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Pressed Glass And Antique Glass - Part 1

[Pressed Glass - Part 1]  [Pressed Glass - Part 2]  [Pressed Glass - Part 3] 

( Originally Published 1963 )

This country's contribution to the glass industry was the development of a new method of making articles from this prized material early in the nineteenth century. The result was pressed glass. The new product was perfected here about 1825, and each succeeding decade of the 1800's saw it produced in greater quantity, just as each decade of the 1900's has found more people discovering-and collecting-it. Thus, there is a ready-made market all over the country.

Because pressed glass was made in such quantity by so many firms throughout New England and in the Middle Atlantic and Midwest states, miscellaneous and perhaps surprising pieces arc ignored every day in many households. It is important to recognize pressed glass for what it is and to identify it.

Because so many people now collect pressed glass, any piece made during the nineteenth century is salable today. Indeed, a pressed glass sugar and creamer, plate, pitcher, or any other piece probably will sell now for more than the price paid for it 100 years ago, more or less. But once you've identified and learned something about the piece of pressed glass you find-or buy because you could make use of the pickle jar, or the pressed glass matchholder is pretty-you too may become a collector.

What is pressed glass, and how can it be distinguished from other types? Actually, pressed glass is an imitation of cut glass, but it soon developed a character of its own. The reason for developing the technique of making glassware by pressing was to achieve an ornamental and attractive product that would not be as expensive as cut glass.

Some of the early pressed glass copied patterns and motifs from cut glass. Even so, the two types are impossible to confuse, for the motifs are deep and sharp to touch on cut glass. Strawberry diamond, bull's-eye, and block, copied exactly from cut glass, were reproduced shallowly and feel almost smooth on pressed glass. The use of traditional cut glass motifs continued throughout the nineteenth century, but was especially important to the decorating of pressed glass from the 1830's to the 1870's.

In general, pressed glass falls into one of two main groups. The first pieces were known as lacy glass. Most of the pressed glass made from 1825 to 1840 and, to a lesser extent, until about 1850 was this type. From 1850 onward, pressed glass was generally referred to as pattern glass.

All of the early pressed glass characterized as lacy was made with intricate designs, but, more important, always had an all-over finely stippled background. It is this background of finely raised dots on the underside of a glass plate, for example, that earned the name "lacy glass." As a consequence, lacy glass although often quite thick sparkles almost as brightly as cut glass when the sun strikes it.

The stippling also set off the pattern, which shone forth in clear glass. Although patterns of lacy glass were inclined to be intricate, yet always delicate, they are recognizable. Lacy glass patterns, however, are not as familiar or as well-known as the innumerable ones made after 1850, which in some cases made use of stippling, but not as a complete background. Hearts, leaves, and especially the acanthus, simple flowers, the butterfly, and geometric motifs formed the patterns on lacy glass.

Tulip and Acanthus pattern, for example, showed a motif shaped like a tulip bud against a stippled background in the center, acanthus leaves against the stippled background of the rim. Fleur-de-lis had four of these classic motifs in the center, and a fleur-de-lis alternating with a basket and scroll design in the border; again both center and border had stippled backgrounds. Bull's-eye, Acanthus, and Oak Leaf patterns are among the more easily recognizable patterns in lacy glass.

All kinds of objects were made of lacy glass-plates, cup plates, salts, candlesticks, oil lamps, curtain tiebacks or rosettes, pitchers, sugar and creamers, and so on. Some small windowpanes also were made at both East Coast and midwestern glasshouses. Lacy glass was not made in complete sets of tableware as was the later pattern glass.

A very great deal of the pressed glass output was clear or "white" glass. However, considerable lacy and much pattern glass also was made in colors. The lacy Butterfly and Flower pattern was made in a rich blue as well as clear glass. Amethyst, amber, and green also are stunning finds in lacy glass.

