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    

Antique Georgian Air Twist Stem Wine Glass Snapped Pontil Cordial C1760 Opaque4 Vintage Hazel Atlas Pyrex Atomic Age Candy Stripe Tumblers Milk GlassJeannette Jadeite Green Milk Glass Matches Holder ~ Range Set Piece ~ Jade-ite ~4 Fire King Jadeite D Handle Coffee Mugs Jade-ite Green Milk Glass ~ Fkow Usa Vintage Fenton Hobnail Pedestal Cake Stand Plate White Milk Glass Hobnail 13"Vintage Fenton Milk Art Glass Hobnail Epergne Bowl With HornsVintage Hobnail Pink Milk Glass Pedestal Candy Dish New England Glass Green Opaque Victorian Art Glass Punch Cup RareFenton Spanish Lace White Milk Glass Silver Crest Salt And Pepper ShakersFenton? Blue Milk Glass Perfume Bottle. VintageFenton Art Glass Ruby Glass Cane With Milk Glass StripesVintage Fire King Oven Ware Jadeite Jadite Green Glass 20 Oz Milk PitcherVintage Jadite Green Milk Glass Canister Jar Tulip LidBlue Milk Glass Turtle Open Salt By Portieux VallerysthalPair Of 18th C. German Enameled Milch Milk Glass Cups & Saucers (+ Extra Cup)Lot Of 7 Vintage Fire King Oven Ware White Milk Glass Coffee Mugs/cups D HandleFenton Vintage Hobnail Milk Glass Large Footed Cake Plate Rare?Vtg Fenton Milk Glass Hobnail Boxtle Perfume Bottle Powder Box Lid Stopper OpaleVintage Westmoreland White Milk Glass Relief Fruit Punch Bowl & 12 Cup Set YqzFenton Milk Glass Flower Frog For Nymph (nymph Not Included)Vintage Fenton Pink Opaque Hobnail Cat Head Art Glass Slipper Shoe Paper LabelRare. Vintage Fenton White Milk Glass Hobnail 14 Oz. Stein. Estate Find.Eapg Tree Climber Toy Child's Mug W Santa/elf In Chimney Opaque White Vintage Cambridge Glass Azurite Blue Opaque Bud Vase Gold Gilt Minton Border2 Rare 1976 Pyrex Milk Glass Pittsburgh Whiskey Rebellion 1794 Coffee Mugs #1410Hazel Atlas Candy Stripe Milk Glass Cup And SaucerVintage 1950's Hazel Atlas White Milk Glass Red Chicken Rooster Mug CupWestmoreland Vintage Milk Glass Lace S Pattern 8.5" Square Ribbon Plate Set Of 8Vintage Fenton Milk Glass Rose Hurricane Lamp With Hobnail Shade Solid BrassFire King 20oz Milk Pitcher Jug Jadite Jade-ite From Breakfast Set FirekingFire King Oven Ware Jadeite 20 Oz Milk Pitcher And 'd' Handle Mug VintageSet Of 8 Hazel Atlas Currier & Ives Milk Glass Tumblers W/ CarrierPretty White Milk Glass Hobnail Tall Candy Dish With LidBeautiful Fenton Hobnail Milk Glass 3-toed VaseVintage Rare Fenton Hobnail Milk Glass Cookie Jar Canister Lid Original StickerBeautiful Vintage 13 1/2" Fenton Milk Glass Hobnail Low Footed Cake StandLot Of 14 ~ Milk Glass Bud Vases ~ Wedding Event Party Show Brody-hoosier-unmarkVintage Mckee Red Ships Sail Boat Milk Glass Sugar Canister Jar Bowl & Clear LidVintage Glasbake Milk Glass Mixing Bowl Green Ivy Leaf Glassbake Cinderella2 Sets Vintage Pyrex Corning Turquoise Aqua Band Milk Glass Cups & Saucers Vintage White Milk Glass Grape Pattern Opaque Cake Plate 10 1/4" Unmarked Antique Milk Glass Maine Battleship Covered Mustard DishVintage Fenton Milk Glass Silver Crest 2 Tier Handled Tidbit Dessert Tray MintFenton? Pink Rosalene Milk Glass Toothpick Holder / Shot GlassVintage Milk Glass Vase Tall With Grapes PatternPretty White Milk Glass Hobnail Vase With Scalloped Top7pc Set~vintage 50s Shell Pink Milk Glass Pitcher Tumbler Set~6 Goblet~jeannetteVintage Fostoria Aqua Blue Milk Glass 3 Piece CollectionVtg Anchor Hocking Fire-king Milk Glass Yellow Daisy Stackable MugFire King Vintage Sealtest Cottage Cheese Salmon Pink Tulip Bowl Milk Glass2 Vintage Fire King Advertising Mugs Milk Glass Ceco.Green Vaseline Glass D-handle Banded Milk Pitcher 7" Tall - Mint!Jadeite Green Milk Glass Doll Powder / Jewelry Box Dresser Tray Holder Girl JadeWestfield Batman & Robin Milk Glass Coffee Cup MugVintage Milk Glass PlateVintage Milk Glass Round Punch Bowl Base Stand Pedestal Flower Daisy Fleur #2627Vintage White Milk Glass Chicken Hen On Nest Candy DishVintage Pyrex Corning Ware White Milk Glass Lot Of 9 Bowls Cups DishVintage Milk Glass Candy Dish With Lid Grape PatternVintage Elegant Milk Glass Vase With Fluted Sides And Pedestal Base

