Early American Pattern Glass

An historical narrative of Victorian America told in glass.

Lot 12832 is an example of a "Polar Bear" pattern water pitcher.

Early American Pattern Glass:

Pressed Glass revolutionized the glass manufacturing industry between 1850 and 1910. The process was thus: molten glass was gathered into a mold, and then pressed. When the glass cooled, the mold was removed, and an object both beautiful and useful was revealed. Wood molds could only be used for so many pressings as each pressing scorched the wood. The first pressing was the crispest, while subsequent pressings suffered a loss to detail-- the fine lines of the eyelashes, feathers, and fur being the first to soften. For this reason, wood molds were eventually replaced by metal. Such is progress.

Although many early American pattern glass pieces were produced in mass, each was crafted by human hands. Artisans carved the wooden molds used for pressing and, after the unmolding, seams and sharp points were ground down and smoothed by hand.

Patterned glass was designed to be both durable and attractive. Families used the glassware as part of their table setting and for entertaining guests. Companies created a variety of patented patterns to meet the demand. Over 3,000 known patterns exist. With such an array of patterns and forms to choose from, pressed glass has always held collectible appeal. Victorian ladies collected favorite patterns, traded with one another, and gave pressed glass pieces as hostess gifts. Modern day collectors are attracted to the historical and social significance of the pieces that managed to survive the daily household use of so long ago.

The "Actress" Pattern:

One of the more socially appealing patterns was that of the "Actress" pattern. The "Actress" pattern was made by the La Belle Glass Co during the 1880’s and featured cameo portraits of the favorite stage actresses of the time. Everything from water goblets, to milk pitchers, sugar bowls, pickle dishes, and celery holders were created to immortalize these female actors. The distinguishing feature of all the "Actress" glassware was the stippled shell. It is thought that this symbol was chosen for the thespians because of its association with crusaders. Crusaders made a point to return home with a souvenir of a scallop shell as evidence that they had truly been to the Holy land. For that reason it became the badge of the wayfarer. As travelers, actors assumed this wayfarer badge too.

This Marmalade from lot 12856 venerates Maud Granger and Lotta Crabtree.

A different angle of this piece shows the cleverly disguised seam and distinctive scallop shell pattern.

The detail of an actress pattern bread tray included in lot 12856 shows the stippled cameo of Lillian Adelaide Nelson, a Shakespearean actress made famous for her role as Juliet. The script surrounding her portrait reads: “our daily bread”.

The rarest variation of the "Actress" Pattern is a covered cheese dish that depicts male stage actors. Cheese dishes served the very practical purpose of keeping cheese from drying out on the counter or being nibbled on by bugs in the days before refrigeration and window screens.

The domed lid of Lot 12826 honors the actor Sanderson Moffat for his acclaimed role in the "The Lone Fisherman".

Shakespearean actors Stuart Robson and William H. Crane are venerated on the base of this cheese dish as "The Two Drominos" from "Comedy of Errors".

The "Owl and The Pussycat" Pattern:

Considering the similarity in design to the "Actress" cheese dish-- a domed lid with a decorative base-- this rare "Owl and The Pussycat" piece was most likely a singleton pattern manufactured by Adams & Co. of Pittsburgh, PA.

Lot 12825.

lot 12825 detail of the base of the cheese dish.

The "Polar Bear" Pattern:

Another rare pattern in Early American Pattern Glass is the “Polar Bear” pattern from the 1883. This pAttern commemorates the Alaska Purchase-- the acquisition of Alaska from the Russian Empire in 1867.

via fineartamerica.com

An arctic scene fills the center of the tray. Seals and a polar bear rest on an iceberg, and gulls circle above as a ship approaches. The ship is named “C. G. Co.” for the tray's manufacturer, Crystal Glass Company of Pittsburgh, PA. The border bears the company's trade mark 'egg and dart' border.

Lot 12834 features a "Polar Bear" pattern tray.

Polar bear detail.