Old And Sold Antiques Auction & Marketplace

Please Select Search Type:
Antiques Digest Browse Auctions Appraisal Home

Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Cut And Engraved Tablewares And Pressed Glass

FROM the end of the Eighteenth Century to about 1820 when glass cutting became a commercial production of many glass factories, a great number of fine engraved and cut glass pieces were made in small shops by individual craftsmen who cut and decorated blanks made elsewhere.

Celery glasses with patterns of festoons of ribbons and flowers, and borders of delicate leaves and molded gadroon decoration at the bottom, were made in considerable numbers. The stems were knopped and the base was round or octagonal. Pitchers were decorated with similar engraved designs, hand-manipulated handles, and threaded rims. Decanters with hand-applied neck rims and mushroom or wheel-shaped stoppers were decorated with engravings of leaves, flowers, and grapes. A simple ribbing, cut or molded, decorated the base and the bottom of the decanter. Decanters were made at Pittsburgh from about 1810 to 1820 with engraved eagles, shields, and ships. Later in the century the engraving became delicate, ornate, and realistic.

Patterns in cut glass are geometric, and determined by the process. Thus, although early American cut glass patterns were taken from English and Irish cut glass, even down to the end of the Nineteenth Century, the motifs remain the same because they are the only ones possible of being made on the cutter's lathe. To be sure, the patterns are different, but they are made up of the same diamond, strawberry, and fan motifs used on the earliest cut glass.

Bakewell & Company (1808-1882) of Pittsburgh was the first company-to make cut glass commercially. Characteristic motifs on early pieces include a circle of joined fans, strawberry, and a rayed circle similar to motifs on old German glass. Large cut circles and ovals are found on pieces of a later date. The early output at Bakewell included decanters, compotes, pitchers, tumblers, wines, salts, cruets, sweetmeat jars, flasks, candelabra, candlesticks, chandeliers, and lamps. Later patterns made by Bakewell include Argus, Thistle, Prism, Flute, Flute and Mitre, Cherry, Arabesque, Lace, Heart, Rochelle, Etruscan, and Saxon.

In 1818 the New England Glass Company was founded, and from the start a cutting department with "twenty-four glass cutting mills operated by steam" was set up. Cutting experts were brought over from Ireland, and the decanters, wines, and tumblers made at New England Glass Company by these workmen can hardly be distinguished from Waterford glass. Early cutting was combined with engraving. The output included "Blamange dishes cut and rich, and plain and moulded Decanters, Carofts, custards, celeries," lusters for mantels, chandeliers, stand and astral lamps, and dessert services cut to order. Later, Bohemian glass was made and cut, gilded, and colored. The early engraving was done in deep cut on heavy glass. The scenes were pictorial, also baskets of flowers and wreaths. Later the engraving was more delicate and consisted of festoons, sprays of flowers, and gossamer lines and dots and airy traceries. The pattern book included over four hundred designs: hobnail, diamond and block, and such Victorian motifs as grape, ivy, rose, morning glory and wheat, strawberry, thistle, horn of plenty, stars, fans, and Greek key and ribbons, as well as birds and animals including deer in hunting scenes and chickens.

American glass collectors have been so interested in molded and lacy glass made at Sandwich that the fact that Sandwich made cut glasswares has been forgotten. The early Sandwich patterns followed English styles such as diamond and strawberry. Later patterns were called Cut Diamond and Purity, Cut Opal, Flint Art Pattern, Rosette and Octagon, Fan and Strawcut. Mt. Washington Glass Works of South Boston in 1837 made blown, cut, engraved, and pressed glass. This works operated until about 1866.

Cut glass continued to be the fashionable and the desired glass by all who could afford to have it, until the first few years of the Twentieth Century. In texture and design American cut glass of the last half of the Nineteenth Century was unequaled by any in the world. Over sixty manufacturers from the Mississippi to the Atlantic were producing cut glass, but the industry was centered in Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts. The glass was of the finest flint, and the incisions were cut clear and sharp, and the patterns geometric. The glass is heavy and brilliant.

