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.

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    

Rare Milk Glass Medicine Bottle M.k. Paine Druggist & Apothecary Windsor VermontSuper Rare Millersburg Hanging Cherries Milk Pitcher / Awesome Amethyst Vintage Fire King Milk Glass Colonial Stripe Salt Pepper Shakers Anchor Hocking 1965 Anchor Hocking Fire King Milk Glass Snoopy Red Baron MugFenton White And Magenta Opaque Sleeping Glass Cat (5064)Vintage Milk Glass Cake Stand..teardrop..indiana GlassVintage Pyrex "friendship Birds" Milkglass Baking Dish - #933 - V.g.cond.Pyrex Vintage Rectangular #933 Lasagna Pan Friendship Bird Milk Glass 13.5 X 8.7Vintage Fire King Milk Glass Glamalite Rubberized Glitter Tumbler Glass Set X8Rare Blenko Blue Milk Bottle Shaped Glass Bottle HustedVintage Fenton Hobnail Pedestal Cake Stand Plate White Milk Glass Hobnail 13"Awesome Blue Opaque Portieux Vallerysthal Egg & Salt/ Pepper Dip SetFire King "nasa" Space Shuttle Souvenir Advertising Milk Glass Coffee Mug Cup 2 Fire King Vintage Snoopy Milk Glass Coffee Cups 1958- 1960's ?Imperial Smooth Panels Vase / Marvelous Marigold Milk GlassVintage Fire King Milk Glass Apple Coffee Mug Cup Stackable Anchor HockingAntique Pairpoint Pair Point Silver Plated Milk Glass Candle Holder Or Vase 1530Vintage Pyrex Friendship Bird Casserole Container Bowl Red Milk Glass 473 1 Qt1889 Atterbury - Entwined Fish Covered Dish - Milk Glass W/ Ruby Red Glass EyesHazel Atlas Striped Milkglass Cups Mugs Orange Red Yellow Blue Rainbow Set Of 4Vintage Tipp Milk Glass Sugar & Pepper Shaker, Blue Lids With Cherry DesignLot Of 16 Boston Sandwich Glass Drawer Pulls Flint Lacey Opalecent Milk GlassFenton Dave Fetty Violet Over Milkglass Bubble Optic VaseVintage Fenton 8" Milk Glass Hobnail 3 Footed Bowl & Pitcher Set W Sticker MintVallerysthal Blue Milk Glass Squirrel On Acorn Dish/pot Vintage Milk Glass Salt & Pepper Shakers W Red Sailboat Design Roman ArchMilk Glass Hobnail Mustard Jar With Lid And Spoon Fenton? Not MarkedVintage Federal Milk Glass Atomic Turquoise Star Starburst Diamond BowlLot Of 9 Milk Glass Plates..lace Edge..old Colony..anchor Hocking..excellentVintage Fostoria Heavy Drape Pink Milk Glass 4 1/8 Rose Bowl Vase Excellent NrLot Of 6 Milk Glass 7" Bowls..lace Edge..old Colony..anchor Hocking..excellentWestmoreland Milk Glass Victorian Mustard Jar With Chinese Scenes & Hand Painted2 ~ Vintage White Milk Glass Open Lace Scalloped Edge Plates ~ Gorgeous!Peanuts Snoopy Curse You Red Baron Fire King Milk Glass Coffee MugHazel Atlas Striped Milkglass Tumblers Orange Red Yellow Blue Rainbow Set Of 43 Piece Blue Milk Glass Mixing Nesting Bowls Set Serving Bonnie Baby Powder ArtVintage Fenton Epergne Hobnail White Milk Glass Vase Centerpiece Hob NailOoak Tom Fenton Angelo Rossi Blown Iridized Milk Glass Faces Vase Robin's Egg Estate- Vintage Hand Painted Milk Glass Vase Consolidated Glass & Lamp Sample Vintage Milk Glass Cake Plate Open Heart Laced Edge Platter Charger 13"Large 10" Fenton Indigo Blue Milk Glass Rim Crest Hand Flower Vase Cornucopia Vtg Mib Fenton Irish Shamrock Milk Glass Mouse Figurine Painted Rhinestone W/boxExcellent Thomas Webb Crystal Milk Jug & Sugar Bowl Set - 490 R26Fenton Milk Glass With Hand Painted Violets. Candy Dish And Vase. Buy One Or 2. Vintage Tipp Usa Milk Glass Shakers Salt Pepper Flour Sugar Flower Kitchen DecoMilk Glass Pedestal Fruit Bowl..lace Edge.old Colony..anchor Hocking..excellentWestmoreland Paneled Grape Milk Glass Creamer, Sugar, S&p, 2 Toothpicks & MayoLarge Moon And Stars Milk Glass Lamp Shade With Fitter Ring(2) Rare Vintage Ronson Foodmatic Large Milk Glass Mixing Bowls 7" & 8 1/2" WideVintage Hazel Atlas Crinoline Pink Ruffle Milk Glass 2 Sets Of Cups & SaucersVintage White Milk Glass Salt And Pepper ShakersFenton Milk Glass Sleeping Kitten (5064 U4)Vtg Jeannette Shell Pink Milk Glass Harp Pattern 2 Handle Vanity Serving TrayLot Of 20 Fire King Anchor Hocking White Milk Glass Coffee Cups Mugs Stacking Anchor Hocking Fire King Green Jadite App 4 1/2" Pitcher Milk ServingWhite Milk Glass Hen Chicken On Nest Basket Candy Butter Dish Rooster Opaque ArtVintage Hobnail Milk Glass Candy Dish With Lid..fentonVintage Fenton Art Turquoise Pastel Milk Glass Hobnail 5 ¾” Ruffled Bonbon Bowl Pair Of Yellow Milk Glass Perfume/cologne/hair Ca.1890's2 Opaline French Blue Milk Glass Bud Vases

