The COLORFUL Story of
Early American Pattern Glass

Our intention in this section of Pattern Glass School is not to create an in-depth
treatise on chemicals & processes used in coloring glass, but to simply
show some of the pretty, authentic colors in which pattern glass was made
between the years of 1840 and 1910.
                                            Just a Little bit of technical info...
    Glass made with pure ingredients in a proper, controlled mix, is clear, transparent & colorless. Color is produced by adding metallic oxides or other salts to the glass formula. To insure that natural colors imparted to glass are not changed by impurities in sand, glassmaker’s soap (black oxide of manganese) is added to a pot of molten glass to clarify the mixture.
         Heat & time are other factors used to control color and the amount of oxygen in the melting chamber also affects it. The color of the batch is dependent on the amount and chemical nature of additives in addition to the basic batch composition.

     Just a word or two about color and dating glass.   According to Tom Bredehoft, with a few exceptions, the colors amber, yellow, canary, sapphire blue, and apple green were made in the 1884-1886 period, and not again until the 1920s. A couple of these are that Ripley didn't use any color then and Riverside used Canary ca 1900 and a few others, of course. No rule is absolute.

      The terminology used to describe pattern glass colors over the years has evolved from dictionary definitions, manufacturer’s trade names, tradition, collectors’ suggestion and other factors.

   Here is a collection of Greentown's Dewey pattern mugs in a wide array of colors: amber, green, blue, vaseline, clear, nile green opaque and chocolate slag.

In addition to colors,
there are 3 basic transparency dependent types of glass:
      #1 Transparent: glass through which you can see objects clearly.
This type of pattern glass was manufactured in many shades & hues of amber, blue, green, vaseline or canary, and rarely in amethyst, cranberry and “depression pink”. No known pattern glass was made originally in ruby red color.

The above pieces are various colors of transparent glass.
Only a very few EAPG patterns were made in amethyst colored glass and
almost all of them are shown in the 2 photos above.
  (Do not be fooled into thinking that
the light, sickly 'sun purple' altered color is actual amethyst EAPG.)

  #2 Translucent: glass through which you can see light
but objects only indistinctly

                    Frosted colors, and white & blue clambroth and golden agate
are examples of this type
Hobbs frosted marine green sauce dishes in two different variations.
An early clambroth Lacy glass master salt.
A blue "milk glass" footed sauce dish in Swan on Pond pattern.
Greentown's Golden Agate or as it is better known, Holly Amber sauce dish. KING'S 500 is one of the few patterns made in the deeper cobalt blue. Both McKee & Tarentum made a few probably experimental patterns in this "Depression Pink" color.
McKee named theirs "Rose Pink".

It should be noted that frosting is an after added effect but when applied overall, the result renders the piece translucent.

#3 Opaque: glass which does not admit light and
so you can’t see through it.

       This would include caramel, custard, and marble or slag glass
& milk white glass originally called “opal” by some manufacturers.
A Northwood Custard mug in Singing Bird pattern.
A Near Cut Inverted Strawberry tumbler in pink slag.
Milk glass was used to make a number of Victorian Novelties such as this little "straw" hat.

Opalescent: is not a color but a milky white property of glass, usually on rims and edges. It results from adding heat sensitive calcium phosphate (bone ash) to the glass formula and then reheating the article after it has been cooled.
Jefferson's green opalescent master berry in Idyll pattern.
Vaseline Opalescent Alaska spooner by Northwood

The above pieces are examples of some extraordinary colors used in
a few patterns, mostly by Hobbs Brockunier.
On the left is a Hobbs Polka Dot pattern cruet in the color mix known as Rubina Verde and
on the right is a canoe in the Daisy & Button pattern by Hobbs in the color Amberina.
                   Addendum by Tom Bredehoft, glass researcher extraordinaire    
     In the early 1880's the glass industry, and actually, all the country was entering into a minor recession. Glass sales fell off and in order to stimulate sales, almost all manufacturers began making glass in what I call the "ABC" colors, Amber, Blue, and Canary.
     A few companies made other colors, Hobbs, King, and a couple others made pale
green, Bryce and Doyle made amethyst. This list is incomplete, I started on it
and found that the colors were not unique to companies, and haven't completed
the research. It's difficult to do, you have to find glass in known patterns in
specific colors to verify that a particular company made a particular color.
     We found a quote from 1886 that in effect said that no one was making colored
glass any more. This means that most of the colored glass (ABC) was made in
about 4 years. U. S. Glass Co. started making Dewey blue and Emerald Green in
'98, but between 86 and 98, almost no colored glass was made. Sure Hobbs made
some, but they closed in 93.

For a study in the various ways that clear pattern glass was decorated with color, go HERE.