Watch out! The collecting bug will bite you without warning! I first learned about Depression Glass several years ago, when I was invited to attend an informal talk with friends. I had no idea what Depression Glass was and had only a passing interest in the subject of the lecture. I only went in order to spend some time with my friends. Little did I know that I was about to be bitten hard with a lifelong love of this beautiful glassware!
Pastel pinks, greens, yellows, and even blues dazzled like jewels on our hostess’ table! The patterns were captivating. Glittering glass bowls, plates, and candlesticks embedded with loops and swirls, delicate flowers, and joyful dancing girls – it was hard to believe such beautiful items were once dime store giveaways!
We learned that these fragile treasures were produced during the Great Depression, when times were hard and people had a difficult time purchasing new things. These glass pieces, sold at dime-stores, were very inexpensive, and were often given away in soap, flour, and other goods. Giveaways were even offered at the movie theater as an added enticement to spend an evening at the movies, where tickets were often only a dime! As a result, this lovely glass was given hard use, often broken, and easily discarded as junk.
The term,”Depression Glass,” didn’t come until years later, when collectors began to appreciate this charming glassware, not only for its many patterns and colors, but for its history, as well. It was becoming more difficult to find for all of the reasons above. Children and grandchildren of the Depression Era were also gaining new appreciation for this glass tableware perhaps because of the fond childhood memories it evoked.
As a young wife and mother, I watched my pennies, but it was love at first sight for me. Bewitched with a new discovery, I began to attend more auctions, antique shows, and flea markets in search of this still relatively inexpensive glass. I became obsessed with Gene Florence’s Collector’s Encyclopedia of Depression Glass series and also devoured Hazel Marie Weatherman‘s books on Depression Glass. I learned to recognize the patterns, and I memorized the pattern names and the companies who made them. It was interesting to learn that while most patterns were produced within the mold, some designs were added with a silk-screen process. It made me sad to know that once large glass companies like Jeannette, Macbeth-Evans, Federal, and Hazel-Atlas either merged with other glass companies or had gone out of business as demand for this pretty but inexpensive glass waned. My husband’s story of helping his grandparents move and being told to just drop that old glass out the window still makes me cringe!
As luck would have it, my fascination with this glassware took off at just about the same time the prices were going up. As I searched, Depression Glass began to disappear into people’s collections or commanded outrageous prices even at flea markets. Some pieces were unattainable on my budget, but I was thrilled when I came across an item I could add to my collection!
That first Christmas after I had begun collecting, my husband surprised me with a green covered serving bowl in the Floral pattern by Jeannette! Nicknamed Poinsettia for its resemblance to that flower, this piece has become a traditional serving bowl on my Christmas table.
As my treasure hunt continued, my husband, mother, and mother-in-law joined in the search. (Both moms loved Hocking’s pink Miss America –
and they shared a birthday – making gift-giving sometimes challenging!)
Soon I began running out of cupboard space! I realized I had to settle on a particular pattern or two, and a particular color, (or two, ok, well… three) in order to keep my collection at manageable levels. With some difficulty, I decided on Hocking’s green Cameo, nicknamed the Dancing Girl pattern,
and MacBeth-Evans’ silk-screened pink Dogwood as my favorites.
Of course, I couldn’t turn down a piece of Hocking’s stunning blue Mayfair if it was a bargain!
I avoided yellow just so I could say I was keeping my obsession under control! Treasure hunting is fun, and I always enjoy using these items when serving family and guests. The colors blend together well, and the shine of glass creates a stunning tablescape!
As my daughter was growing up, she, too, fell in love with Depression Glass. Her favorite patterns were Jeannette’s pink Cherry Blossom and American Sweetheart in the ethereal opaque white called Monax by MacBeth-Evans.
Later, she found new loves in Federal’s green Georgian Lovebirds, and, lo and behold, my husband’s grandmother had some yellow Princess by Hocking, and that pattern, too, was added to our treasure hunt!
Decades later Depression Glass, now between 75 and 90 years old, continues to be relatively difficult to find, but prices have fallen over the last ten to fifteen years. The demand is no longer as great. It seems that many young adults have little to no interest in this historical glassware. Remembering my experience, this thought amuses me, because I, too, was once a young adult with little to no interest in Depression Glass – and then its sparkle drew me in. Who knows when that bug will bite?
Now is a perfect time to start a collection and own a pretty piece of history from an era of the past! Art Deco is in style, prices on colored Depression Glass are low, and the internet can be a wonderful research tool. With a little effort, anyone can learn to recognize desired patterns and pieces. It’s important to be informed. Some Depression Glass patterns have been reproduced, many in colors that were never made originally. Also, some sellers may be asking prices that were acceptable ten to twenty years ago, but now are unreasonably high.
My passions have expanded and changed over the years, but I still love and search for those elusive pieces of Depression Glass. Even now, I find new pieces that I have difficulty identifying. This pretty pink compote is a mystery to me. Please comment if you recognize the pattern!
The Depression Era brought something for everyone in glassware, and I soon added a new favorite search. Glass companies like Heisey, Imperial, and Fostoria, produced fine, hand worked and acid etched glass from the 1920s through the 1940s and decades beyond. They sold their crystal and colored glass at jewelry and department stores, and many brides selected their patterns as their Wedding crystal. I will have much more to say about this better quality glass in an upcoming post!