The earliest known glass salver, or server as it was sometimes called, was modeled after silver. In 1661 Thomas Blount defined the form as a 'new fashioned piece of wrought plate; broad and flat, with a foot underneath, and is used in giving Beer, or other liquid thing, to save or preserve the Carpit and Cloathes from drops.' Savers or salvers, made of glass are mentioned in English records as early as 1620, & like their silver counterparts, they functioned as serving trays. In period paintings they are often shown supporting one or more wine glasses.
   In English examples from the late seventeenth & early eighteenth centuries the most popular style was the molded pedestal stem. This stem lingered well into the nineteenth century; after 1800 the edge of the foot is usually folded upwards & most had solid tops.
   Glass salvers became closely associated with the serving of desserts, as depicted in a Joseph Highmore painting of 1741-45 where a single glass salver supports a set of jelly or syllabub glasses arranged around an orange glass.The most spectacular role of the
salver was in a dessert pyramid comprised
of two to
five salvers of graduated diameter set one upon the other to create a pyramid effect. (See drawing above Right) Each layer bore an arrangement of glassware (syllabubs) filled with jellies, creams, & sweetmeats. The smallest salver at the top was usually crowned with a 'Top Glass' for preserved fruit.

An early flint cake stand in the Thumbprint pattern ca 1850's
  Salvers were first made in America in the 1770s in Philadelphia. South Boston Flint Glass Works listed the form among its products in 1818; their salvers ranged from 8-15 inches in diameter and cost from $1.67 to $6.00 each. The following year, the firm extended the range down to 6 and up to 17 inches.   Today's collectors find these regal pedestals extraordinary, but they were nothing but ordinary at the height of American pressed glass production in the later 1800s.
A stack of Feather aka Doric pattern cake stands ca 1890s empty (L) and adorned with Thanksgiving Goodies (R).
   Formed in brass or iron molds, pressed or 'pattern' glass was inexpensive to produce. Cake stands were turned out in a myriad of patterns to suit anyone's taste and in sizes ranging from 12" in diameter to petite children's 6" versions. The 8" diameter size made in some patterns are now referred to as 'doughnut stands'.

A sapphire blue 10" cake stand in a pattern known as COTTAGE; FINE CUT BAND; or DINNER BELL by Adams & Co. ca 1870s.
In addition to being made in crystal clear glass, some stands were offered in colors such as sapphire blue, emerald green, amethyst, vaseline (canary), amber, and apple green and with a variety of decor such as engravings, etchings and frosted or color flashed portions. Colored cake stands are difficult to find today.
    These popular serving pieces were sold as cake plates on a standard or as salvers identified by pattern numbers or plain names. Collectors have since given patterns more eloquent descriptive names.
Today a cake stand that cost under a dollar in the 1800s is worth anywhere from $40 to $350 or even more depending on the rarity of the pattern, age, condition and color.   Luckily for collectors, pressed glass cake stands are not widely reproduced although a number of new patterns
being made en masse by Martha Stewart and others to meet the demand of the current cake stand 'rage'.
   So a couple of hundred years after they first appeared on American tables, footed serving plates show no signs of stepping out of the spotlight.

An amber cake stand in the popular square shape in a pattern dominated by 'Finecut' design probably from the 1880s

Very difficult to find ruby stained Manhattan aka New York pattern cake stand by U S Glass Co ca 1902.
   While dining in America has evolved into a much more casual affair, the practice of placing desserts on salvers, now better known as cake stands- has passed from generation to generation.
   From the ironstone and pressed glass stands churned out by Victorian factories
to the "Elegant Glass" serving pieces marketed by companies like Fostoria and Heisey during the Depression era, cake stands remain appreciated as much for their graceful form as for their utility.

Shown in the grouping above are vaseline Finecut & Panel,
amber Medallion, cobalt blue Cottage, emerald green Florida
and sapphire blue Cathedral patterns.

And shown in this grouping are vaseline Thousand Eye,
amber Sunken Buttons, cobalt blue Cottage, emerald green Florida
and sapphire blue Cathedral patterns.
There are over 70 Early American cake stands available for sale at and many of them are shown in the
Pattern Glass Store. EMAIL us if you are looking for more.

Believe it or not, here is a 1958 advertisement for Pillsbury cake mixes and isn't it sitting atop a rare Four Face pattern glass cake stand (or shallow compote?) made by St. Louis glass in France during the Victorian era!

Many thanks to Marlys Diekoff who contributed the major
portion of the text of this article. She is a member of the
Minnesota Chapter of the National American Glass Club.