Late in the century a great deal of poorly cut and badly designed ornate glass was being made. This is evidenced by the change of pattern names. Such names as Norma, Car-men, Mantauk Cut, Angelic Cut, which have no connection with the design, were made. Thus the old type of simple hobnail, diamond, strawberry, and pomegranate designs were almost lost sight of in the desire for fancy ornate patterns.


AFTER the invention of the pressing machine in the late i82os, pressed glass was made in great quantities at practically all the glass works. Although pressed glass is expensive and desirable today, when it was first made, it only attracted the attention of those who could not afford hand-cut glass. Thus the earliest patterns were imitations of cut-glass designs such as the diamond, strawberry, fan, and flutings. Stars and hearts are also found on early pressed-glass pieces. However, it was not long before the patterns were delicate and lace-like, and so intricate in design and technique that they no longer resembled cut glass, but took on individual characteristics which were brought about by the process of manufacture.

The beauty of early lacy pressed glass depended upon the designer of the patterns, upon the mold maker, and upon the operator of the pressing machine. It is only by understanding something of the process by which pressed glass was made that we can appreciate its best qualities and recognize good pieces of pressed glass when we see them. The molds for pressing glass were made of brass, iron, or some other metal and were usually made in three or more pieces. The molten glass was dropped into the mold, snipped off, and then a plunger was rammed into the mold to force the metal into all the cuttings of the design. If too little metal was used all parts of the piece might not be impressed, but if too much metal was used the piece would be thick. The early pieces, such as cup plates with cut-glass motifs, are often quite heavy and filled with bubbles, "fins," and other imperfections. After a few years workmen became experienced; the molds were handled more expertly and the unevenness disappeared.

Pressed glass, because of the mechanism involved in its making, has a cold icy appearance and a definiteness of line design. The edges and rims are sharp, and the surface has a granular texture and is rough to touch on the side where the pattern is pressed. The other side is smooth. Pressed glass receives its beauty and brilliance by the refraction of the light from the facets of the pattern. Thus the more facets, such as in a stipple motif, the more brilliancy the pattern has. The stippling which is a characteristic of lacy pressed glass was inspired by the diamond-cut patterns of cut glass. Motifs of design characteristic of lacy pressed glass are the palmette, the acanthus leaf, scrolls, hearts, sunbursts, peacock feather, and conventionalized tulips, fleur-de-lis, roses, thistles, daisies, and other leaves and flowers. Historical patterns form another group of lacy patterns. Among the historic or patriotic patterns are the American eagle designs which were taken from American coins of the Nineteenth Century. Certain patterns of lacy pressed glass seem to be of French inspiration which may be the direct influence of French and Belgian workmen at such factories as Sandwich.

A great deal of pressed glass, especially of the lacy type, was made at Sandwich. There is even a tendency to call all lacy glass Sandwich since Sandwich is the favorite with present-day collectors. However, many of the same patterns were made at other factories such as the New England Glass Company. Lacy glass was also made in the various factories at Pittsburgh, in West Viginia, New Jersey, at the Brooklyn Flint Glass Works (Gilliland), and in Pennsylvania and Maryland as well as the Middle West. Generally speaking, Midwestern lacy glass patterns are bolder and coarser in design than those made in the Eastern factories. There are thousands of designs and variations of patterns in lacy pressed glass and only the expert can expect to be familiar with all of them. The various articles of tableware such as creamers, sugar bowls, various sized plates, compotes, dishes, and trays were made in lacy glass. However, the designs on these objects, are not as varied or as interesting as those on cup plates and salts. Dishes, bowls, and other tableware usually were made in geometric designs such as the Roman Rosette, Plume, Bull's-Eye, Peacock Eye, Cross Swords, Oak Leaf, Nectarine, Thistle, Gothic Arch, Shell, Hairpin, Pineapple, Paneled Scroll, and Princess Feather. Exceptions are such rare pieces as the Constitution-Eagle pattern which has medallions of eagles and the ship Constitution on a stippled background, and the industry bowls with log cabin centers and plows, ship, and factory on the border.

More lacy glass designs were made in cup plates and salts than in any other article. For this reason, and also because cup plates and salts are of particular interest to the collector, we will discuss the patterns of lacy glass in more detail in connection with these two groups.

