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Antique Pressed Cup Plates
The first articles to be pressed were those which were easy to make, particularly salts, knobs, and shallow dishes which included the little cup plates. In the early days of the century cups without handles were used for tea. The hot amber liquid was poured into the saucer to cool. To save the linen and the table top, the cup was set on a small china plate.Deming Jarves saw a large market for cup plates of pressed glass. The first plates he made followed rather closely the motifs of cut glass such as fans, strawberry diamonds, and the like. Soon lacy backgrounds were used. About one thousand different cup plates have been catalogued-many of them with but slight variations of design. They have been classified in conventional and historical patterns and offer a fascinating field to the collector.
Conventional designs include the early cut glass patterns, the heart series, the naturalistic, and the geometric patterns.
Historical patterns feature men prominent at the time and events important in the young republic. During the several decades these little plates were made, Henry Clay was an important American statesman and certainly interested in the welfare of the glass industry. In 1824 he introduced a tariff to protect American glass manufacturers. Two plates were made in his honor one the Henry Clay plate (as it is called now).It Other plates commemorated Washington, LaFayette, Harrison, and events, such as the Battle of Bunker Hill or the Hard Cider Campaign. There is not, however, as wide a range of historical subjects in these small plates as in the bottles and flasks of a slightly later period.
Collectors and students of American glass are indebted to Mr. Albert C. Marble of Worcester, Massachusetts, for his excellent classification of these fascinating little articles. Although collecting them has been popular for the last few decades, cup plates are still available, but the colored and historical ones are rather rare. Extensive illustrations and descriptions can be found in various books.
Reproductions have been made of a number of the heart plates, as well as others. (See Ruth Webb Lee's books on reproductions.) The new cup plates are poor imitations in soda-lime glass which has no ring when struck. However, it must be noted that cracked or badly chipped pieces of lead glass will not have a bell-like tone. It is difficult to find perfect cup plates, but small chips out of the scalloped edges are not considered detrimental to the value of a plate. In collecting most glass articles it is better to buy "proof" or perfect pieces. If, however, an article is needed to illustrate a type in the collection, a chipped or cracked one is acceptable. Watch for cracks around handles and in pieces that are dusty. Reputable dealers do not sell damaged pieces without informing the customer.
Large plates, saucers, creamers and sugars, covered dishes, bowls, salts, and bases for lamps And candlesticks were made in lacy patterns. Most of them are in clear glass, but some are in colors-transparent, opaque, or opalescent. The charm of lacy ware lies in the brilliant clear glass where the light is refracted by the multiple edges or facets of the pattern. The finely stippled backgrounds, which are the main characteristic, increase the sparkle. Some pieces also have a silver lustre when observed through the top surfaces, which are always left plain except in the covers of dishes. The tone of this early glass, which was made from a lead formula, has the ring of good cut ware. While the factory at Sandwich produced a large amount of lacy ware, it was also made in considerable quantities in the Midwest. There the stippling was sometimes coarser, and geometric designs using many circles were more popular than at Sandwich.