Depression glass is clear or colored translucent glassware that was distributed free, or at low cost, in the United States around the time of the Great Depression. The Quaker Oats Company, and other food manufacturers and distributors, put a piece of glassware in boxes of food, as an incentive to purchase. Movie theaters and businesses would hand out a piece simply for coming in the door.
Most of this glassware was made in the central and mid-west United States, where access to raw materials and power made manufacturing inexpensive in the first half of the twentieth century. More than twenty manufacturers made more than 100 patterns, and entire dinner sets were made in some patterns. Common colors are clear, (crystal); pink, pale blue, green, and amber. Less common colors include yellow (canary), ultra marine, jadeite (opaque pale green), delphite (opaque pale blue), cobalt blue, red (ruby & royal ruby), black, amethyst, monax, and white (milk glass).
Although of marginal quality, Depression glass has been highly collectible since the 1960s. Due to its popularity as a collectible, Depression glass is becoming more scarce on the open market. Scarce pieces may sell for several hundred dollars. Some manufacturers continued to make popular patterns after World War II, or introduced similar patterns, which are also collectible. Popular and expensive patterns and pieces have been reproduced, and reproductions are still being made.
Depression Glass Manufacturers and patterns
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Often confused with Depression Glass is Elegant glass, of much better quality, and sometimes referred to as Elegant glass, was distributed through jewelry and department stores. From the 1920s through the 1950s, it was an alternative to fine china. Most of the Elegant glassware manufacturers had closed by the end of the 1950s, and cheap glassware and imported china replaced Elegant glass.
Some Elegant glass manufacturers were:
- Cambridge Glass Company
- Consolidated Lamp and Glass Company
- Duncan Miller Glass Company
- Fenton Art Glass Company
- Fostoria Glass Company
- Heisey Glass Company
- Imperial Glass Company
- Lotus Glass Company
- McKee Glass Company
- Morgantown Glass Works
- New Martinsville Glass Company
- Paden City Glass Company
- Tiffin Glass Company
- Westmoreland Glass Company