Milk glass has been around since the 16th century, but the term itself was coined in the 20th century to describe the opaque white plates, goblets, serving items, and decorative objects that became popular in the late 1880s.

France was the first place milk glass came into vogue, and 19th-century French milk glass is highly collectible today. By the early 1900s, milk glass was a symbol of the style and taste of American households enjoying the fruits of the Gilded Age. These privileged individuals filled their homes with milk glass produced by 19th-century U.S. glass manufacturers, including New England Glass Company, Bryce Brothers, Gillinder & Sons, and Atterbury & Company.

Milk glass plates are one of the most popular collectibles from this era. One particularly rare plate featured the face of George Washington and had a border of thirteen stars. Other plates sported relief portraits of Christopher Columbus at their centers, and in 1908, plates were produced to help spur the presidential campaigns of William Jennings Bryan and William Howard Taft.

Regardless of the imagery at its heart, whether it was relief flowers or painted birds, the borders of milk glass plates were often pressed or molded to resemble latticework or pinwheels. Some edges were scalloped, others were beaded like frosting on the rim of a wedding cake, and a few were even smooth and round, with undecorated centers to go with these uncharacteristically understated edges.

Platters were a step up from plates—unlike dinnerware, which demanded a certain minimum level of functionality, platters could go all-out when it came to decorative effects. The relief on a rare Lincoln platter from the late 1800s is so great that it must have been used exclusively as a commemorative object. At the other end of the utility spectrum were waffle platters, whose gridded surfaces resembled those of the popular breakfast item they were designed to carry. Somewhere in between was the retriever platter, which depicted a three-dimensional dog head breaking through cattails at the bottom of the platter.

For objects such as serving dishes, milk glass was often pressed so that its surface had a diamond-cut pattern—collectors refer to these as Sawtooth pieces. Atterbury was especially well known for its covered Sawtooth dishes in the shapes of ducks, fish, and other animals. In fact, Atterbury made so much milk glass that the company’s Pittsburgh factory was often referred to as the White House.

In a class by themselves are the covered serving dishes, whose tops resembled roosters, chickens, hens, and swans, as well as lions and other less domestic beasts. Sometimes peop...

Jugs and pitchers were another favorite form for milk glass. Geometric and basket-weave reliefs graced the outsides of these handsome objects, and Hobnail patterns were very popular on everything from flower vases to syrup jars.

During the Depression and into the 1940s and ’50s, milk glass lost some of its luster as a symbol of domestic status. Respected glass companies such as Akro Agate, Westmoreland, Fenton, and Fostoria made milk glass, but the style seemed a throwback to an earlier, fustier age.

Akro Agate made powder jars, whose lids were in the shapes of Colonial-era women wearing billowy dresses. Fostoria made a pink version of milk glass, while Westmoreland made things like covered dishes whose tops and bottoms formed a kneeling camel. It was all very charming but seemed out of step with the evolving styles of the day.

Despite this, some companies actually made a name for themselves with milk glass. In particular, Fenton’s line of Hobnail milk glass—from fan-shaped vases to toothpick holders to candlesticks—became the company’s flagship pattern in the 1950s. Indeed, the company’s prodigious output and success with Hobnail milk glass contributed to a resurgence of interest in this retro form during the early 1960s.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Milk Glass Collectors Society

Milk Glass Collectors Society

This excellent milk glass reference site is definitely not for the lactose intolerant. Includes seven high resoluti… [read review or visit site]

