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. O...
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 people were honored by having a bust of themselves cap a casserole dish, although the ones made for Thomas Dewey failed to elect him president. More successful were the Atterbury cats from the 1880s, which had real glass eyes.
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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Looking back in timeHartselle Enquirer, May 21st
which was not far from my home. Lemons were three for $.10 and a loaf of bread was $.05. Flour was in 25- pound cloth bags and there was a towel on the bag. Peanut butter was in a milk glass and dessert dishes. Loose tea was in pretty tea glasses...Read more
Fitler Dining Room: Tiny corner place bursting with hitsPhilly.com, May 18th
The look exudes a more-polished vintage swank, with white subway tile and a patinaed mirror for the illusion of depth, zinc-topped round tables, a marble chef's counter with four seats overlooking the open kitchen, and milk glass lights with Edison...Read more
The Rep finds strong currency in Mamet's American BuffaloPitch Weekly, May 14th
The stage is littered with appropriately dramaturgical clutter: milk-glass vases, broken appliances, the famous "dead pig sticker" (a sinister-looking butcher's gambrel) that becomes a crucial prop. The program notes refer to the play's characters as...Read more
Judy Maxwell Ups the Ante in the Vintage DepartmentRacked, May 13th
A summer tablescape featuring vintage milk glass (prices range from $25-$104), is the focal point to the store garnering more attention to the antique Italian candelabras ($600-$2,400). For the foodstuffs, Owner Joan Cusack and Fancy Pants Scott...Read more
Google Glass retail bans are good for business on both sidesStabley Times, May 13th
But the establishments lining up to milk Glass for publicity by announcing the product isn't welcome within their doors are merely helping to do Google's job for them. On their own, Google Glasses come off as merely a strange toy to the typical...Read more
Allen Street's radio retreatNew York Post, May 12th
Picture an antique radio wall and Art Deco milk glass pendants above the bar, along with classic New York cocktails and craft beers across four different rooms. There's also a 30-person lounge with leather couches. *. Cafe Habana, which got its start...Read more
Toys in the Attic. Home Furnishings and Décor TooPatch.com, May 10th
You may a see sea glass green candy dish, a milk glass flower vase or a entire depression era dinner set in light pink. “Our goal is to recycle a lot of nice, vintage items,” said co-owner Art Bonneau. Bonneau runs the store, located at 260 Norwich New...Read more
Washing glass lamp gets owner in hot waterPioneer Press, May 3rd
Q My lamp has a clear glass chimney with a milk glass shade. I removed these to wash it and stood the chimney on the counter, then washed the shade and placed it over the chimney. You guessed it: They are stuck together. There is a little wiggle, but I...Read more