Recent News: Milk Glass

Source: Google News

Fun story, cast fill the void in our Big Stone Gap
The Virginian-Pilot, October 7th

It made the New York Times' best-seller list and has been followed by three sequels: "Big Cherry Holler," "Milk Glass Moon" and "Home to Big Stone Gap." Noticeably, there's plenty of material here for sequels, or a TV series. Based on that cuddly novel...Read more

VACATION GETAWAY: A clean getaway done dirt cheap
Milford Daily News, October 4th

We used it on a $25 Craigslist picnic table and a $4 shade from the hardware store, de-countrifying a sweet tag-sale milk glass lamp. Even the cabin itself got the treatment, thanks to a coat of inky exterior stain (Olympic solid stain in Mystic Black...Read more

1 Thing We Love About Morris County: Milk in a glass bottle
Daily Record, October 2nd

There's something about a glass bottle that makes everything taste a little better. The store at Lombardo Farms in Harding carries milk in bottles that is delivered every Thursday. They say it last longer stored in glass too. Be warned, though, they do...Read more

New booklet provides update on excavations in Baturyn
The Ukrainian Weekly (press release) (subscription), October 2nd

Among the service structure's debris and within the Baturyn fortress, many shards of delicate milk-glass plates painted with floral motifs were discovered. These were likely brought to early modern Baturyn from the Ottoman Porte. Finds of imported...Read more

King George group prepares to endorse candidates
Journal Press - King George, September 29th

Tuesday, 29 September 2015. Antiques Considered - Sept. 30, 2015. This lady's work table has belonged to a family from Richmond for several generations. The wood is mahogany with pine secondary wood. The milk glass knobs possibly are Sandwich ...Read more

Pinterest-fueled fantasies help turn a small cabin into a great escape
Washington Post, September 23rd

We used it on a $25 Craigslist picnic table and a $4 shade from the hardware store, de-countrifying a sweet tag-sale milk glass lamp. Even the cabin itself got the treatment, thanks to a coat of inky exterior stain (Olympic solid stain in Mystic Black...Read more

Greensburg Daily News, September 9th

“...and I also have a cabinet full of milk glass.” These words find their way into at a high percentage of the calls I receive from people seeking my assistance in down-sizing. Yet as popular as this type of glassware is, there are a large number of...Read more

Collectors seek milk glass with hens, squirrels, cows, July 14th

Question: My mom and dad were married in 1943. They received several pieces of milk glass as wedding presents and I inherited them. I have no intention of selling them but would like to know more about this type of glass and if it is considered...Read more