Pattern Glass School

Pattern Glass School

If you need schooling on Victorian-era pressed glass tableware aka EAPG (Early American Pattern Glass) aka Pattern … [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Rare! Milk Glass Box French Hunting Dog Portieux Vallerysthal Pv VtgFenton Milk Glass W/ Black Head Alley CatVintage Fenton White Milk Glass Hobnail Pedestal Cake Plate Stand 12 1/2" DiamVintage Jadite Milk Green Glass Cannisters Set Of 4 Coffee/tea/s&p Screw Top LidAtterbury Milk Glass Owl Jar Dish With Red Glass EyesSigned Waterford Deep Cut Crystal Lismore 6 3/4" Milk Water Glass Pitcher Jug NrFenton Art Glass Figurine-violets In The Snow On Milk Glass Fairy LightFenton Art Glass Figurine-violets In The Snow On Milk Glass Bunny RabbitVintage Fenton Art Glass Vase Charleton Hand Painted Milk Glass Pink CasedFenton Art Glass Figurine-violets In The Snow On Milk Glass Top Hat VaseFenton Art Glass Milk Glass Hobnail Pattern Cake StandVintage Fenton White Milk Glass Hobnail Ruffled Pedestal Cake Stand NiceDave Fetty Offhand Cream & Sugar Set Milkglass W/ Red Hanging Hearts 1 Of A Kind14pc Vintage Westmoreland Milk Glass Old Quilt 5qt Punch Bowl 12 Cups & PedestalFenton Art Glass Milk Glass Hobnail Pattern Cake StandFenton Sitting Cat Figurine - Milk Glass Violets In The Snow - 1979-1982Fenton White Milk Glass Hobnail Ruffled Bowl Epergne Vase & Footed Candy DishVintage 10.5" Hobnail Milk Glass Pedestal Cake Stand Cupcake PlateFenton Art Glass Satin Finished Milk Glass Ooak Bear FigurineRare Vintage Portieux Vallerysthal Blue Milk Glass Dog Coveredtrinket Box MintSixteen Piece Set Akro Agate Childrens Dishes Green Swirl Opaque Great ShapeAntique Vintage White Milk Glass Shaker Paprika Spice Rack Zinc Lid Vintage OldJade Jadite Milk Green Glass Plain & Simple 12" Cake Plate Bakers Stand PastryPv France Portieux Vallerysthal Opaque Blue Milk Glass Footed Vase Chalice Vintage Fenton White Milk Glass Shoe Boot With Hobnail Pattern LidFenton Art Glass Figurine-violets In The Snow On Milk Glass BasketVintage Fire King Coffe Cup Milk Glass Painted Zodiac Mug Libra 1970's AstrologyVintage Fire King Coffe Cup Milk Glass Painted Zodiac Mug Pisces 1970s AstrologyLot Of (5) Fenton & Brody Hobnail Milk Glassware Candle Holders, Vase & CreamerBlue Milk Glass Scalloped Open Candy Dish Vintage10" Fenton Art Glass Coin Dot Milk Glass Opalescent Bowl Gorgeous! Large!Very Attractive Antique Opaque French Bohemian 19thc Glass Jug Flower PaintedVintage Milk Glass Cake PlateSimon Pearce Handblown Glass "woodbury" Large Water Milk Or Cocktail PitcherExcellent White Milk Glass Hobnail Glass EpergneMint~vintage~50s"fenton"glass"baby Blue Pastel"hobnail"milk Glass"sugar&creamerFenton Art Glass Figurine-violets In The Snow On Milk Glass Long Tail BirdLot Of Two Vintage White Anchor Hocking D Handle Milk Glass Mug Cup Fire KingVintage Fostoria American Wedding Bowl Milk Glass With Lid & Original LablesJadite Jadeite Jade Milk Green Glass 10" Plain & Simple Cake Plate Bakers StandCoudersport Milk Glass Hen On Rush Base Nest Antique Early 1900sMilk Glass Child's Pedestal Cake Stand Raised Grape.Vintage Mid-century Modern Hobnail Milk Glass Vase With Fluted Ruffled TopVintage Old Milk Blue Swan Sugar BowlVintage Milk Glass Fire King Mug Lot X23 Advertising D-handle + Barrel,coke Mug.Lg ( 19.5" H ) Vintage Fenton Hobnail Milk Glass Gwtw Table Lamp - 2 Lights NrVintage Pyrex Red Circus - Clowns Red & White Milk Glass - Child's Bowl Mug CupVintage Westmoreland Milk Glass Old Quilt Pedestal Cake Plate 10.75"8 Vintage Westmoreland Milk Glass Old Quilt Cordials Stemware13 Vintage Milk White Glass Bud Vases Wedding Shower Centerpiece GlasswareVintage Milkglass Drinking GlassesVintage Lot Of 15 White Milk Glass Vases Wedding Shower Florist Hoosier BrodyJadite Jadeite Jade Milk Green Glass Plain & Simple 6" Cake Plate Bakers StandLot Of 7 Vintage Fire King D Handle Coffee Mugs White Milk GlassToy ? Milk Glass Medicine Morphine ?? Opalescent Boston Sandwich Bottle ShearedAntique Victorian Eapg Consolidated Green Opaque Glass Salt Shaker Cone PatternVintage Fenton White Milk Glass Hobnail Crimped Ruffled Rose Bowl VaseMint Vintage Fenton White Hobnail Milk Glass Pitcher W/ Applied Handle 5 1/2"French Blue Opaque Childs Cup Eapg Hobnail Old Estate GlassVintage Westmoreland Milk Glass Compote Bowl Footed Ruffled Paneled Grape

