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.
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Mom redesigns her Lakeview cottage with a spa feelThe New Orleans Advocate, July 31st
Across the top row of cubicles (accessed by a library ladder), Walters displays vintage milk glass pieces that Helen Cox gave her. There's a nook holding antique glass bottles and others containing books. Some hold acid-free cardboard boxes (all ...Read more
Faith briefs: Free fair, new pastor, ice creamMuncie Star Press, July 31st
In addition to the always-popular bake sale and rummage items, offerings will include an aged-antique wood couch with two chairs and cushions, an antique wood bed frame, a large assortment of new milk-glass items including a large grape vine pitcher, ...Read more
Almond Milk: Nutrition & BenefitsLive Science, July 29th
At its most basic, almond milk is a drink made from ground almonds and water. It is a popular plant-based alternative to cow's milk. “Almond milk has been around for several years,” said Jenny Heap, a registered dietician with the Almond Board of...Read more
Popeye beach pailWilson County News, July 29th
Q: I have a Popeye beach pail that I used at the Jersey shore when I was a kid. It has Popeye diving into the water along with images of Wimpy and Sweet Pea. I was born in 1928, so I think this item is probably from the 1930s. It is in excellent condition...Read more
Auction watch: Sales slow for summer, but values remain plentifulTribune-Review, July 26th
Pieces up for bid include oil lamps, goblets, satin birds, rabbits, platters and figurines in styles from Vaseline to milk glass and colors of nearly every hue of the rainbow. Among the 67 pieces of Royal Ironstone “Memory Lane” dinnerware set are 10...Read more
Passing Through the World's Most Magnificent Train StationsCondé Nast Traveler, July 23rd
The current iteration, completed in 1913, continues to be a jewel in New York's architectural crown. Its vast concourse is distinguished by elegant marble staircases at either end and a four-faced milk-glass-and-brass clock above its central...Read more
Collectors seek milk glass with hens, squirrels, cowsazcentral.com, July 14th
Question: My mom and dad were married in 1943. They received several pieces of milk glass as wedding presents and I inherited them. I have no intention of selling them but would like to know more about this type of glass and if it is considered...Read more
Vintage & Antique GlassCarmi Times (blog), July 5th
I have a set of 1950s “Ballerina Moss Rose Stoneware” and a few pieces of “Jeanette Shell Pink Milk Glass”. I have cut glass, pressed glass, and Depression glass. I also own stoneware and ironstone. I'm a fan of anything with a hand painted rose by...Read more