Pressed glass also was made in opaque white, commonly known as milk glass, and opaque colors, in opaque white and a color, known as marble glass, and in opalescent. Patterns that combined a color with clear glass became fashionable in the 1880's and 1890's, and many of these pieces are still around. If the color was painted on the clear, it may be worn off somewhat by this time. Vaseline glass, either clear or opaque, was a special type of yellow pressed glass.

Almost all of these several styles of pressed glass were made to some extent by the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company in Sandwich, Massachusetts. Its founder, Deming Jarves, while he was a partner in the New England Glass Company in Cambridge, Massaehusetts, had been one of the people most active in developing the process of pressed glass. The Boston and Sandwich Glass Company, in business from 1825 until about 1888, was the source of Sandwich glass, one of the two or three most famous names -in the history of the glass-industry in the United States.

The term "Sandwich glass" applies to any glass made at this factory. It is not a synonym for all pressed glass, for only a small percentage of the pressed glass made between 1825 and 1900 came from this factory. The fact that a piece of glass rings like a bell when struck lightly is no proof that it's Sandwich glass. Some known pieces of Sandwich give a dull sound, not at all musical.

Nor was pressed glass the only product of the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company. Cut glass, both clear and colored, blown and blown-three-mold, engraved glass, and, late in the century, some art glass came from the famous factory. Whatever type of glass was made at Sandwich, it was of the finest quality.

Although they were not wholly responsible for discovering how to press glass, the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company set certain styles in the new product. Sandwich is almost a synonym for lacy glass, which was made first by the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company. Another first for this glasshouse was the dolphin candlestick. However, both lacy glass and dolphin candlesticks were made later in the century by firms as far west as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Wheeling, West Virginia. The Boston and Sandwich Glass Company also made innumerable patterns without stippling after 1850, a few such as Petal and Loop, Peacock Feather, Peacock Eye, and New England Pineapple before midcentury. Because they made such beautiful glass, it is not strange that other glass factories followed their lead.

Factories for making glass items were successful in all the eastern and many midwestern states. The New England states, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia supported innumerable glasshouses whose names stood for quality and interesting products.

The New England Glass Company, Cambridge, Massachusetts, was almost as versatile as the nearby Boston and Sandwich Glass Company. Although such fine glass was produced in Massachusetts, this state did not have a monopoly, by any manner of means. Portland Glass Company in Portland, Maine, was another distinguished New England firm.

James Gillinder and Sons of Philadelphia and Greensburg, Pennsylvania, was one of the notable firms of that state. The western part of Pennsylvania became fully as important a glass center as Massachusetts. Glass was made so by such firms as McKee and Brothers, Bryce Brothers, George Duncan and Sons, Doyle and Company, Adams and Company, Ripley and Company, King Glass Company, and Bakewell, Pears and Company. The last firm, during its many years of business, was known under several names -Bakewell, Page and Bakewell, and B. Bakewell and Company. Tarentum, east of Pittsburgh, supported two companies active in pressed glass: Richards and Hartley, and Challinor, Taylor and Company. The second was especially noted for opal and marble glass.

Wheeling, West Virginia, had probably the best-known firms of that state. Hobbs, Barnes and Company, which in 1863 became Hobbs, Brockunier and Company, and Central Glass Company were two of the leading ones.

Many small cities in Ohio had their glass firms. Bellaire Goblet Company in Findlay, A. J. Beatty and Company, Tiffin and Steubenville, Lancaster Glass Company, Lancaster, Nickel Plate Glass Company, Fostoria, and Crystal Glass Company in Bridgeport were only a few. Many of these Ohio firms as well as some in Pennsylvania were absorbed when the United States Glass Company was formed in Pittsburgh in 1891.

The pattern called Baltimore Pear was not made by a firm in Maryland but by Adams and Company in Pittsburgh. There were some commercial glasshouses in Maryland as in other East Coast states.

Makers' marks, trademarks, or other means of identifying the firm were not usually indicated on pressed glass.

