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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Red Goose string holder could pull in up to $14000 from interested collectorsPress of Atlantic City, January 30th
Question: I have enclosed a photo of a miniature oil lamp with milk glass chimney purchased in 1977 at an estate sale of a woman who was 91. The raised words "Little Andy" are on the vase's clear glass base. Tucked into the lamp's chimney was a tiny...Read more
Discover historical elegance at Silver Lake BallroomShreveport Times, January 29th
The art deco masterpiece — known as the Hunter Building — houses the Silver Lake Ballroom on the first floor. With high ceilings, red gum moldings, six milk glass art deco light fixtures and original terrazzo floors, the venue is used for weddings...Read more
Anthropologists share zoo's graveyard findingsThe Tennessean, January 27th
Nails, bone buttons and a milk glass button were some of the items dug up from the unmarked graves at the Nashville Zoo in early 2014. (Photo: TRC Companies Inc.) 214 CONNECT 16 TWEETLINKEDINCOMMENTEMAILMORE. The first slide Dr. Shannon ...Read more
Taking Away My Chocolate Bars and Other World ProblemsWall Street Journal, January 25th
It realizes—unlike American manufacturers, who sell us short again and again by substituting inferior ingredients in their relentless quest to shave costs and increase profits—that the human palate is infinitely discerning. British Dairy Milk's...Read more
Killing(sworth) ItThe Portland Mercury, January 21st
Milk Glass Market is where the pretty young things are—a twee café with petite, well-crafted breakfast sandwiches and baked goods. Let's put it this way: Mustaches are welcome here. I go here after sleeping off a Saturday night party, rolling in at...Read more
First look: Milk Glass mrkt, North Portland's brunch cafe and micro-supermarketThe Oregonian - OregonLive.com, November 20th
The "mrkt" side of Milk Glass is a small, well-curated selection of wines, beers, sodas, locally-made foodstuffs, pantry products, dairy options (butter, eggs, milk) and more -- things that Milk Glass might be currently using on their menu and products...Read more
Inside Milk Glass Market in North PortlandEater PDX, November 18th
The charming, 28-seat Milk Glass Market serves up breakfast and lunch fare like cheddar biscuits topped with an herbed egg and smoky bacon, amid warm wood, creamy white paint, and walls of windows. Benson has stocked a small but well-curated ...Read more
Woodsman Pastry Chef Nancye Benson Opening Milk Glass Market on North ...Willamette Week, August 7th
Nancye Benson, pastry chef at the Woodsman Tavern and former head of the food program at the Woodsman Market, is opening a 28-seat cafe and market called Milk Glass Market at 2150 N. Killingsworth Street with partner William Macklin. Benson and ...Read more