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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Giant cheese sculpture wows fairgoersAgri News, August 26th
It's a tiny glimpse into the efforts of dairy farmers to make quality products. In the statue, we also made a small blueberry yogurt, our Winners Drink Milk glass, chocolate milk, and our star — a gallon of milk. Erica Quinlan can be reached at 317...Read more
Southmoreland institutes new recycling rulesTribune-Review, August 25th
Items not permitted are ceramics, mirrors, crystal, milk glass, dishes, light bulbs, television tubes, window and auto glass and Pyrex cookware. • Plastic bottles — bottles with narrow necks and a number 1 or a number 2 only in the recycling symbol on...Read more
Colonial KitchenHometown Pasadena, August 24th
Red glass pendant lamps hang from the ceiling and standing lamps—hobnail milk glass with ruffles—line the half-wall that separates the dining areas lined with dark green “button” booths. The long counter is lined with bentwood stools with cane backing...Read more
Museum showcases treasured glassPress-Enterprise, August 16th
Interesting: This rare serving dish featured a boar's head lid made of milk glass with red glass eyes and was a gift that came with the purchase of pig head cheese. The two-piece dish was hard to make because of its size, detail and the use of two molds...Read more
Area Exhibitors Do Well at Illinois State FairEffingham's News Leader, August 14th
the Postcards and Illinois State Fair Souvenirs or Ribbons after 1950. Third place finishes came in the Carnival Glass and Milk Glass. Kimberly Tarrant, of Altamont, was a winner in the Berry Set, Bowl and 2 Saucers. She took second in the...Read more
'A Manual for Cleaning Women,' by Lucia BerlinNew York Times, August 12th
In “Melina,” several men confess to the narrator that they were once madly in love with a woman who “wasn't like anyone in this world,” her skin like white silk or milk glass. In an almost impossible coincidence, the narrator meets her and befriends her...Read more
$500K project seeks to replace aging Benedum marquee with digital oneTribune-Review, August 10th
It's a task that Brannigan, 59, considers relatively simple but enjoyable — particularly when he thinks about his father and grandfather working on the same iconic marquee, using milk glass tiles when the building was The Stanley Theatre. Brannigan...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