The exceptions to this are few. A person learns to know the various firms noted for pressed glass by the patterns that they made and the quality of the glass used.

Styles and designs that caught the public's fancy were soon copied by factories other than the one that originated them. Sometimes patterns were altered in one or two details and became known as variants. These patterns were described in the catalogues of glasshouses either by name or number, and specialists in pressed glass have written books about their findings.

Petal and Loop pattern, which appeared in the 1830's, was made by the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company, Sandwich, Massachusetts, by the Central Glass Company in Wheeling, West Virginia, and by two or more glasshouses in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The number of firms probably accounts for its having been made in clear, various colors, opalescent, and opaque glass, and covered dishes combining any two of these variations. The shape of the loop motif varied somewhat in products of different glasshouses.

Huber, another simple early pattern, was made by the New England Glass Company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Bakewell, Pears and Company in Pittsburgh. Sawtooth was even more popular, for it was produced by the Cambridge Glass Company and the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company as well as by Bryce Brothers, Ripley and Company, and probably others in Pittsburgh. Slightly different patterns featuring cherries were made in the 1870's by Bakewell, Pears and Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the Lancaster Glass Company, Lancaster, Ohio.

Because so many of the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company's designs and pieces, such as the famous dolphin candlesticks, were copied by numerous other glasshouses, about the best an expert can do today is to identify a piece as "probably Sandwich." Lacy glass or a piece in Petal and Loop pattern well may be. It's nice to own a piece of pressed glass that you are convinced is Sandwich, but many other factories turned out equally fine things.

The majority of pressed glass after 1850, as already explained, falls under the designation of pattern glass. The term refers specifically to the complete and matching sets for the table. A table set consisted of four matching pieces: sugar bowl, creamer, butter dish, and spoonholder. A11 large sets included these, but in some patterns a set consisted of twenty to thirty or more different pieces.

The simple but distinguished Sawtooth pattern was one that included a water bottle and tumbler set. This pattern was made from the 1860's to the 1890's in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. The pattern consisted of coarse, short points covering the outside. In a covered dish such as a compote, the sawtooth edges of dish and cover fit together precisely. Early Sawtooth pieces were heavy and good-quality glass; later ones usually were lighter and sometimes were not quite as fine glass. Because so many factories made Sawtooth, there were some variants. Basically, the pattern had the teeth covering the body of the piece.

The early Petal and Loop pattern included goblets in three styles, cordial and champagne glasses, wineglasses, and footed tumblers. Other special drinking glasses were made for ale, lemonade, and, rarely, claret. Then there might be jelly glasses with matching lids and mugs with handles.

Few patterns included all of the various kinds of glasses, but most of them had three or four. Tumblers and goblets, wines and cordials, were most common. The low broad tumblers known as bar glasses were made in different sizes, to hold 1/3 or 1/2 pint or as much as 1/3 quart. So varied were bar tumblers that one page of a glassmaker's catalogue during the 1870's pictured 54 bar glasses, each one in a different pattern or size. Jiggers were not always miniature tumblers. For example, a jigger pressed into the shape of a man's boot was only one of the many uses to which Victorians put glass boots and slippers. Decanters and a bitters bottle were natural accompaniments to the drinking glasses in some patterns.

Water sets could be purchased separately in some patterns. Painted Hobnail, Thousand Eye, Shell and Jewel, Daisy and Button, as well as its variants Daisy and Button with Thumbprint and Daisy and Button with Crossbar, were some of the better-known patterns that included water sets. Other late patterns, less popular probably, were Festoon, Crown Jewel, Star and Oval, and Moon and Star. The water set consisted of the large water pitcher, a matching glass tray, and water tumblers, lemonade tumblers, or goblets, or - in some patterns - all three. A carafe or water bottle and matching tumbler were sold separately and were referred to in some old catalogues as "water bottle and tumble up."

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