By Paul Kennedy
Pam Meyer gets it.
Meyer is a Depression glass enthusiast. That’s why she’s a member of the National Depression Glass Association and chair of the group’s annual convention. But more than that, she has perspective.
And her perspective is simple: If you’ve got it, flaunt it.
“Depression glass was made to be used. If you’re not using it you’re missing out,” says Meyer who has her glass readily available in her McKinney, Texas, home. “The color, the patterns, they’re all so beautiful and interesting. If you have your glass stored away, out of sight, what good is it?”
Depression glass is experiencing a fashionable revival as people discover the joy of using pink, yellow, blue, green or crystal glass for everyday use. Depression glass is readily available and reasonably priced. It adds a touch of elegant fun to any occasion, big or small. All of which, Meyer says, makes the recent release of Warman’s Depression Glass Handbook not only timely but also helpful.
The book features 170 Depression glass patterns, detailed pattern drawings and a shape guide for easy identification, color pictures throughout and glass values.
“The first thing I recommend to people starting out is to learn as much as possible about Depression glass,” Meyer says. “This book is a great place to learn about shapes and patterns and colors. Knowledge just makes the whole experience more fun.”
Meyer and her Depression Glass Association (www.ndga.net) have been intimately involved in a number of books we’ve published through the years. The group opened the doors to their National Glass Museum in Wellington, Kansas, so we could photograph an assortment of their collection. Meyer’s experience and insight provide a lovely foreword for the book.
“Depression glass is so many things to so many different people,” Meyer, says. “I enjoy using the glass. But there is also the history of glass making, the history of the
Depression era, the joy of finding a sought-after piece of glass and books like this are beneficial in bringing alive this history of the 1920s and ’30s.
“I hope people who purchase the book will take a minute to think about the glass they are seeking and that it will put them in awe of those who came before us. When we hold a piece of colored glassware in our hands, we should feel the weight of history.”
As author Ellen Schroy notes, because of advances in glassware technology, Depression-era glass patterns were mass-produced and could be had for a fraction of the cost of cut glass or lead crystal.
Cost was critical. It meant even during the dreary days of the Great Depression, homemakers could enjoy bursts of color via this inexpensive glass dinnerware, which they often received packed in boxes of soap, or as premiums given during “dish night” at the local movie theater. Meanwhile, merchandisers like Sears & Roebock and F. W. Woolworth enticed young brides with colorful wares they could afford even in harsh economic times.
During the decades that followed, popularity of the glass has ebbed and flowed with
each generation deciding what was fashionable.
Meyer joined the Depression Glass Association in the early 1990s. She credits her mother for her glass passion. “My mom threw herself into collecting. She was a real junker. We would go on mini-vacations antiquing with her and my three sisters. I have a lot of fond memories of those times.”
When her mother passed Meyer inherited “more glass than you can imagine,” much of which she uses regularly.
Meyer and I have something in common, if not in volume at least in philosophy. When my parents passed away I inherited a green Depression glass dinner plate. You’ll find the 10-inch diameter plate on page 141 of the book. The pattern is Florentine No. 2.
The pattern’s name makes the plate sound fancier than it really is. It’s worn and only worth about $10. Maybe. But its real value, well, it’s priceless.
My mother served our birthday cakes on that plate. Each year, as a treat befitting birthday royalty, she asked her five children what kind of cake we would like. And each year those birthday cakes were placed on that green 10-inch plate.
My parents were children of the Depression. They knew hard times a bit too well. They also knew good times, which were regularly served on that glass plate.
Like Meyer, my Depression glass is used all the time. It’s beautiful, with all the color and imperfections that make life grand.