For the record, a body of collectibles needs to have somewhere to begin and end and most, for simplicity, have chosen 1850 -1910, the Victorian era. Today, it is realized that many other factories on the East Coast & in the Pittsburgh, PA and Wheeling, West Va areas also made lacy looking glass.
The first pressed glass pieces made were drawer pulls, cup plates, master salts, curtain tie backs and later there were perfume bottles, decanters & some dishes. A frequently asked question about lead glass is whether it is safe to use for eating and drinking.
The creamers & pitchers mostly had applied handles made by attaching a molten strap of glass onto a molded body. Applying this hot strap to the cooled body frequently resulted in a stress fracture or heat check at the attachment point, which were understandably common in these pieces.
Later in this period, shooters and pomade or pickle jars were added to the forms made. During the 1860s, changes in the availability of elements, including lead used in the formula for glass necessitated in part by the Civil War, caused the dishes to take on different physical characteristics.
They were lighter weight, less expensive, less clear and exhibited no bell tones. On the positive side, it was better able to create more elaborate designs in the glass. The idea of a matched glassware table service quickly caught on in America.
During this time, tall pieces such as high standard compotes and cake stands were made in 2 parts and had “wafer” connections. A small dab of molten glass was put between the top and the standard (base) which, when cooled, stuck the 2 pieces together (forming the wafer) although sometimes not totally on the same plane leaving the finished product a little tilt or twisty.
The number of patterns expanded & changed from being mostly geometric & ribbed styles to folksy naturalistic designs which reflected current trends in home fashions. Lots of stars were stylishly employed and commemorative objects were made that exhibited the pride Americans had in our Country.
Some glass dishes during this Age were fancied up by frosting, by sand blasting, grinding or chemical exposure; copper wheel or stone wheel engraving; some acid etching and other colorless decor. It is interesting how many collectors & even sellers confuse engraving and etching processes on APG. In a nutshell, if the decoration is cut into the surface of the glass (you are able to feel the ‘catch it’ with your thumbnail) it is probably engraved and if it is smooth to the touch, it is probably etched. By far, most APG is decorated by engraving with only a handful of whole pattern lines, such as Ohio and Livonia being etched.
A few etched patterns, such as Deer & Dog and Flamingo Habitat show scenes or tell a story. Astronomical quantities were sold in dime stores, through catalogs such as Sears & Montgomery Wards and some pieces were given away as premiums in soap, oatmeal, jelly, etc.
The “Gay 90s” began with a severe nationwide economic depression, necessitating the closing of many smaller glass companies many of which turned over their most valuable tangible assets, their molds, to larger conglomerates. This group strategy allowed the continued production of most patterns, although many were renamed and altered slightly in design when the molds changed hands.
The production of the States series continued into the first decade of the twentieth century, but by about 1910, the designs began to lose their Victorian flavor taking the look of the fancier cut glass. And then there is the riddle of what glass is actually included in this family friendly collectible field.
Some of these were flat and some were footed e.g. on a short pedestal like what we commonly think of as sherbet dishes. A few sets of children's’ or toy dishes were made to match their kitchen sized pattern lines. Hawaiian Lei, Two Bands, Lion Head, Liberty Bell and Sawtooth come to mind.
Bread plates, which were made in most patterns but also in some stand-alone designs, are popular APG collectibles, and they also make unique wedding gifts. Many of them had embossed mottos in the center or edge such as “A Good Mother Makes a Happy Home”, “It is Pleasant to Labor For Those You Love” and several Bible verses, most often, “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”.
And small pots or jars were popular to hold horseradish and mustard, commonly used condiments to hide the taste of meat, which was often, shall we say, past fresh. What most resources and references about APG donut tell you is that this glass was the dishes of the “every day (Victorian era) Housewife”.
Wealthy people supped from fine china & blown glass drinking vessels brought across the sea from The Continent. Before American industry introduced this inexpensively made glass commodity, folks of slim means were mostly fed from metal, pottery or wooden plates and drank from primitive cups.