Recent News: Milk Glass

Source: Google News

Estate Sale Roundup: April 11-13: We're upcycling dreams this week.
Austin Chronicle, April 11th

The kitchen is packed with glassware such as Corelle, Fire King, and Pyrex; canister sets, vintage rolling cart, punch bowl set, mugs, cup/saucer sets, milk glass pitcher/glasses, woodenware, and vintage servers. Mens and ladies clothing include a...Read more

Clearing out clutter: More stuff isn't always better
San Jose Mercury News, April 2nd

Some cool stuff, such as old school desks, a collection of vintage milk glass. But also boxes and boxes of things, such as 60 years' worth of Christmas cards, some still tucked in their envelopes. It became Haven's challenge to purge, recycle and...Read more

Family Heirlooms; When The Kids Don't Want Your Stuff
ChicagoNow (blog), April 2nd

It was expected that you would take your mother's china, milk glass collection, and other misc family items. I have worked in many homes in which there is a corner of the basement or part of the attic that is deemed "family stuff." There is also alot...Read more

Keeneland's biscuit bar can be replicated for home parties, too
Lexington Herald Leader, April 1st

In keeping with the humble biscuit theme, fresh flowers are arranged in old-fashioned milk glass containers. Candy dishes are ideal for holding flavored honeys, and a vintage hob nail glass dish is an excellent choice for holding seared and smoked...Read more

Milk's glass half-empty as trendier drinks surge, March 28th

Milk's glass half-empty as trendier drinks surge. March 28. 2014 12:06PM By Mike Hughlett Minneapolis Star Tribune. More. Story Tools. Print | E-Mail EMail | Save | Hear Generate QR Code QR. Send to Kindle. Font size: Font family: Font weight: \. Text...Read more

Milk's glass half-empty, as demand falls
Yahoo!7 News, March 27th

More and more consumers do. They've also got soy milk, coconut milk, flax milk and all sorts of trendy juices and bottled waters. But good old milk - the moo kind - keeps fading from grocery lists. Milk's rate of decline in 2011 and 2012 was the...Read more

Take your seat at the Chef's Table, March 26th

A fully stocked bar, with lounge seating, will feature milk glass shelving with leaded glass and apothecary jars. Meanwhile, the Chef's Table itself will be lit by an intricate chandelier Magnasco fashioned from silverware. "I wanted people to get the...Read more

Doris A. "Suzy" Fowler Stratton, March 20th

Later, her hobbies included finding treasures (milk glass and old National Geographic magazines) at local auctions and garage sales and then reselling those treasures out of her barn (usually at a loss), enjoying a good meal at the Casablanca and...Read more