29 April 2012


Inspired by those fetching Depression era plates my mother had carted home, I purchased this, an emerald green glass teacup in the Fire-King brand Charm pattern produced by Anchor Hocking from 1950 through 1956.  This marked the beginning of a fairly brief but passionate interest in acquiring as much Fire-King glassware as I could afford.  I now have a lot of it.  If ever I needed to preoccupy myself with the sort of purposeful wish-fulfillment that might bring down to a simmer a roiling cauldron of deeply seated uncertainties seasoned with existential dread than this was it.  Isn't that why people collect things?

Anyway,  I properly fell in love with this.  This green color was known as Forest Green and was never officially designated as a part of the Charm line which was typically associated with the colors Jadite and Azurite.  Fire-King was inexpensive and utilitarian.  It was given away in bags of flour as a promotional item or could be purchased at the grocer's or the gas station. 

There were eleven pieces in the Charm pattern.  Above is the dessert bowl.  I'm not entirely sure why I was so taken with this green.  I almost never use it.  I know some collectors put this out at Christmas, but I have never been susceptible to the arbitrary social constructs that require me to wear red for Valentine's Day or  green for St. Patrick's Day, so I will not be exhuming this for festive holiday use. 

Here's an example of the same pattern in Azurite, an icy barely-blue.  I do find this rather more appealing than the green. 

Charming as Charm was, I was fairly quick to spot the design flaw.  It's not always a simple matter to drink from square teacups.  I graduated to the conventional form with this Turquoise Blue line produced between 1956 and 1958.  It was promoted as dinnerware but marked Oven-Ware which meant you could pre-warm your glass before serving, as you do.  There are sixteen pieces in this line.

A Fire-King mug with the "D" handle.  I believe the "C" handle is somewhat more collectible.

I really do love this, the cup and saucer from the Restaurant Ware line made from 1948-1967.  I have several sets.  This is real hairy-chested man stuff, heat-proof and made specifically for mass feeding establishments. It was billed as "highest quality restaurant ware at popular prices" - $2.00 for a box of one dozen cups, $3.30 for one dozen dinner plates.

I know what you're thinking - why does our gentle author have so many cups and saucers?

I suspect that this has something to do with it - this is just a fraction of my grandmother's collection of quaint porcelain teacups.  She had an astonishing number of these, all beautifully arranged on a cupboard that spanned the width of a wall.  She collected these as well as porcelain shoes and vividly glazed pottery turtles.   I suppose my impulse toward collecting is genetic and nostalgic in equal measure.  

Here, a lovely piece of Dresden.   Compared with  the modest Fire King, this is a radiant Leslie Caron in a hat.  On the Champs-Elysees.  With Louis Jourdan, naturellement. 

Then, there was this - Swedish Modern.  Yes, Charm was charming but why settle for charming when you can cosy up with irresistible?  Oh Swedish Modern, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.  You're beautiful, you come in this gorgeous robin's egg blue, your design is perfect, you elegantly do the job you were designed to do, if life consists of pouring batter into a cake pan, then yes, you make life easier and you're called Swedish Modern, which just breathes "mid-century" and decorates the mind with images of beautifully handknit apres-ski togs, and Arne Jacobsen Egg Chairs, even though he was Danish,  and young, fresh uncomplicated people who enjoy life and eat full-fat dairy products.   

A mixing bowl in the Swirl pattern.  It's back to America and the Ohio River Valley with this - more prosaic, less design-y and inspirational, but delightful nonetheless.   More Betty Crocker and less Liv Ullmann.  Who was Norwegian. 

20 April 2012


It didn't take long for me to fall in love.  Years ago, my mother had purchased a set of six depression glass plates from a local antiques shop.  I am quite certain that until that point, I had thought of depression glass, if I'd  thought of it at all, as rather kitsch and cloying.  But, as it can be with love, all it took was just one look in a more generous state of mind and I was very quickly seduced.  I still didn't find it especially attractive, nonetheless, I felt possessed.  I remember heading home and settling in with my computer to figure out precisely what sort of thing she had found.  Yes, I did spend several hours in feverish research which is still the sort of pedantic preoccupation I relish and which was unquestionably part of the attraction at the time.  Very quickly, I became a collector, albeit one without a proper collection but, despite such a minor detail, compelled by an obsessive determination to acquire one.  For months, I would scour antique shops, wake at 4:30 in the morning to drive hours to a yard sale or an auction preview and stay up entirely too late at night prowling around on Ebay.  I worked in a bookstore at the time, one which allowed me a very generous discount on any books I might feel the need to purchase and purchase I did, establishing a perfectly respectable library on depression and mid-century American glass.  Without question, a significant part of the appeal was the fact, and this is still largely the case, that the stuff was so unbelievably inexpensive and there was so much of it out there. 

