed to meet in the center by one-eighth of an inch. Other specimens may have one handle perfect and the other partially melted, as if the workman had attempted to make it meet by finishing it by hand. Even a “perfect” piece may show a line where the handle joins, such as a check or crack.

Any collector who is fortunate enough to find one of these dishes would do well to ignore these apparent imperfections. It might not be advisable to pay the perfect-specimen value for one with the handles entirely ground off or with a broken chain border. However; one would be justified in paying full price for a dish that has one of the blemishes described which, after all, are merely indicative of the handicaps encountered in producing glass one hundred years ago. It measures 11 1/2 inches long by 8 inches wide.

Illustration II- Vegetable Dish with Peacock-Eye Border: An important addition to Sandwich rarities is illustrated in this large open vegetable dish. The flat brim is decorated with scrolled peacock eyes. The principal decorative motifs of the design are those that were most frequently employed by Sandwich, including the lyre, thistle, and basket of fruit. Dimensions are 10 by 8.5 inches.

Illustration II - Vegetable Dish with Peacock-Eye Border: An important addition to Sandwich rarities is illustrated in this large open vegetable dish. The flat brim is decorated with scrolled peacock eyes. The principal decorative motifs of the design are those that were most frequently employed by Sandwich, including the lyre, thistle, and basket of fruit. Dimensions are 10 by 8.5 inches.

The second choice for the rarest and most beautiful Sandwich piece is that pictured in Illustration I. It is fully as rare and exquisite as the chain-bordered dish, but it is in second place only because the former was by far the more difficult to mold. Less than a half-dozen perfect specimens are known of this lovely oblong tray, which more closely resembles a fine piece of lace than does any other so-called Lacy Sandwich dish.

Third in importance of those shown would be the large oblong vegetable dish pictured in Illustration II. In point of beauty, it is not so delicate as the first two, but it is almost as rare. It is oblong, with a flat rim, and the scrolled peacock eye outlines the brim. The bowl has a peacock feather design at each end and on the sides a thistle, a lyre, and a basket of flowers. Heavy, and brilliantly stippled, this piece measures 10 by 8 1/2 inches and is 2 1/8 inches deep.

In Illustration III are two large and exceptionally beautiful shell-shaped dishes, one with an open handle and the other closed.  They are equally rare.

The shell with the closed handle is in the well-known Hairpin pattern. It is larger than the photograph would make it appear, being 9 1/2 inches long, by 8 inches wide. Both dishes are exceptionally brilliant and very heavy in weight. Few perfect examples of either one are known.

The shell with the open handle is in the equally well-known Peacock-Eye design, except that the “tail” runs straight across the dish, instead of being swirled, as is usually the case. The handle of this dish often has the same hairline check in the center that is noted in the chain-bordered piece. Any collector may consider him-self fortunate to be able to add this pair of shell dishes to his collection.

Illustration III - Pipes-of-Pan Trays and Two Shell Dishes: These pairs of trays are the only large Lacy Sandwich pieces with a design bearing anything like a human form. Dimensions 8 inches long. The two shell dishes, below, should be included among the choicest examples of Lacy glass. The dish at the left is in the Hairpin pattern. Dimensions, 9.5 by 8 inches. The dish at the right has the Peacock-Eye border. The open handle made this a difficult piece to produce. Dimensions, 9.5 by 7.75 inches.

Illustration III - Pipes-of-Pan Trays and Two Shell Dishes: These pairs of trays are the only large Lacy Sandwich pieces with a design bearing anything like a human form. Dimensions 8 inches long. The two shell dishes, below, should be included among the choicest examples of Lacy glass. The dish at the left is in the Hairpin pattern. Dimensions, 9.5 by 8 inches. The dish at the right has the Peacock-Eye border. The open handle made this a difficult piece to produce. Dimensions, 9.5 by 7.75 inches.

Above the shells, in Illustration III, is a pair of oblong trays in a design which is called, by some collectors the “Pipes of Pan”; and by others, “Devil” dishes. Neither is accurately descriptive for Pan did not have wings, and from all we are told the Devil had horns. Such being the case, the result is a dilemma for the author. Since the dish has been known as the Pipes of Pan for years, perhaps it would be well enough not to insist on re-christening it to conform with the design. It is a brilliant, lacy tray, and the only one of this period bearing anything like a human form, with the exception of cup plates and the Victoria or Victoria-and-Albert plates. It is interesting for this reason, rather than for its degree of scarcity. It measures 8 inches.

A rarity that deserves a place in any museum is the U. S. F. Constitution oblong tray shown in Illustration IV.  It has a full-rigged ship in the base, with twenty-one stars. The border is of hearts and stars, alternating. Doubtless this tray was produced at the time of all the agitation about “Old Ironsides” in 1830. It naturally calls to mind Oliver Wendell Holmes’ stirring poem by that name, published the same year. Because of its historical association, the tray commands a high price in dollars and a high regard in collectors’ hearts. It is difficult to find one in anything approaching perfect condition.