Recent News: Milk Glass

Source: Google News

Benedum sign to get upgrade
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 6th

The original letters on the marquee were made of milk glass and later replaced with plastic letters. The trust is running out of its inventory of plastic letters, Mr. Bacharach said. To make the job more complicated, the letters are of different sizes...Read more

Davy Crockett, Depression glass
Wilson County News, July 1st

It was made in amber (1940s), crystal (1933-'40), dark green (1960s-'80s), fired-on red (late 1930s) and milk glass (1960s-'80s). There are several excellent references that might be helpful. I especially like “Warman's Depression Glass: A Value and ...Read more

Stock's Avondale model underway in Quail West
Naples Daily News, June 28th

Overhead a traditional chandelier of milk glass and brass will provide ornamental lighting. Outside, the covered lanai encompasses distinct areas for food preparation, casual dining, and comfortable lounging. The outdoor kitchen will include a gas...Read more

From wacky to cool: Lowe Mill's annual Car Boot Sale features an assortment of ..., June 14th

These beautiful spice jars are made from milk glass with teal metal lids. According to the owner, these specific jars served as one of the forerunners of the rewards system at grocery stores back in the day. Artwork by a Las Vegas felon: It's a pretty...Read more

M.Patmos, June 12th

Double-face cotton T-shirts had a multi-season appeal, and the striped cashmere polo was just simply appealing. Colorwise, Patmos played with sherbet hues like milk-glass green, chalky pink, and raspberry. In a lineup that felt akin to a greatest hits...Read more

Milk Glass Mrkt brings biscuits, baked goods to North Portland: Cheap Eats, December 30th

Opened in November, Milk Glass Mrkt has its roots in a food cart -- owners Nancye Benson and Williams Macklin's sorely missed Moxie Rx -- and has an aesthetic reminiscent of two other popular breakfast spots -- Sweedeedee and Woodlawn Coffee & Pastry ...Read more

Inside Milk Glass Market in North Portland
Eater PDX, November 18th

As Eater reported last week, Nancye Benson proprietor of the pioneering Moxie Rx food cart and former pastry chef of Woodsman Tavern and culinary director of Woodsman Market, opened her own cafe in North Portland on Nov. 8, transforming the former ...Read more

Nancye Benson of Moxie RX Fame Opens Milk Glass Market on N. Killingsworth
Eater PDX, November 13th

The charming, 28-seat Milk Glass Market and cafe opened last weekend in the former Atomic Pizza space on N. Killingsworth Avenue, serving up small plates of breakfast and lunch fare. Warm wood, creamy white paint, and walls of windows provide the ...Read more