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The Symmetry of Classic Syrup Jugs PDF Print E-mail

By Robert Reed

Reprinted with Permission

Since the 18th century, glass jugs for syrup have been common colorful items in homes, pubs and other public dining places. Today they enjoy a fondness among collectors.

Because of their faithful function, the syrup jug has been designed and produced by virtually every major glassware company of the helter-skelter 19th century and early 20th century, in an amazing array of patterns.

Many early jugs were mold blown with applied blown handles. Later, completely-pressed jugs were produced by the middle part of the 1800s. What many of the two varieties had in common were the globular shape, wide mouth, pouring lid or spout, and a loop handle.

Syrup jugs are among the "cross-over" antiques in that they are also sought by others interested in glassware, in addition to those who collect single objects such as bowls, pitchers, goblets, sugar-and-creamers and, of course, syrup jugs.

While some collectors look for particular patterns, others are interested in the work of one designer or one particular glass company; and still others concentrate on a special type of leaded, brilliant cut, or Depression glass.

Strikingly, syrup jugs can be found in all of these collector areas today, and more. Syrup jug collectors currently trace and identify pieces through catalogues of manufacturers which reach from the early 19th century into the early 20th century. Many provide detailed illustrations for a successful type of identification. Most syrup jugs made before the 1870s, whether blown or pressed, contained flint in their composition. After that period, it became common to substitute a lime-based formula for flint, thus lowering the cost of manufacturing and providing non-flint jugs of lighter weight. Still some firms continued to produce both kinds into the 20th century.

In time, syrup jugs were also produced in crystal. The term was generally used before the turn of the century to describe a brilliant, clear colour, and by the early 1900s crystal jugs meant heavy glass, often cut in some manner, with a substantial percentage of lead in its composition.

Among all types of antique glass syrup jugs produced, pressed glass items were by far the most numerous. In refining the pressed glass process, manufacturers perfected three basic steps. These included the making of a wooden model and then a cast-iron or brass mold, the pressing of the molten glass by machinery, and lastly the firing of the glass to an accepted brilliance.

Generally the value and rarity of pressed glass syrup jugs relates to their age, from the limited early products of such firms as the fabled Boston & Sandwich Glass Company, to New England Glass, and Bakewell, Pears & Company; then finally through the more extensive pattern wares of numerous eastern and Midwestern U.S. firms from the mid- to late-1800s, reaching to the vast production of Depression glass in the 1920s and 1930s.

Advanced collectors still talk of the Bellflower syrup pitchers in opalescent, milk-white and dark blue that may have been produced just exclusively by the Sandwich Glass Company in the 1850s. Other scholars theorize, however, that this particular item was one of the products made by Deming Jarves in his Cape Cod factory after he severed his connections with the Boston & Sandwich Glass Company in 1858.

Certainly many syrup jug patterns and other patterns were copied or stolen by the various glassmakers of the 19th century once it appeared that an item would be a good seller on the ever-growing national market.

Pressed glass pieces were first made in the United States in the 1820s as glass-pressing machines were developed. During the "golden era" or pressed glass
manufacture of the mid-19th century, hundreds of patterns were made in complete table settings - and many of these included syrup jugs or pitchers.

Sandwich may have been the most famous, but there were at least 16 other factories turning out pressed-glass settings from 1830 to 1850 and even more during the second half of the 19th century, as this 'golden age' finally peaked.

Among the outstanding patterns in the syrup jug that appeared with the table settings were Basket Weave, Broken Column, Bull's Eye and Drape, Flower & Pleat, Frosted Strok, Inverted Thumbprint, Jacob's Ladder, Klondike, Lincoln drape, Oval Medallion, Moon & Star, and Priscilla.

The Basket Weave of the 1880s was produced in clear, canary, yellow, blue and green colors, which are highly prized today. Many of the Sandwich syrup jugs of that era had pewter.

Very fine syrup jugs were also produced in ruby glass, the famed Victorian items were coloured like the gemstones of the same name. Various ruby glass jugs remained popular with the public from the 1840s through the 1890s.

Several years ago author Gene Florence observed in Kitchen Glassware of Depression Years (Collector Books) that the syrup container collectors were undaunted.

"The number of people I'm encountering in my travels who collect only syrup pitchers is amazing even to me. Somewhere in the course of their conversation, they generally speak of what attractive displays the pieces make in their homes and how fascinating they find the various shapes," Florence added.

Some other fine examples of glassware syrup jugs and pitchers include those of milk glass produced by the Northwood Glass Company of Indiana, Pennsylvania around 1896. Milk, white and clear jugs were also made by William Leighton, Jr. of Wheeling, West Virginia in the 1870s.

Dalzell, Gilmore and Leighton of West Virginia manufactured a selection of frosted and clear syrup jugs in the latter 19th century. The Fostoria Glass Company brought out clear, yellow and amber jugs in their Hartford pattern in the early 1900s. During this same time period, the US Glass Company of Pittsburgh produced a coloured Blader pattern, and Indiana Tumbler and Goblet Company produced crystal and chocolate (caramel slag) jugs of non-flint glass.

Beyond glassware itself, there are also graniteware and other pottery syrup jugs. The enameled tinware of graniteware was established for kitchen use in the late 19th century. Early syrup pitchers often had pewter trim and appeared in green or turquoise blue, with white spatters.

Robert Reed has written on antiques and collectibles for more than two decades. He has also authored 15 books including The Antiques and Collectibles Dictionary to be released this spring.

Photo 1: Syrup jug, ca. 1940s. Heavy glass with tin lid.

Photo 2: Late 19th century syrup jug. Clear glass with pewter top.

Photo 3: Ca. 1932 - Etched syrup pitcher made in U.S., yellow handle

Photo 4: Syrup jug, early 20th century with metal lid and spring. About 6” in height.


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