Depression Glass was manufactured from the late 1920’s through the early 1940’s. No grinding or hand polishing was done to these machined, mass-produced pieces. The way it came from the mold, was the way it was shipped. It was not expensive. You could purchase most pieces for around 14 cents, a full set of dinnerware would run you $2-$3, or you could find it free in a box of oatmeal. At it’s peak of production is was made by more than 20 factories and available in over 100 patterns. So if it is not rare, nor high quality, why is it one of America’s most enduring collectibles? While opinions may vary, I join with those who would say that more than any other glassware in history, it represents the determination of the American people.
The Great Depression of the 1930’s saw the demise of many companies in the US and the glass manufacturers were among the hardest hit. In a field which boasted over 100 companies in the late 1920’s, more than half would close their doors by the end of the Depression. So why did some survive? Credit it to good old “American ingenuity”.
Down, but not out, American glass producers hit on the concept of an inexpensive colorful glassware that could be used as a promotional tool. Movie theaters, gas stations and many retail stores would give you a piece of glass just for walking in the door. Some were so clever as to use the glassware as a mini-billboard carrying their advertising slogan. Pickle dishes have surfaced with the slogan, “A little at a time”, referring to the installment method of purchasing, and “You furnish the girl, we’ll furnish the House” was frequently used on dishes given away by furniture stores.
In a time when money was scarce and spirits were low, the concept of something for nothing was widely embraced by the public. Glass factories sold their glassware by the barrel to companies who welcomed the “premium with purchase” concept. Depression Glass was given as a premium in bags of flour, boxes of laundry detergent and one of the largest orders on record came in 1934 when The Quaker Oats Company ordered five railroad cars full of the colored glass to be used as a giveaway in their boxes of cereal.