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.
The 1940’s came and with them a re-energized economy. Manufacturing boomed in the war years and the American housewife boxed up her Depression Glass in favor of bright colored table settings of Fiesta and Harlequin. The colored glassware, that had once been such an important part of Americana, would spend the next three decades in the back of the closet collecting dust.
All of that changed in 1969 when a Springfield, Missouri housewife, Hazel Weatherman, released her book “ A Guidebook to Colored Glassware of the 1920’s and 1930’s”. Traveling to the glass factories that had produced the wares, Weatherman spent endless hours pouring through old records, catalogs and archives, and interviewing workers who had been with the factories during the years of the Depression. As a result of her tireless efforts, she uncovered names of many of the original patterns and their factories of origin.
Her passion was contagious and by the early 1970’s the, all but forgotten, glassware of the Great Depression was established as a legitimate collectible. During her lifetime she would write several more books. Two of them, “Colored Glassware of the Depression Era” and “Colored Glassware of the Depression Era,” Book 2, continue to be a “must have’” for Depression-era glassware enthusiasts.
Hazel Marie Weatherman, passed away in 1997, but her love of the colored glass of mid-20th century America continues today with dozens of collectors clubs worldwide. The Hoosier Depression Glass and Pottery Club , now in it’s 30th year, offers an excellent opportunity to view rare Depression Glassware and share your passion for collecting with others. Visitors are always welcome at their meeting, held monthly at the Warren Township Library 9201 E 21st Street on the east side of Indianapolis, or follow them on Facebook for a full schedule of their events. Until next time............Linda
Linda Hamer Kennett is a professional liquidation consultant specializing in down-sizing for seniors and the liquidation of estates and may be reached for question or comment at 317-429-7887 or email@example.com