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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Recent News: Milk Glass
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Protests arise as a forlorn cemetery is dug up to make way for footballStaunton News Leader, December 4th
PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY — There wasn't much left of the person in grave No. 10 — leg bones as fragile as ash, a well-worn tooth, a few milk-glass buttons from the burial clothing. Grave No. 9 contained a set of rubber and porcelain dentures, a gold...Read more
Attic Treasures provides homey atmosphere to Georgetown shoppersSussex Countian, December 4th
Among other types of collectible glassware sold at Attic Treasures is Depression glass, which was manufactured and distributed free or at a low cost during the Great Depression, and milk glass, which is known for its milky white color and was first...Read more
Virginia is for LoversRichmond magazine, December 3rd
Key lime pie was served instead, perched on vintage milk-glass cake stands. Keeping the wedding casual, but sophisticated was another of Ashley's priorities. Simplicity and practicality dictated the formalwear. Ashley's gown was from J. Crew...Read more
In Virginia, protests arise as a forlorn cemetery is dug up to make way for ...Washington Post, December 2nd
There wasn't much left of the person in grave No. 10 — leg bones as fragile as ash, a well-worn tooth, a few milk-glass buttons from the burial clothing. Grave No. 9 contained a set of rubber and porcelain dentures, a gold-plated ring and evidence of...Read more
Take a look at the science behind your colored glassMartinsburg Journal, November 30th
Milk glass was a Venetian invention, the site of a longstanding history of glassblowing and glass works. Milk glass was commonly used at weddings for items such as bride's baskets to hold money for the newlyweds since milk glass resembled porcelain...Read more
Art & Antiques | Colors of glass reveal chemistry, historyCentre Daily Times, November 29th
Milk glass was a Venetian invention, the site of a longstanding history of glassblowing and glass works. Milk glass was commonly used at weddings for items such as bride's baskets, to hold money for the newlyweds, because milk glass resembled porcelain...Read more
'Creating the Cosmos' Makes Breeding an Entirely New Solar System as Easy as ...Core77.com (blog), November 21st
'Creating the Cosmos' Makes Breeding an Entirely New Solar System as Easy as Combining Milk, Glass and Food Coloring. Posted by erika rae | 21 Nov 2013 | Comments (0). Cosmos-Moon.jpg. Would you believe that the photo above was made with a ...Read more
Aquariums all the rage since 1800sLas Vegas Review-Journal, November 13th
A: There is no connection between the company that made your milk glass wedding bowl and the company that made your sterling silver. Although the names of the companies are similar, they are spelled differently. Westmoreland Glass Co. was in business ...Read more