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". 

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