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    

Art Deco Coty Jacee Opaque Cristal Glass Pot Perfume Scent Bottle Jar In BoxVintage Jeannette Delphite Blue Milk Glass Square Sugar Canister Jar W LidFenton Art Milk Glass Aqua Blue Crest Ruffle Edge Violet Painted Melon BasketVintage Pyrex Rectangular Refrigerator Dish Milk Glass W/clear Glass Lid 502 C Hazel Atlas Candy Red Striped Plates Milk Glass Plates Lot Of 6 Dinner Plates 9"Fenton Milk Glass Mouse Figurine Hand Painted Signed Beth TFenton Art Milk Glass Snow White Crest Ruffle Edge Blue Silver Painted VaseFenton Art Glass Ooak Ruby And Milk Glass Cased Vase With Elephant DesignHazel Atlas "kitchen Aids" Utensils Aqua Milk Glass 8.25" Mixing Bowl TurquoiseVintage Fenton Crimped Edge Hobnail Milkglass Huricane Gone W/ The Wind Lamp WowAntique 1840's Baccarat Crystal Inkwell~milk Glass Top Hand Painted~fleur De LisMilk Glass Battleship Newark Flaccus Boat Covered DishMilk Glass Battleship Wheeling Flaccus Boat Covered DishCir 1940 Cambridge Crown Tuscan (2) Light Pink Milk Glass Candle HolderVintage Hazel Atlas Red Rooster Pattern Milk Glass Mug And BowlFenton Vintage Blue Pastel Hobnail Milk Glass Footed Covered Candy Dish Eapg Consolidated Glass Co's Pink Opaque Florette SyrupAntique Vtg Ah Scottie Dog White Milk Glass Lg Kitchen Sugar Shaker ScottyVintage Milk Glass Hobnail Lidded Candy Dish Round Ornate WhiteVintage Fenton Hand Panted Floral Pink Cased Milk White Glass Ruffle Vase BowlBlue Milk Glass Bunny Rabbit On Nest Basket Candy Dish Easter Eggs Bonnie OpaqueVintage Fenton Flame Crest Milk Glass Deep CompotePair Of Jadeite Green Milk Glass Diamond Pattern Tumbler Cups Goblet Jadite JadeVintage Made Before 1937 Fenton Hobnail White Milk Glass Butter DishVintage Milk Glass Hand/dish Towel HolderFenton Handpainted Milk Glass Bird Of PeacePink Milk Glass Bunny Rabbit On Nest Basket Candy Dish Easter Eggs Crown TuscanJadeite Green Glass Butter Candy Dish Jade Milk Tub 1 Pound Margarine Sugar BowlVintage Us Glass Flared Cylinder Vase Yellow Opaque Stretch Iridescent C1930 Nr!Fenton Hobnail Milk Glass VaseVintage Fenton Milk Glass Silver Crest Valentine Heart Shape Candy Dish1886 Antique Atterbury Crouching Rabbit Milk Glass Covered Dish W/ Glass EyesBeautiful Fenton Wedding Cake Plate Stand Hobnail Milk Glass - SignedLarge Jadeite Jade Green Glass Water Serving Pitcher Jadite Milk / Panel PatternGorgeous Satin Opaque Fenton Deer Decorated Figurine - Original StickerConsolidated Glass - Two-way Swirl - Salt Shaker - Opaque Blue Glossy - 1895Marked Fenton Milk Glass Hobnail Candleholder BowlVintage Made Before 1937 Fenton Hobnail White Milk Glass Boat VaseEapg Unknown Opaque White Master SaltVintage Portieux Vallerysthal,pv France Opaline Milk Glass Swirl Candlesticks Vintage Fenton Silvercrest Milk Glass Heart Shaped Candy DishFenton Vintage Hobnail Milk Glass Footed Candle BowlLovely Vtg Fenton White Milk Glass Hobnail Pedestal Cake Stand Plate Signed NiceVintage Mckee Red Sail Boat Anchor Wheel Refrigerator Dish Bowls Milk GlassVintage Fenton Hobnail White Milk Glass Butter Dish Lid & Base Euc3 Vintage Anchor Hocking Milk Glass White Diamond Kimberly Cups Mugs Usa Vintage Milk Glass Range Sugar ShakerWestmoreland Blue Milk Glass Cat On Lacy Base Covered DishVintage Mini White Milk Glass Butter DishVintage Fenton Hobnail Ruffle Bowl / Candy Dish Milk Glass Blue Unmarked!!!Jadeite Green Milk Glass Cake Serving Stand Plate / Platter Pedestal Jadite JadeVintage Hazel Atlas Range Top White Milk Glass Salt & Pepper Shaker Set UsedVintage Blue Heaven Fire King Milk Glass Coffee Mug D Handle Set Of 4 Mint!6 Vintage Fenton Milk Glass Hobnail Punch Cups ~ NewVintage Fire King Jadeite Milk Glass Tea Cups Saucers Play Pot & Tea Kettle Lot2 Vintage Fire King Ware White Milk Glass Swirl Pattern Nesting Mixing Bowls LotEapg Unknown Pair Of Pink Opaque ShakersJadeite Green Milk Glass Spoon Table Rest Holder Jade Jadite Spooner Serving ArtWestmorland 1920-30's Puss N Boots Milk Glass Kitty Candy Container Vintage 1950s Hazel Atlas Milk Glass Apple Grease Jar 4" Sugar Jam Jelly Dish