And so, many pieces exhibit what many now erroneously call straw marks ”, and/or rough spots from imperfect molds, and/or the ubiquitous enclosed or even burst bubbles and/or tilt or twisty pieces which set up askance after having been removed from the mold a little early. Certainly few collectors are satisfied with harm, such as cracks, chips or UV caused purple discoloration, nor should they be.
We hope you will begin to love APG with a little more appreciation for its historical story and try to imagine the life situation of the first owners of each piece as they struggled through the terrible War that divided our Country, Reconstruction as our ancestors put us back together, the incredible Westward expansion causing some pieces to be carted in covered wagons, the terrible Great Depression of the 1890s and the industrialization that emerged as we burst into the 20th century. Elaine is a founding member of the Early American Pattern Glass Society.
(Early American Pattern Glass) ~ Summary & Information Skip to content The term APG (Early American Pattern Glass) is applied to pressed glass tableware (occasionally including some blown glassware), made in sets, made within the United States primarily in the period 1850-1915, and carrying some type of recognizable pattern (motif, theme or design raised in the glass) which is repeated, often with some slight variations, from piece to piece. Amber “EARL” pattern relish/pickle dish, made by Bryce, ZigBee & Company, Pittsburgh, PA, circa 1885. Some APG “sets” consisted of only a very few pieces, such as the “basic four” or “table set”: sugar bowl, creamer, sooner (spoon holder) and butter dish.
However, many patterns, including some of the most widely collected and better-known patterns, were made in many dozens of forms (shapes or pieces), for example: relish or pickle dishes/bowls, goblets (stemmed wine or water glasses), tumblers, candy dishes, compotes, comports, celery vases, salts (salt dishes or salt cellars), finger bowls, match holders, toothpicks (toothpick holders), sauce dishes, punch cups, punch bowls, mustard jars, syrup pitchers (molasses cans), cheese dishes, vinegar and oil cruets, egg cups, cake plates, bread plates, pickle jars, mugs, large water pitchers, oil lamps, dresser trays, ring trays, jam jars, and others. “TWO PANEL” sooner in blue, made by King, Son & Company of Pittsburgh, mid-1880s.
Most of this type of tableware was (originally) relatively inexpensive, and was commonly purchased and used primarily by the “middle class” segment of society. During the height of popularity of colored APG (the 1880s), many pieces were made in blue, amber, yellow (“canary” or “Vaseline glass”), and some in a light to medium “apple green”, as well as in clear.
Pink Alabaster & Yellow Amber “East lake” pattern children’s mugs made by Canterbury & Company, Pittsburgh, circa 1880s-1890s. This pattern was not part of a regular “table set” but is classed as APG by collectors.
An increasing amount of APG (along with bottles, insulators, fruit jars and other types of collectible antique glass) has been artificially altered by irradiation in recent years, turning the clear glass to some shade of medium to very dark purple. Blue glass “Thousand Eye” pattern “Carriage” Relish Dish, made by Adams & Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the mid-1880s.
How on earth can we discover who made each piece, what it’s called, and what it’s worth? Mollie Helen McCain wrote one of the best books on the subject.
(Many motifs are common both to APG and American Brilliant.) One of the most difficult things about identifying patterns is calling the motifs by the correct names.
Thistles are common on APG pieces, and they look just like this. Then one day I was browsing through the book, looking for yet another mysterious pattern.
I finally gave up and asked in a Facebook group I belong to. Within moments, one of the experts informed me that it’s Duncan & Miller’s “Homestead.” Sure enough, there it was on page 225.
And the index doesn’t refer to it under any of the above search terms. I’ve learned to keep looking at those McCain drawings.
By visiting websites you’ll get a better sense of current value. I do this only after I’ve totally exhausted my own efforts, namely because I take pride in being able to find anything.
But one day, I’ll be the one who pipes up and says “oh, that’s Lancaster’s “Stippled Fans” on page 237. I'm a marketing communications writer who also loves antiques and collectibles.