Depression era Glass

June 15, 2015

Learning to live on little or nothing was the way of life for many families for a decade or more beginning in 1929. Times were tough during the Great Depression, in the United States and Canada depression glassware were distributed for free or at a low cost. Depression glass is clear or colored translucent glassware, a subset of Uranium Glass. It is very popular due to its affordability and availablity. It can be used daily or for special occasions and comes in an array of elegant colors. Depression Glassware was made in the US from the early 1920s all the way through to the end of World War II. It was the first machine produced mass made and nationally produced glassware in America. Majority of depression glass is colored though there were many clear patterns, some opaque and some with metallic accents or decorations. Even in the late 1950s several patterns were still produced due to its massive popularity.

Depression Glassware started out as a promotional item or an incentive to purchase products.  The Quaker Oats Company, and other food manufacturers and distributors, put a piece of glassware in boxes of food, as an incentive to purchase. Movie houses would distribute a piece for simply going in, gas stations also give them out to attract customers. There were over 100 companies producing glasswares before the depression but after the depression there were only half that number. Most of the production of the depression glass took place in the Ohio River Valley where access to raw materials were inexpensive.  More than twenty manufacturers made more than 100 patterns, and entire dinner sets were made in some patterns. Common colors are clear (crystal), pink, pale blue, green, and amber. Less common colors include yellow (canary), ultramarine, jadeite (opaque pale green), delphite (opaque pale blue), cobalt blue, red (ruby & royal ruby), black, amethyst, monax, and white (milk glass).

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Glassware produced during that era has been divided into two type: depression glass and elegant glass. Elegant glass as the name suggests is of superior and elegant quality with a definitive detail that went into the finishing of the product. It was distributed through jewelry and department stores from the 1920s through the 1950s, and was an alternative to fine china. Most of the elegant glassware manufacturers had closed by the end of the 1950s, when cheap glassware and imported china replaced Elegant glass. Depression glass on the other hand had a bit more crude and simple finishing although elaborate details were added after it was made. The rough edges from left from the molds were not polished down as compared to the elegant glass.

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The production process of depression glass was very rudimentary so flaws were common such as straw marks, rough edges or a piece may lean to one side. Straw marks have been mistaken for cracks but they really are just lines occurring on the surface of the glass during the manufacturing process. The rough edges were caused by the seams in the molds which were not polished down so as to save production costs hereby making the finished item affordable. These characteristics are common and have been accepted by collectors as part of depression glass.

With the advancement of technology and availability of advance machinery it is now quite easy to reproduce depression glassware’s that were knowingly or unknowingly passed off as originals by wholesalers and retailers worldwide. These reproductions look like the originals that even the most experienced collector could be fooled. Patience and thorough examination of each item is needed to ascertain its authenticity.


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