Ask About Antiques/Early American Pattern Glass

by Budd A. Moore, Ed.D.

Early American Pattern Glass began about 1826 at the Sandwich (MA) Glass Works when Deming Jarves developed a mechanical glass press that could produce glass tableware in quantity and quality at a lower cost rather than being mouth blown piece by piece. The earliest pieces were “Lacy” in appearance to help disguise flaws that often appeared in the glass. As pressed glass became clearer, simple geometric forms were popular. Until the Civil War era, glass was high in lead content to give it brilliance. This type of glass is called “flint” and it will produce a “ringing” tone when tapped. By the 1870s soda lime glass became common as it was brilliant, but considerably less expensive to produce. It does not produce the characteristic “ring” as does flint glass when tapped. At this time extensive sets of matching glassware became popular.

During the Victorian Era, the dining custom was numerous courses with elaborate table settings of many pieces of china and glassware, each having its own function. Inexpensive pressed glass allowed the middle class to copy this upper class custom. An astonishing number of glass forms were produced in matching sets; including goblets, wines or cordials, tumblers, celery holders, water and milk pitchers, sugar bowls, creamers, serving bowls, compotes, egg cups, covered butter and cheese dishes, honey dishes, syrup pitchers, relish or pickle dishes, plates, bread trays, platters, mugs and cups, decanters, cruets, cake plates and stands, salt and pepper shakers or cellars, children’s toy dishes, lemonade sets, and on and on.

Naturalistic patterns became popular during the 1870s and 1880s with flowers, animals, portraits and other natural motifs abounding. During this same time period, colors were popular in shades of vaseline (canary), amber, aqua blue, apple green and amethyst. As the “Brilliant Period” in expensive cut glass became popular in the 1890s, manufacturers sought to produce a similar, inexpensive glass for the masses and imitation cut patterns became popular through World War I. Popular glass colors changed during this time too. Opalescent colors, emerald green, cobalt blue, and red flashing were commonly seen. Glass produced after 1915 is not generally considered Early American Pattern glass, but rather a transition to the Depression Glass era.

Beginning collectors are sometimes hesitant to buy Pattern Glass because they fear the reproductions on the market. However, of the thousands of patterns produced, only a few dozen have been reproduced and only a few forms in these patterns. One can read the basic reference books, learn the fakes and generally avoid them. Also, the makers of reproductions would hope to sell more than one piece, so they did not make all forms of a pattern and often made only goblets or plates to sell in multiples. Toothpicks are reproduced rather often since these are a small, desirable collectable.

Some of the most common reproductions include: U.S. Coin, Daisy and Button (not all variations), Lion, Ruby Thumbprint, Three Face, Westward Ho, Broken Column, Thousand Eye, Two Panel, and Wildflower. These “pitfall patterns” have not been reproduced in all of the original forms or colors. As one looks at glass, the subtle differences between authentic old glass and the new reproductions becomes more evident.

Auction Action: [Recently sold at Matt Hurley’s Legacy Auction Center, 2800 Buchanan Trail East, Greencastle, Pa. 17225]
* 2 John Bell Redware Crocks, $450 each
* Victorian Ladies Chair, $205
* Ladies Paisley Shawl (1880s), $175
* Set Of 4 Easter Egg Chocolate Molds, $140
* Northwood Carnival Glass Dish (Good Luck Pattern), $140
* Coca Cola Cooler (Metal), $150
* Batman Lunch Box, $45.

Budd A. Moore, Ed.D., is a specialist in the valuation of antique and collectable objects of the last 100 years. He is an educator, counselor, and avid antique enthusiast as well as a candidate member of the American Society of Appraisers. He has been a collector of antique American Art Pottery and has been a dealer for over 20 years. He is familiar with nearly all lines of American Art Pottery, twentieth century glassware, Art Deco, and Art Nouveau categories. If you have a question about antiques or collectibles, you can e-mail him at buddm4cnsl@innernet.net or drop him a letter at P.O. Box 328, State Line, PA 17263-0328. An answer to your question may appear in a subsequent column.