Unloved Antiques: Depression Glass

A pair of “Iris” pattern Depression glass tumblers, made by the Jeannette Glass Company, often sell at auction for less than $10 each.

The next item in this series of Unloved Antiques is 20th century is crystal Depression glass, which gets its name from the fact the bulk of it was mass produced during the years of the Great Depression (1929-40). Depression glass is a form of pressed glass—both in clear or colored varieties—that was originally distributed free, as a premium or low cost give away. Some theater chains offered different pieces on a weekly basis to draw crowds during these lean years. Some companies, such as Quaker Oats and other packed food companies, offered glassware as a marketing method by placing it in the boxes (also saving the amount of product needed to fill the box).

Most glassware of this type was made in the central and midwest United States, an area with existing industrial manufacturing capacity with ready access to power and raw materials. Depression glass was also made in Canada for similar reasons. There were hundreds of patterns produced in clear and colors such as green, blue, pink and amber, rarer colors include cobalt blue, ruby, black, canary yellow and jadeite. Being what it was—a low cost or give away item—the quality of Depression glass isn’t top notch, but it’s always had a group of collectors since the 1960s. While some of the more unusual colors can be fairly valuable, the clear glass types like the examples above are very inexpensive, even some 80 years after its introduction.

The examples above, two tumblers from a water/lemonade set are in the “Iris” pattern, so called for its relief pattern of leaves and flowers that covered the main body of the pieces, along with a herringbone background. The pattern in clear glass was first issued circa 1928 by the Jeannette Glass Company, which was located in Jeannette, Pa.

Judging by the sheer numbers of these examples one sees at antique markets and shops, these items must have been produced in staggering numbers. The Iris pattern covered about 40 different pieces of tableware, including bowls, teacups, water/cordial sets, candelabras, light shades and plates. This pattern was revived after the Second World War and again in the 1970s, but in clearly different color variations.

The Jeannette Glass Company closed for good in 1983, after being in operation since 1898. In today’s market, the Jeannette Iris pattern tumblers above often sell at auction for less than $10 each.

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Previous “Unloved Antiques” articles:

Unloved Antiques: ‘Limited Edition’ Collectors Plates
Unloved Antiques: Singer Sewing Machines
Unloved Antiques: Decorator Prints
Unloved Antiques: Commemorative Whiskey Decanters
Unloved Antiques: ‘Bronze’ Flatware
Unloved Antiques: 1847 Rogers Brothers Flatware
Unloved Antiques: Hummel Knockoffs
Unloved Antiques: National Geographic Magazines
Unloved Antiques: Dragonware
Unloved Antiques: 19th Century Religious Prints
Unloved Antiques: Depression Glass

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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