It was an affair that lasted only several months.  It ended as quickly as it began.  One day, I just stopped being interested.  I still feel no need to add to my collection but while rummaging around at my parents' recently I ran across some of my family's pieces and felt the slightest twinge of lust.  The Brimfield Antique Show is coming up and as is always the case at this time of year, I find myself vulnerable to the allure of some strangely irresistible thing.

Here, a picture of that first object of desire, the Patrician pattern designed by the Federal Glass Company in Columbus, Ohio.  Also known as the "Spoke" pattern, Patrician was produced between 1933 and 1937.  It quickly became one of the most popular designs in the Federal line.  These plates are amber, sometimes referred to as "Golden Glo", but Patrician was also manufactured in clear glass as well as green and pink, colors which are somewhat more difficult to find. 

As it turns out, my grandmother had a small collection of the same pattern.  The pink example is a largish compote.  The fruit cup below is a piece I found after the original plates appeared. 

I'm not sure where I picked this up, but I gave it to my mother as a gift thinking somehow that it was a part of the Patrician line.  It is not.  This is an example of the Cameo or Ballerina pattern manufactured by The Hocking Glass Company which subsequently became Anchor Hocking in 1937.  Cameo was produced from 1930 to 1934.  The ballerina - you may need to call on your imagination here - can be seen in this cartouche which is repeated on the plate's rim. 

This is the Madrid pattern also produced by Federal from 1932 to 1939.  This pattern was re-released in 1976 under the name Recollection Glassware.  Those pieces are marked with that date and should be fairly simple to distinguish from the originals.  Madrid came in the standard colors as well as what was called Madonna Blue, a quite vibrant and very pretty blue topaz. 

This is the comparatively stark Decagon pattern produced by the Cambridge Glass Company in the 1930's and 40's.  These belonged to my grandmother.  Decagon came in a very attractive icy Moonlight Blue which is fairly common.

This art deco pattern known as Manhattan was produced by Hocking between 1938 and 1943.  This piece is also part of my grandmother's collection.

Although the few pieces my family and I have collected were found inexpensively in antique shops, the obvious source for this glass is Ebay.  Ebay is where I began learning about depression glass and it's still a good starting point for viewing the wide variety of patterns available.  While I treasure this small collection, it's not mine.  My collection is rather more modern and primarily includes pieces from the mid-century line Fire King by Anchor Hocking.  The pattern I became completely besotted with and which I will share with you later, is known, appropriately, as "Charm". 

06 April 2012

vintage Easter greetings...

April 14, 1911
...from Aunt Sadie to Miss Susie Wilcox...

...From Sadie to Mrs Mary Ryan, Newport, Maine

...Dear Ruth, Your card came last night.  
I was at the Grange...

...Dear George, This is a nice Spring day.  Got your
letter this morning.  Wish you were coming home 
tonight.  With lots of love,  Father & Mother...

Easter 1910
...From Nellie to Master Donald Jones...

Each sent for the very agreeable sum of...

...one penny.

02 April 2012

John Griffiths...

..that illustrator responsible for some lovely images for the Autumn 1969 edition of Time and Tune, (see March), has, sadly, died recently.  In addition to the Time and Tune illustrations, Griffiths created some fantastic covers for Penguin beginning in the 1950's.  Some truly stunning shopfront illustrations as well as a few examples of his other work can be seen if you click on the links in his obituary published in today's Guardian.  In addition, several of those covers can be seen here.  I'm a Penguin collector and I dearly wish I had some of those in my modest library.  In lieu of Penguins, I can share the illustrations from that T&T booklet.  I hope you enjoy them.