POPULARLY KNOWN as Sandwich glass, pressed glass is an American invention that dates from the early 19th Century. It was an important step in the technique of mass production, and a great deal of it was made over the years.
Instead of being blown, molten glass was poured into a mold. Craftsmen needed no particular skill, and the process was extremely fast.
Deming Jarves was credited with the invention: In 1825, he started the Sandwich Manufacturing Co. in Sandwich, Mass., and between 1826 and 1858 it became the Boston & Sandwich Glass Co. And pressed glass became known as Sandwich glass.
Between 1830 and 1850, in a form called lacy glass in which the mold is cut into intricate lace-like patterns, pressed glass reached its most sophisticated form.
It was used for a variety of tablewares, and a favorite of the collector today is the cup plate. This was a resting place used for the cup while tea or coffee was being sipped from the saucer, an accepted practice of the day. Lacy pressed glass was popular and decorative; motifs were varied and appealing and included shells, triangles, flowers and rosettes.
There also were commemorative portrait plates, souvenir plates from steamship lines and geometric designs that imitated cut glass. Larger pieces were also made: celery vases, bowls, butter dishes and compotes.
During the last half of the 19th Century, thousands of pressed-glass designs were produced by factories from New England to the Midwest. At the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876, for example, one local glass firm established a branch factory at the exhibition and sold souvenir pressed-glass pieces. "Liberty Bell" and "Westward Ho" were popular designs.
The pressed glass most often found today dates from 1860 to 1900, and the designs are inclined to be plainer than those of lacy glass. The pressed glass of that period is known as pattern glass, and it was produced in great quantity and variety in all parts of the United States. By the 1920s, however, it had gone out of style.
There is no doubt that a collection of pressed glass would be appropriate to the current Victorian Revival. In addition, Sandwich glass might well offer an appealing counterpoint to today's more austere and unadorned glassware and china in decorating a contemporary table.
Examples of Sandwich glass can be found at the Beaded Bird in Culver City, the Big White Elephant in West Los Angeles, Dorothy's Old Fashioned Corner in West Los Angeles and the Antique Mall in Westchester. Other stores include the Pasadena Antique Center in Pasadena, Collectors Thrift Shop in Santa Ana, Antique Emporium in Costa Mesa, and Mission Gallery and Cob Web Antiques in San Diego.