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, compotes, and bowls, milk glass was often pressed so that its surface had a diamond-cut pattern—collectors refer to these as Sawtooth pieces. Manufacturers known for Sawtooth patterns include Imperial, McKee, and L.E. Smith.

One of the largest makers of milk glass was Atterbury, which made so much of the stuff that the company’s Pittsburgh factory was often referred to as the White House. Atterbury w...

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.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Milk Glass Collectors Society

Milk Glass Collectors Society

This excellent milk glass reference site is definitely not for the lactose intolerant. Includes seven high resoluti… [read review or visit site]

Pattern Glass School

Pattern Glass School

If you need schooling on Victorian-era pressed glass tableware aka EAPG (Early American Pattern Glass) aka Pattern … [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Small Mckee Green Polka Dots Custard Milk Glass Covered Bowl Canister Dish 4"dLarge Mckee Red Polka Dots Custard Milk Glass Covered Bowl Canister Dish 6.5"dVintage Mckee Green Polka Dots Custard Milk Glass Cereal Canister 6" With LidVintage Mckee Green Polka Dots Custard Milk Glass Tea Canister 6" With LidVintage Jadeite Tea Kitchen Canister Jar ~ Jadite Green Milk Glass 5" TallHazel Atlas Milk Glass Pineapple- Rare- Orange With Lid-fired On PaintMilk Glass Rooster On A Perch 2-pc Candy DishVintage Hazel Atlas Mixing Bowl Milk Glass Red StripesEapg Unknown Flint Ribbed Opaque White SpoonerVintage White Milk Glass Punch Bowl Ladle Ice Lip 14" Long WestmorelandEapg Opaque White Sawtooth Covered Master SaltSet Of 2 Jade Jadeite Green Milk Glass Paneled Candlestick Holders - Mosser UsaHen On Nest Sleigh Chicken Covered Candy Dish Milk Glass Late Victorian EraWestmoreland Milk Glass: Old Quilt: Rare Powder Jar W/ Lid - Mint W/ Sticker Pair Of 19th C. Ruffled Hand Blown Opaque Mantle LustersRed Milk Glassed Encased By Ruby Red Nodules Rare Qvc Only Out Of Box For Pics4 Fire King Jadeite Shell Pattern 10" Dinner Plates ~ Jadite Green Milk Glass ~ 3 Pc + Fenton ?t Pink/milk Glass Ruffle Edge~pitcher~bowl W/lid~cruetLovely Pair Antique Opaque Glass Hand Painted Enamelled Salts C18804 Portieux Vallerysthal French Blue Opaline Milk Glass SherbetsVintage Old Large 4 Quart Pyrex Green Dot Milk Glass Mixing Bowl Fenton Cruet - Vaseline Colored With Opaque Top, Hand PaintedVtg Fenton White Milk Glass Hobnail Ruffled Pedestal Cake Plate Stand: Pretty!Vintage Fenton Spanish Lace Silvercrest Milk Glass Cake StandVintage Fenton Ivy Ball Vase Blue Glass Coin Dot Milk Glass Footed BaseHazel-atlas Red Rooster Milk Glass Kitchen Mixing Bowl 7" By 3 Fenton Ruby Red Crest Milk Glass Crimped Edge Nappy Heart Bowl Dish With Handle Eapg Westmoreland Glass Co's Opaque White Swan Handled Butter DishVintage 50s Fenton Rose Pastel Epergne Milk Glass Hobnail Apartment SizeBeautiful Jadeite Green Milk Glass Large Decorative Or Fruit Bowl ~ Nice!Set Of 12 Vintage Colony Harvest Grape Pattern White Milk Glass Punch Tea CupsHuge Vtg 14 Westmoreland Milk Glass Sawtooth Or Diamond Pattern Compote2 Mckee Vintage Milk Glass Refrigerator Dishes With Red Sailboat With Extra LidVintage 10 Griffith Spice Jars With 2 Tier Rack, Milk Glass & Light Blue LidsVintage Anchor Hocking Milk Glass Toucan Mug ( Fire King ?)Vintage Anchor Hocking Fire King Apple Cheeries Milk Glass Grease JarVintage Anchor Hocking Fire King Snoopy Pedal Power Milk Glass Mug PeanutsFenton Emerald Crest Ruffled Edge 8 1/2 Inch Plate Vintage Green & Milk Glass Nifty Blue Opaque One O One Toothpick Holder - Chalinor 18916 Fire King Jadeite D Handle Coffee Mugs Cups ~ Jadite Green Milk Glass Milk Glass Creamer And Sugar Bowl With Lids Very Heavy /excellent QualityVintage Milk Glass Set Of 8 Snack Plates And Tea Cup. Grapevine Motif.Eapg Atterbury Glass Co's Opaque White Melon Covered DishVintage Anchor Hocking Fire King Milk Glass Sagittarius Coffee Mug Nice2 Shakers Cosmos / Stemless Daisy Milk Glass Consolidated Eapg 1890-1915 S&pVintage Pyrex Turquoise Amish Butterprint Milk Glass Butter Dish Vintage Pyrex Children's Divided Plate, Circus 791-9 9.5" Milk GlassVintage Milk Glass Candy Dish With Lid (on A Small Pedastool With Lace Edge)Pink Hobnail Milk Glass SetEapg Challinor, Taylor Glass Co's Opaque White Banded Shells SyrupRare Milk Glass Covered Compote Pedestal Bowl Lobed Fruit FinialAtterbury Milk Glass Westmoreland Made Chick On An Egg Pile Covered Nesting DishVintage 5 Piece Set Hazel Atlas Platonite Milk Glass Pastel Apple Orchard WareFenton White Milk Glass Hobnail Covered Butter DishVintage Milk Glass Bud Vases Hoosier, Anchor Hocking Great For Weddings/showersVintage Green Jadeite Milk Glass Swirl Sugar Shaker And Salt And Pepper ShakersEapg Eagle Glass Co's Opaque White Butterfly ToothpickAntique Victorian Bristol Glass Milk Glass Hand Painted Vase8 Vintage Fire King Egg Nog Mugs Milk Glass Mid Century Christmas Holidays Cups Vintage Fire King Sealtest Yellow Tulip Footed Cottage Cheese Bowl Milk Glass