A Brief History of Antique Pressed Glass
By EAPGS members Sean George and Wendy Jones of Sean George Pressed Glass & Goblets
Pressed Glass, also referred to as Pattern Glass, was produced between 1850 to 1910. The majority was produced in the 1880’s. When it was originally designed, it was intended for everyday use and was made to be very durable and at the same time, attractive.
Families would use glassware as part of their table setting or for entertaining guests. For these reasons, producers made many different patterns to attract the customer to buy their products. Once a pattern was designed, it was patented along with its name so that it could not be duplicated, unless patents or molds were sold to other companies.
Often competitors would produce similar patterns or similar names, if the pattern proved to be popular with the public. For example, the “Flamingo” pattern has similarities to the “Clear Flamingo” pattern, not only in looks, but name as well.
Pressed Glass was produced in both Canada and the United States, with American companies outnumbering Canadian factories. Each year companies competed to produce the most attractive and popular patterns. Pressed Glass patterns were designed and then duplicated into a cast iron mold. The mold was then fired at an extreme temperature. The pieces of the mold were pulled away from the glass and the piece was left to cool.
If you examine a piece of pressed glass you will always find either two, three or four seams running through the glass, although sometimes the seams were well hidden in the pattern. The number of mold lines in a piece of glass does not determine the age. If the piece was small, manufacturers would use a two piece mold; if they were making compotes they would use a three piece mold. When manufacturers made punch bowls, they would use a four piece mold because of its large size, or a four piece mold was used for square patterns to help create the shape.
Around the 1920’s, Pressed Glass lost its popularity and crystal became the ‘in thing’. Affordable crystal was being shipped from Europe and France. When the depression came, people could no longer afford crystal and returned to pressed glass, or “the affordable glassware.” This new period of glassware became known as “Depression Glass”. It was produced the same way, pressed into a cast iron mold, but in different patterns and colours to brighten your day.
When manufacturers began producing pressed glass (1850-1910); patterns ranged from very plain to very elaborate cut glass imitations. The market tried and tested each pattern. Even patterns with Animals, Fruits and Florals were designed and created, with attention to fine details. Some of the patterns were produced as full table settings, while others were produced only in goblet form or single tableware pieces. People originally bought goblets and tableware for their beauty and artistic design. In addition, it was functional and affordable.
Just as ladies back then were collecting, trading and buying pressed glass for gifts, we continue to do so today. Collectors enjoy choosing and finding their favourite patterns among the over 3000 known patterns produced in early Pressed Glass.
Reproduced with the kind permission of Sean George Pressed Glass & Goblets - www.pressedglassandgoblets.com