Designs on cup plates fall into three general groups. The conventional designs, which include geometric designs such as scrolls, sawtooth, feathers, and bull's-eye as well as conventionalized flowers and leaves such as acanthus, palmette, fleur-de-lis, roses, daisies, and thistles. The conventional patterns form the largest group of lacy glass designs. Some of them are among the most beautiful specimens of lacy glass, for such patterns because of their intricate line design and their stippled background allow for a maximum of sparkle and brilliance. However, desirability from the collector's standpoint is related to rarity, and some of these patterns are rare and some are not. Rare plates are usually cup plates of which only a small number are available, and most of these are in museum or private collections. Thus the beginner must start with plates less rare, which, however, are just as representative and often just as attractive.

The group of historical cup plates is divided into historical and semi-historical. They are of particular interest because of their connection with American history rather than their design. For example Major Ringold has no aesthetic value, and the plow, beehive, and log cabin are also pictorial rather than pleasing from the standpoint of design. The rarest of the historical plates are the Washington portraits. The Major Ringold and Henry Clay are Also rare. Other rare items are plates with center motifs of plows, log cabins, eagles, historical ships such as the Constitution, Livington, and Fulton; and transportation plates such as those with suspension bridges, steamboats, and steam coaches. The Bunker Hill Monument is also of particular interest, and there are several variations of this design. Other designs in the semi-historical group include Beehive, Lyre, Hound, Wedding Day, Harp and Star, and Erin Go 13ragh. A list of "IOO Best" cup plates is given in The Magazine Antiques for October, 1937. They are also listed and illustrated in American Glass by George S. and Helen Mclsearin. Cup plates were made in clear glass, also amber, blue, turreens, amethyst, puce, yellows, including canary and vaseline, and in opaque colors including opal. Generally speaking, colored cup plates are rarer than those in clear glass, but the rarity also depends upon the pattern.

The designs on salts also run the gamut from cut-glass motifs delicate lacy designs. They vary in color, shape, and design more than any other article except the cup plates. The earliest salts were rectangular with feet and pilasters at the corners. They usually had a scalloped top and a single motif such as a rose or a basket of flowers on the ends and sides. The majority of these were made in clear glass. Other salts of this general type had cutglass motifs such as stars, fans, strawberry, diamonds, and fine cut diamonds. They were also made in round and oval shapes. Lacy designs in salts include designs such as scrolls, rosettes, shell, leaves, and other typically lacy patterns.

Salts with historical significance are not numerous, but there are a few marked salts and salts with historical motifs that are of particular interest to collectors. They are:
1. Washington-Lafayette: Oblong pilaster type with scalloped top and portrait of Washington pressed on one side and of Lafayette on the other.
2. "Lafayet" boat salt: "Lafayet" on paddle wheel, "B & S Glass Co" on stern, and "Sandwich" on base.
3. Eagle Salts:
a. Eagle-Empire Sofa Salt.
b. Eagle-Constitution (round).
4. "Providence" (Sofa type).
5. "H. Clay" (Sofa type - fan motif at center sides - hairpin end and Engine and car and H. Clay on base). Rare.

Glass patterns in the early 1840s pressed glass began to be made in complete table settings. The earliest patterns were simple and heavy, made up of combinations of large ovals and loops. The first group is called Colonial, and under that heading are listed such patterns as Ashburton, Flute, Loop, Excelsior, Argus, Colonial, Mirror, Crystal, Petal and Loop, Pillar, Diamond Thumbprint, Block with Thumbprint, Bigler, Huber, Waffle and Thumbprint, Pressed Block, Oval Mitre, and Victoria. Another group of patterns also relied on cut glass as the inspiration for its design, but these patterns have more detail. Among these are Horn of Plenty, Comet, several Bull's-Eye variations, New England Pineapple, Gothic, Hamilton, Four Petal, and Sandwich Star. Another comparatively early group was the ribbed group which is characterized by fine vertical ribbing. This is one of the most popular groups with collectors. It includes the well-known Bellflower, Ribbed Grape, Ivy, Ribbed Acorn, Fine Rib, Ribbed Palm, Inverted Fern, and Southern Ivy. These patterns are more delicate and refined than those of the first two groups named. The bellflower pattern is found in the greatest number of articles.

