Depression glassware is a machine-pressed product that was mass produced for sale in five and dime stores at extremely low prices. In the world of collecting Depression glass, green is the overwhelming favorite color, outpacing amber, yellow and pink varieties. Despite popular belief, Depression glass was first produced in the mid-1920s and continued to be produced well into the 1950s. However, glass companies produced the bulk of Depression glass during the height of the Great Depression, giving the glassware its name.
Depression glass was first produced by the Indiana Glass Co. which introduced Avocado, an Art Nouveau pattern in 1923. Between 1925 and 1929, 23 patterns were introduced by six different companies, including the aforementioned Indiana Glass, as well as Hocking Glass, U.S. Glass, Federal Glass, Jeannette Glass and MacBeth-Evans. A seventh company, Hazel-Atlas, entered the market in 1930. In all, historians say that 19 companies produced Depression glass. Of those, 12 made one to five patterns; the other seven were collectively responsible for 92 patterns. These companies produced a myriad of glass in many different colors including green.
These 92 patterns were called "known" patterns because their patterns and shapes were given names by manufacturers. In addition to these, however, there were hundreds of pieces of Depression glass produced in different patterns and designs, and many of them didn't have names. These are known as "generic glass."
By the end of the 1930s, the techniques and machinery used for making Depression glass were being abandoned for more automated glass-molding methods. In addition, as World War II loomed, shortages of materials changed the nature and quantity of glass production, making the manufacture of Depression glass less viable. Consumer tastes also changed markedly, lowering demand for the colorful glassware.
The Indiana Glass Co., located in Dunkirk, Indiana, is credited with producing the first pattern (Avocado) that is considered Depression glass. It is also responsible for manufacturing the Indiana Sandwich, Pyramid #610 and Tea Room patterns, all of which were available in green.
The Hocking Glass Co. began in 1905 in Lancaster, Ohio, and is associated with such patterns as Block Optic, Bubble and Cameo. Hocking's Spiral pattern, made beginning about 1928, was manufactured mainly in green.
Jeanette Glass of Jeannette, Pennsylvania, introduced 14 collectible Depression glass patterns from 1928 through 1938, including the Iris (also known as Iris and Herringbone or simply Iris Herringbone), Cube and Adam patterns, all available in green. Jeannette is also credited with producing the Cherry Blossom and Windsor patterns.
Hazel Atlas Glass Co. was founded in 1902 in Wheeling, West Virginia. It started making colored glass in 1929. Hazel Atlas Glass patterns include Aurora, Cloverleaf and Florentine #1 and #2, the latter two of which were made predominantly in green.
Several patterns of green Depression glass are available to today's collector, according to depressionglasssecrets.com. One common pattern is called Cameo. Cameo pieces usually have a ballerina pressed into them, a design that was said to pay homage to the modern dancer Isadora Duncan. According to the article "Patterns Important to the History of Depression Glass" by Joyce E. Krupey, Cameo is the only pattern to use a human figure as well as a pattern. Hocking Glass Co. introduced Cameo in 1930; it came in green, as well as pink, crystal and yellow.
The Mayfair, Banded Ring (also known simply as Ring) and Adam patterns are more lineal. Mayfair, introduced by Hocking in 1931, features long lines extending from a central location, while Banded Ring, also from Hocking and launched in 1927, features concentric circles with crossing lines extending from the center. The Adam pattern boasts thick indented vertical lines. Adam was produced by Jeannette Glass and was introduced in 1932.
Cube-patterned green Depression glass features a series of raised cubes on the surface of the glass. Jeannette Glass introduced Cube in 1929, and it was made in eight colors: green, pink, crystal, amber, yellow, cobalt, teal and white.
Other Depression glass patterns produced in green include Iris, an Art Nouveau pattern introduced in 1928 by Jeannette Glass; Aunt Polly, an Art Deco-influenced design that U.S. Glass launched in 1928 and that combines a number of geometric elements; and Lorain #615, a floral-basket design put out by the Indiana Glass Co. in 1929.
When shopping for green Depression glass, look for straw marks and ripples, most often found on the bottom of the pieces. These flaws commonly appeared due to glass buildup on older molds. These marks along with air bubbles in the glass are the hallmarks of a true piece of Depression glass; reproductions will not have these marks.
When collecting green Depression glass, look for pieces in mint condition. According to depressionglasssecrets.com, scratched, cracked or chipped pieces are worth much less. However, scratches made by utensils are fairly common in authentic pieces. Avoid buying cloudy glassware (sometimes referred to as "sick" glass) that has been etched by an automatic dishwasher.
According to justglassonline.com, one way to check for chips is to run a finger around the edges and rims of dishes. Holding the piece up to a light will also help reveal any cracks.
As far as color goes, true "Depression green" glass is usually the color of grass or a green crayon and has a mold-etched design with raised surfaces. Pieces in darker olive green were most likely made after the Depression era.
It was common for glass companies to give away Depression glass at movie theaters, in grocery stores with the purchase of a bag of sugar or flour, in department stores with a purchase of furniture and at five and dimes. Movie houses often gave it away to bring in customers on slow nights, and gas stations and restaurants offered it as a reward to regular patrons.
The Quaker Oats cereal company literally saved one glass company from going bankrupt by ordering several boxcar loads of Depression glass during a particularly lean time during the Depression years.
Aside from the beautiful colors and designs that were supposed to represent a sense of hope in desperate times, even the pattern names of Depression glass were supposed to refer to better days and reflected the nostalgia for the glamorous lifestyle of the 1920s. Surprisingly, though, rarely was Depression glass marked with the manufacturer's name or mark.
According to the article "Depression Glass--Antique Glass That's Living History" by Shane Dayton, the colors of Depression glass most popular with collectors today include green, blue and pink. The most popular patterns include Cameo, Mayfair, Princess, Royal Lace (all available in green) and American Sweetheart.
- green abstraction image by Vaida from Fotolia.com