By Pam Meyer
When I think of Depression glass, I think of the kaleidoscope of colors and myriad patterns of American-made glassware of the Depression era. Once I started hunting for different patterns and pieces, I discovered so much more than colors and patterns.
Learning about Depression glass is like taking a stroll back in time to the late 1920s and 1930s. When this beautiful, colorful glass was made, it was just the beginning. Most of the glassware produced prior to this time was mostly heavier crystal glass, often just in table settings or as odd pieces. Then the means and machinery to mass-produce glassware was invented — thousands of pieces were created on a daily basis.
Depression glass was used as premiums in cereal and detergent and was given away at movie theaters and gas stations. Advertisements from magazines and newspapers show sets being given away with the purchase of an appliance. Pieces were sold in variety stores for pennies so that homemakers could afford to add pieces to their sets. These dishes were used everyday, brightening the otherwise drab lives of folks struggling through the Great Depression. Today, those premium pieces are highly sought after among collectors.
Another kind of glass, Elegant Depression, was also made during the Depression era. This glass is of better quality and took much longer to produce. The companies that made this glass had many employees who had to touch each piece. Unlike Depression glass — which was poured into molds, popped out and shipped — Elegant Depression had to have things like spouts and handles applied by hand. Many beautiful etched patterns had to be created and applied to the glass. This glass was sold in better department stores.
How do you learn more about the different glass companies, patterns and styles of glass manufactured during this historic era? You can start by joining a Depression glass club where people meet to talk to and learn from one another. You can visit your local library where wonderful reference books like “Warman’s Depression Glass” explain the history, show the patterns and provide secondary market values of Depression glass.
Another excellent resource is the National Depression Glass Association, www.NDGA.net, which provides information on clubs, its museum, annual convention (July 12-13, 2014) and much more.
You can also go to a museum to view a multitude of patterns in a rainbow of colors, as well as the actual tools used to produce these pieces and other glass made during the Depression. One such museum recently opened in Wellington, Kansas, in 2012. The NDGA National Glass Museum features glass from all glassmakers of the era. There are other museums around the country that focus on individual glass companies, and they are wonderful, too. If you have an opportunity to visit a glass museum, take it! Learn about the era and the history behind the glass you love.
Remember to be careful around Depression glass — folks are easily bitten by the glass bug and there is no cure!