Once the largest glass manufacturer in the world, Hazel-Atlas grew out of the Hazel Glass Company, which was founded in 1885 to make opal glass liners for the zinc caps of Mason jars. By 1902, when its name was changed to Hazel-Atlas, the company was a leader in fruit jars, oil bottles, glass lamp bases, and commercial glass containers for everything from Vasoline and shoe polish to ketchup, jam, and pickles. By the 1920s, there was hardly a home in America that did not have a Hazel-Atlas glass container in its cupboards.
Significantly, some of these utilitarian containers were in colors, from narrow-opening amber snuff bottles produced for U.S. Tobacco to wide blue ones packed with Vick’s Vaporub. Got an old Milk of Magnesia bottle in your collection? Chances are Hazel-Atlas made it. In fact, colored glass would guide the company’s entry into dinnerware and glassware, producing numerous lines of what would become known as Depression glass.
The company's first dinnerware pattern was called Ovide, and it was produced in a transparent green or opaque black. Another early pattern was Ribbon, available in the same color schemes, while Moderntone arrived in 1934; customers could choose from cobalt and amethyst.
In 1936, Hazel-Atlas introduced a type of glass called Platonite, which was semi-opaque and is often mistaken for milk glass. Patterns made with Platonite glass could be fired in any number of colors, although they are often found as white pieces with concentric or single rings that have been fired onto the white surface in red or blue.
One of the hallmarks of Hazel-Atlas glass after World War II is the prevalence of fired-on patterns and designs, many created by Gay Fad Decorating Company. Glasses, especially whiskey and highball tumblers, as well as cocktail shakers to match, were decorated with dancing sailors, hats, windmills, maple leaves, daisies, musical instruments, and flying geese. In the 1950s, other tumbler designs—colorful songbirds, horses that had won the Kentucky Derby, Charles Dickens characters—were initially sold in grocery stores, filled and sealed with jam or dairy products such as cottage cheese. After the contents of these so-called packer tumblers were consumed, the glasses could be used for beverages.
Some of these packer tumblers make great series to collect. Tumblers from the 1950s filled with Big Top Peanut Butter feature U.S. states on one side and sheet music on the other (for example, Alabama is backed with “Oh Susanna”). Big Top state tumblers were clear since their first job was to sell peanut butter, but subsequent souvenir state tumblers were frosted, with more detail given to the map and illustrated icons that represented the state.
Another signature of Hazel-Atlas is its kiddie ware, which included bowls, mugs, and plates with designs that would appeal to children. Robin Hood and Friar Tuck frolicked on the outsides of some bowls, while others featured the images of Hopalong Cassidy, Davy Crockett, and Shirley Temple. Glasses were covered with nursery rhymes such as “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Little Boy Blue,” while budding musicians could get sheet-music glasses to help them play “London Bridge” and “The Farmer in the Dell.”...
Hazel-Atlas really excelled at kitchenware, especially its mixing bowls, butter dishes, and juicers (known as reamers) in the Criss Cross pattern, which was sold from the 1930s through the 1950s in clear crystal, pink, green, and blue. Three-spout measuring cups, some embossed with logos for companies like Kellogg’s, are also in demand.
Two subsets of kitchenware are also noteworthy. The first is refrigerator ware, which includes stacking square Platonite storage containers, oblong covered butter dishes, and jars to catch and store drippings. Shakers are the second popular area. Most are round, ribbed, and sometimes decorated with stripes, while shakers designed for ranges and stoves made by Electrochef and Hot Point are square and flat-sided. In either case, designs on Hazel-Atlas shakers were sometimes created by Gay Fad Decorating Company, as well as Tipp City Novelty Company.