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The Depression-Era Glassware That Came in Boxes of Oatmeal

When I was a child, I admired the lovely pink dishes my grandmother had in her china cabinet. She still had a house full of children at that time, and we all ate off those delicate pink dishes. They were Depression glass, a distinctive souvenir of both hard times and the rise of mass production.  

Prior to the crash, most glass dinnerware was often clear, and handmade from cut crystal. It cost too much, for even a typical middle class family budget. After Black Tuesday, such extravagances were all but forgotten, as scores of Americans stood in lines waiting for bread.

But a revolutionary machine that used new processes such as mold etching—a method that utilized acid to etch patterns into an iron mold rather than directly onto the glass—made manufacturing glassware quicker and cheaper. The molds themselves were costly, but each one could produce thousands of dishes. Thanks to mechanization, one Depression glass manufacturer, Anchor Hocking, increased glass production from one piece per minute to over 90 pieces per minute. This allowed companies to sell individual dishes, such as tumblers, for a nickel or less.

The price was low enough that such dishes were often offered as premiums for buying other things, such as oatmeal, gasoline, or movie tickets. Read about how Depression glass went from a poor person's treat to collector's item at Atlas Obscura. I'm a collector myself, pink, please, like my grandmother's dishes.

(Image credit: Flickr user PINKÉ)


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Some of the green ones do, some don't. I have a few pieces of the "Vaseline glass" on my mantle, and it has a distinct shade of green. But I still end up sometimes buying some pieces that don't have uranium in it by accident. There are uranium glazes used up to the 70s or 80s that have a different color, and I've had even more trouble telling by eye.

A certain shade of pinkish-purple depression era glass used neodymium to give it that color, and I've always wondered if the the glassware can be turned into a laser, as neodymium glass (usually of special quality) is used as the gain medium in some lasers.
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When MrsO. and I were young struggling newlyweds, we got dishes, glasses, and flatware from buying boxes of detergent. We used a lot when having to wash diapers for our first children.
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