In the I860s one of the best-known patterns was the Lincoln Drape of which there are two variations, one with a tassel and one without. Other patterns made at about the same time were Cable, Tulip, Thumbprint variations, Frosted Roman Key, Honeycomb, and Philadelphia.

By the next decade the trend was to more elaborate and more naturalistic patterns. These are not as good in design as the earlier patterns and the quality of the glass is also inferior to that used for making earlier pressed glass. Many patterns with a grape motif date from this time, including the Magnet and Grape, Grape and Festoon, Paneled Grape, Beaded Grape, Grape Band, Stippled Grape and Festoon, Arched Grape, and Grape with Thumbprint. There are several variations to each of these patterns. Flower, leaf, and fruit patterns were also made in great numbers. In the flower group belong the popular Rose-in-Snow, Cabbage Rose, Rose Sprig, Open Rose, Lily-of-the-Valley, Wildflower, Bleeding Heart, the various Forget-Me-Not patterns, Primrose, Dahlia, Daisy, Clematis, Thistle, Sunflower, Flowerpot, and Scroll with Flowers. There are enough flowers to please any botanist or flower lover. Leaf patterns include the Barberry, Maple Leaf, Holly, Cabbage Leaf, Sprig, and Acorn variants.

Late in the 1870s a particularly interesting pressed glass group of clear and frosted glass was made with figures on the lids of the covered pieces and sometimes in the stems and bases. These patterns are popular with collectors today. The patterns include Westward-Ho, which has the figure of an Indian as a finial and a scene with a log cabin on the body of the pieces; Lion with lion finials and bases and a cable edging; Three Faces with three classical heads which appear as the finials on covers and in the stems of glasses, compotes, and the body of salt shakers; Baby Face pattern with knobs and stems of three baby faces; Polar Bear with frosted Arctic scenes; Dog and Deer, and Jumbo, each of which has frosted figures of animals as knobs. Other patterns combining frosted and clear glass are Frosted Leaf, Roman Key, and Classic. There are also other less-known patterns of frosted and plain glass. In the I880os a group of conventional patterns appeared of which the Daisy and Button is the best known. Other groups such as hobnail and stipple are too numerous to enumerate.

Many of the designs of pattern glass were made in colored as well as clear glass, and some in opaque glass of several colors including marble or slag glass. While there were over a thousand different designs in pressed glass there were only a few hundred different patterns of milk glass, and complete sets are rather rare. One can, however, collect sets of pitchers and tumblers, sugars and creamers, and bowls and compotes in a number of patterns. Those most available are: Strawberry, Sawtooth, Blackberry, Wheat, Cherry, Grape, Princess Feather, Gooseberry, Waffle, Icicle, Melon, Roman Cross, Crossed Fern, Daisy, Scroll, Tree of Life, Basket Weave, Corn, Cosmos, Beaded Jewel, Block and Fan, Sunflower, Paneled Daisy, Stippled Forget-Me-Not, Shell, Swan, Swan and Cattails, Barred Hobnail, Cameo, Teardrop, Tassel and Versailles.

The collector should be warned at the outset concerning the poor design of a great deal of milk glass. It is Victorian taste at its worst. Many patterns are pictorial and sentimental such as the Three Kitten or Owl plates, or the Daisy and Tree Limb, or Windmill patterns. However, a great many milk glass pieces have a real beauty, not only of design but of form as well. For those who specialize in collecting pitchers there are quite a few handsome designs. The earliest and finest is the beautiful blown pitcher with hand-manipulated handle in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is exquisite in proportion and workmanship. Another rare pitcher is the geometric three-mold pitcher with applied handle. An early paneled-leaf design creamer also has a hand-applied handle. Other simple and well proportioned pitchers are found in the Curtain pattern, Basket Weave, Ribbed Shell, Swan, Grape, and Cherry patterns. Syrup jugs with pewter tops are also distinctive in some of the plain patterns such as Curtain, Panel, Rose Leaf, Hobnail, Early Loop, and rare Ribbed Bellflower. Sugar bowls are particularly interesting to collectors of milk glass because of their fine shapes and unique finials. One of the earliest patterns was the Double Loop. The cover has an acorn finial and the deep cut lines give a fine tone effect. Another rare sugar bowl is the Pressed Threaded Glass. The Early Loop Sandwich sugar bowl also has an Acorn finial. The Daisy Whirl, Beaded Circle, Plain Melon with melon finial and the Diamond Fan and Leaf sugar bowls are all good in design. The Cameo sugar bowl is classic in design and has a woman's head as a finial. Such simple patterns as Basket Weave and Hexagon Block are also pleasing in design.