Next in this series of rarities is the oblong covered honey dish and tray. They are photographed separately in Illustration V, so that collectors may have the full benefit of the design on both.

The tray has a border of hearts and stars, as on the Constitution tray, but the center of the base has a conventional pattern. It is 7 inches long. The oblong covered dish which fits on the tray has two styles of covers. Apparently the first style was difficult to make, so a simpler one was devised. The cover design is on the inside, so that it reflects through the thick glass. The first type has a double step in it, as may be seen in the illustration. It has two, four-pointed star like ornaments on the inside of the top, on both ends. The same tray and base were used with a second and plainer cover, which lacks the double step and is very shallow. The top is rounded, whereas the first is square and flat. It has a thistle with leaves on each end of the top, while the first has stars. The corner designs of the covers also vary. The dish itself has Gothic arches with hearts above and between them. Both of these covered dishes are scarce when complete and in good condition.

 Illustration IV - The U. S. F. Constitution Tray: This ship was a favored subject at the time of the agitation to preserve "Old Ironsides" in 1830. The border suggests a sentimental appeal.

Illustration IV - The U. S. F. Constitution Tray: This ship was a favored subject at the time of the agitation to preserve "Old Ironsides" in 1830. The border suggests a sentimental appeal.

Of course, there are many other varieties in Lacy Sandwich besides those illustrated here, such as some of the sugar bowls and cream pitches in color and certain unusually large bowls, compotes, and covered dishes. But those just described are all exceptional. As in the case of the “rarest” cup plates, the list is intended as a shining mark for collectors to aim at: since the rarer the piece the greater the joy of possession.

The two rarest and most outstanding sugar bowls are the so-called “Providence” and an oval-shaped bowl decorated with thistles and pineapples. The former has a basket of flowers resting on a double-headed eagle and a shield. The eagle heads are similar to those on the lettered “Providence” salt dish, some specimens of which are so marked. So this sugar bowl is often referred to as the “Providence” bowl, though it is not always thus marked. One of the salt dishes was illustrated in an article entitled “Marked and Lacy Sandwich Salt Dishes” which appeared in the June, 1939, issue of the AMERICAN COLLECTOR.

The other outstanding sugar bowl is oval in shape. A thistle is the chief motif, though there is a pineapple on each of the oval ends of the bowl. The cover matches perfectly, having a large thistle corresponding to the one on the bowl. Both of these rare pieces are impressive with their brilliant elegance. Each may be found in a vivid sapphire blue, as well as in clear glass.

Among the choicest of the rare collectibles originated by the Boston & Sandwich Glass Company, both in clear glass and in colors, are the sugar bowls and cream pitchers. For some unascertained reason, fewer different patterns were used in these two useful articles than in anything else. Another curious fact is that so few of them were mates.

Illustration V - Covered Honey Dishes with Trays: These oblong covered dishes and trays, in Gothic pattern, are of like design except for the covers. One cover is curved, the other flat with two steps. Heart-bordered trays fit dishes although design differs. Trays are 7 inches long.

Illustration V - Covered Honey Dishes with Trays: These oblong covered dishes and trays, in Gothic pattern, are of like design except for the covers. One cover is curved, the other flat with two steps. Heart-bordered trays fit dishes although design differs. Trays are 7 inches long.

On many of the sugar bowls the covers not only do not match the bowl in design but vary even in the knobs, of which the quaintest and perhaps the loveliest are those that resemble open flowers. They were used on the sugar bowl more often than on other covered pieces, though one may be seen on the cover of a scarce Peacock-Eye butter dish.

There are three well authenticated Lacy Sandwich cream pitchers which are rare in colors, particularly when found in anything approaching perfect condition. Favorite shades in which they were produced are canary yellow, opal, varying shades of opaque blue, amethyst and sapphire blue. Amethyst is the rarest color.

A printed description cannot convey adequately the beauty of some of the large lacy bowls made during what may be termed the “intensive” period of manufacture of this style of glass. The largest size known in a bowl with stippled background is 12 inches. Few specimens are known in this large size and perfect examples merit a place in any museum.

Selections from the famous collection of Mrs. Charles F. Green may be seen now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The unusually large bowls appear so very large when placed beside any of the numerous smaller pieces that one wonders how such big bowls could have survived the myriad mishaps that can so easily befall fragile flint glass.

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

One comment so far

  1. Miriam Piñero Gautier Says:

    Hi
    I was cleaning an old and vey elaborated glass dish that my gandmother gifted to me 30 years ago and called to my atention an old ship in the tray… U S F Constitution… so I start to search in the web and surprisely I found this article and what can I say…I have a U S F Constitution Tray and I also have a Covered Honey Dish with the cover flat with two steps …
    Untill now, I never new that those Lacy Glass pieces were so important and now, I do not really know how to traat that pieces!, guess I am afraid to touch them.
    I would like to know a little more about those pieces… are there many more of them?, where?

    Miriam Piñero Gautier
    Caracas-Venezuela


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