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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The Last thing inside Pandora's boxE Kantipur, September 13th
She would peek into her mother's room at night, only to find cheap wine being poured in what would be a regular milk glass the next day. “Mom, can you please tell me a story? I can't sleep”. If she was lucky enough, she would actually get to hear one...Read more
Some antique toys tell a storyWinston-Salem Journal, September 11th
Q: I have a milk glass rolling pin with wood handles that my mother got in 1931, and I got it when I married in 1954. I use it all the time and love it. Does it have any value? Answer: Rolling pins were first used over 1,000 years ago. Early pins were...Read more
Antique children's toys tell long-forgotten storiesHeraldNet, September 11th
rolling pin was invented by John W. Reed, a black American inventor. Rolling pins that are decorated, carved or have advertisements on them sell for more than plain pins. A milk glass rolling pin without decoration but with a brand name sells for...Read more
Rose Room a blooming success for BridgesBroken Arrow Ledger, September 8th
For an optional additional $50 the room can be set for BBQs, the red-and-white American Dream, English Countryside or Colony Harvest. It is also possible to rent cups and saucers for tea parties at home as well as almost any Milk Glass piece needed for...Read more
Far North SpiritsThe Dieline (blog), September 4th
The delicate gold pattern on the milk-glass-like white bottle hints at the flavor of this soft, citrus-forward, floral gin. Ålander [OH-lan-der] is a small batch whole-spiced rum, named after the Åland Islands in the northern Baltic Sea. The black...Read more
Great design? Book it! Coffee-table volumes showcase architecturePalm Beach Daily News, September 4th
Gatewood, who made his living as a New York antiques dealer, was 8 when he made his first purchase — his aunt's milk-glass hen and rooster tureens — with money earned from his paper route. With instinctive great taste and a keen eye for scale and ...Read more
Collectible milk glass is both pretty and practicalThe Spokesman Review (blog), August 21st
I'm not a milk glass collector, although there are many people who are, but I do occasionally pick up a particularly pretty piece when I can put it to some practical use. Living in a small cottage means that what comes into the house must serve some...Read more
Heart in a box, relish in a trayAitkin Independent Age, August 20th
But what about hers, what about a strong/sweet social worker/mother? He was way less likely to dispose of anything but she collected more stuff – old-fashioned tea cups, milk glass (remember milk glass?), carefully categorized and. labeled photo albums...Read more