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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
Milk Glass Collectors Society
Pattern Glass School
Clubs & Associations
- Milk Glass Collectors Society
- Early American Pattern Glass Society
- National Cambridge Collectors, Inc.
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Milk Glass
Source: Google News
Banks go for more than just peanutsClinton Herald, August 18th
Choice of milk glass brought a bid of $21 and the winner took three pieces for $63. If you still have your old toys from childhood, now would be the time to sell them as prices are high and buyers are looking for them. Ted Wilk is with Wilk Auction and...Read more
Calvin Klein says of the man who became one of the last century's most ...Vanity Fair, August 17th
Louise Grunwald bought a simple milk-glass lamp. John Klimo was given the hammered-gold pinkie ring, wrought by Millicent Rogers. And in his office Calvin Klein displays the iconic 1934 Horst portrait. The New Jersey house, whose Austrian front door...Read more
Grand Ledge news in brief: Concerts, movies continueLansing State Journal, August 16th
GRAND LEDGE – Downtown Grand Ledge will be the scene of outdoor movies at the Bridge Street Plaza, located on Bridge St. between Jefferson and River streets. The Grand Ledge District Library will be highlighting books related to each movie and ...Read more
Estate Sale Roundup: August 14-17: There are steals all over town this week ...Austin Chronicle, August 14th
antique mirrors; vintage standing lamp; vintage prattle hairdryer; white glass wash basin and pitcher; mink coat; vintage lace dress; set of six milk glass tumblers; artwork; various large paintings; kitchen hutch, contemporary stained glass window...Read more
Woodsman Pastry Chef Nancye Benson Opening Milk Glass Market on North ...Willamette Week, August 7th
Nancye Benson, pastry chef at the Woodsman Tavern and former head of the food program at the Woodsman Market, is opening a 28-seat cafe and market called Milk Glass Market at 2150 N. Killingsworth Street with partner William Macklin. Benson and ...Read more
Versatile cornbread: From salad to milk glassNashville Ledger newspaper, July 31st
Cornbread salad in summer is like chili in winter – a must-have. It's like a cool garden salad with Southern charm. It's also a potluck favorite. If you've never tried cornbread salad, I have a great recipe for you, and this is the best time of the...Read more
Glass Half Empty? Russian Milk Brand Steals a March on Competitors With ...Creativity, July 30th
Russian milk company Talitsa found a way to promote its new brand of farm milk, which doesn't contain preservatives, by buying up short media spots following competitors' ads. Each time a competitor's ad ran it was followed by a shot of an empty glass...Read more
Look What We Found: Tumblers offer a Space Age spinPalm Beach Post, July 25th
These milk-glass tumblers made by Fire King epitomize the design flair of the atomic age, from their streamlined shape to their glittery, slightly rubbery insulating coating in a rainbow of colors. The metal caddy even has a certain spaceship quality...Read more