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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Finding nirvana with vintage PyrexPress Herald, October 22nd
Corning, which made Pyrex in the United States, introduced its iconic colored bowls and casserole dishes in 1945 after producing clear glassware for decades. Made of opal “milk glass” and painted in bright colors, the new sets were affordable, durable...Read more
Period Pieces: On Furnishing The KnickStyle.com, October 21st
Is it a) the unflinching, hyper-realistic shots of grisly surgical gore and intravenous drug use, or b) the two-tier, brass-and-milk-glass chandelier hanging over the operating theater. Those who answer the latter may be suffering from obsessive...Read more
Tiniest particles melt and then turn into 'Jell-O'Futurity: Research News, October 20th
The fact that microscopic particles known as polymers and colloids will melt as temperatures rise was no surprise to scientists. But raise the temperature a little more and the particles will re-solidify. The new solid is a substance like Jell-O, with...Read more
Devising the Sterile, Stunning Hospital Interiors of The KnickCurbed SF, October 17th
Inside, the neutral backdrop—visible in the milk-glass light fixtures, white subway tile, painted beadboard wainscoting, and dusky stained wood—accentuates the exceptional amounts of blood released by patients lucky enough to end up on the operating ...Read more
Not Quite Milk And HoneyOutlook, October 16th
Mr Modi has too much on his plate and little time for the white droplets spilling over the edges of the milk glass. An internecine warfare rages within, as people try to outdo each other to curry favour with the Prime Minister. To cite an example of...Read more
Doris 'Bernie' EllisDefiance Crescent News (subscription), October 11th
She loved to collect Fenton and Westmorland milk glass and had several hundred pieces. She also excelled at cooking, making an exceptional three- tiered German chocolate cake. Sewing, needlepoint and canning were also things she enjoyed doing...Read more
Cooks & Cocinas: Joan MenardSan Antonio Express-News, October 10th
High ceilings allow room on top of shelves for collections such as pottery, milk glass and old food tins without the space feeling cluttered. At a petite 5 feet tall, Joan considered her height when planning the cabinetry and kept everything within her...Read more
Crystal Castles loses vocalist Alice GlassJohns Hopkins News-Letter, October 9th
Consistency of dirt/Insects that spun your silk / They wait for gratitude / They wait for mother's milk,” Glass sings. Loss of innocence is a recurring theme in Crystal Castles's work, and Glass herself admits this in an interview with Pitchfork...Read more