Covered bowls and compotes in various patterns also have interesting shapes and finials. Among the finest are the Strawberry, Blackberry, and Hamilton pattern compotes, all of which have fruit finials. Bowls in the Scroll, Acanthus, Basket Weave, Thousand Eye and Thumbprint are also excellent in design. The compotes with Open Hand stem, Jenny Lind, and Atlas figure stems are popular with collectors. The Basket Weave compote with simple swirl stem and Deep Ribbed stem compotes are also excellent pieces. A large group of bowls have open edges that match open-edge milk glass plates. These include the Arch border, Ball and Chain, Lattice, "S," Gothic, Leaf and Scroll, Wicket, Scroll and Leaf, Diamond and Shell, Fan and Circle, Pinwheel, and Backward C. Other similar open border patterns are found on plates in milk white, and occasionally in blue or black. A whole group of late plates with sentimental subjects such as kittens, chickens, puppies, owls, and bunnies are poor in design but popular with collectors. For the historically minded there are plates with pressed heads of Washington, Columbus, Bryan, Taft, and an Indian Chief. Platters and trays were also made in various patterns but the only ones of particular interest are the Liberty Bell, Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread, and the fine Retriever Platter with the dog swimming after duck and the lilypad border which is one of the most sought-after pieces of milk glass.

There are several bottles and flasks in milk glass that are of particular interest to the bottle collector. A plain fluted whiskey flask is well proportioned and a simple pinch bottle with stopper is rare in lemon yellow. A rare duck bottle and several bear bottles in black and white milk glass are also available as well as the rare Columbus Column bottle, Grant's Tomb, Statue of Liberty Base, Bunker Hill Monument bottles, and a Five Star and Cable bottle all of which have patriotic significance. Various types of candlesticks and lamps were also made in milk glass.

However, by far the most popular articles in milk glass are the covered animal dishes. The majority of them are white, but some are blue and white combined and some are black. In subject matter they include hens, ducks, turkeys, swans, roosters, fish, rabbits, dogs, cats, eagles, deer, lions, birds, and other animals as well as such subjects as battleships. The best-known animal dishes were made by McKee Brothers in Pittsburgh, and are often marked "McKee" on the base. Atterbury Company of Pittsburgh also marked some of their pieces including the well-known Atterbury ducks which were patented in 1887. The most popular dishes besides the animals mentioned were the Deer on a Fallen Tree Base, the Lion, the Battleship Maine, Uncle Sam on a Battleship, Dewey on a Battleship, and Cruiser. However, the finest shaped dish is the Melon covered dish which is found both plain and with a net surface design. It is also found in several sizes.

Other opaque glass such as caramel and custard glass were made in smaller quantities. They have never been popular with collectors. However, purple slag or marble glass is particularly popular at the moment. It was never made in great quantities or in a great variety of patterns but it is especially lovely in plain glass where the marble design gives the only pattern. It is also attractive in panel and ribbed patterns, in Two Dart Bar, and in open-work patterns. pieces were also made in Raindrop Pattern. Milk glass plates with open edge and sentimental subjects and many bowls and compotes, goblets, pitchers, dolphin candlesticks, and covered animal dishes have been and are now being reproduced. Milk glasshas a place in the history of American glass and many pieces are worthy of consideration by serious collectors, but the quantities of milk glass made and offered in shops today have given it a bad reputation. In the foregoing notes I have tried to suggest only pieces that are of value because of beauty of form and design or for historical significance. If the present-day collector is interested in having, their collection recognized in years to come, he will use such standards in the selection of pieces.

Bookmark and Share