From our museum this month, we’re showcasing a gorgeous cobalt blue cup, saucer, and pitcher in the Royal Lace pattern by Hazel Atlas. The exquisite Royal Lace pattern, produced from 1934 to 1941, features rose clusters framed by a delicate lace-inspired floral design. Royal Lace was produced as a full-service pattern that included a large variety of tableware and even decorative pieces. Five different pitchers are known to have been produced, the pitcher featured this month holds 48-ounces of beverage and has an ice lip. The gorgeous color of these pieces is listed as “Ritz Blue” in Hazel Atlas advertisements, and is one of the most sought-after Royal Lace colors that were produced. Hazel Atlas first began making Royal Lace items in Ritz Blue in 1936 as a way to use leftover blue glass originally created for their popular series of bowls, pitchers, and mugs bearing the likeness of Shirley Temple.
Royal Lace is one of the most popular patterns ever made in “depression glass". Typically, the term depression glass encompasses all mass-produced, machine-made glassware manufactured from the late 1920s to the early 1940s – the years roughly coinciding with the Great Depression. Most pieces of depression glass were either sold cheaply, given away by movie theatres, department stores, and other businesses, or included as a free “premium” with oatmeal, flour, sugar, and other foods. Many different glass manufacturers produced what’s known today as depression glass, including Federal Glass, Jeannette Glass, and perhaps most notably, Hazel Atlas.
The story of Hazel Atlas begins in 1885, when Charles Brady and C.H. Tallman founded the Hazel Company in Wheeling, West Virginia. Seeing an unfilled niche in the marketplace, Brady and Tallman’s fledgling company specialized in producing glass inserts for canning jar lids. Within a year, Brady and Tallman opened a plant in Washington, Pennsylvania to take advantage of the natural gas and other resources available there. With this new production facility, the Hazel Company was able to diversify its product line, which expanded to include lamp bases and chimneys, ointment jars, salve boxes, and molasses cans. Many of these products were made of opal glass – typically referred to as “milk glass” today - as opposed to the more common flint or amber glass most other glass companies were using at the time. In 1894, Brady and several other partners started the Atlas Glass Company, a separate corporation devoted solely to manufacturing fruit jars. Meanwhile, the Hazel Company continued to expand its product line, becoming the first producer of glass mayonnaise, baby food, and pickle jars.
The Hazel Company was expanding at a time when traditional hand-blowing production techniques were being replaced by new technology that allowed glassmakers to mass produce their products quickly and cheaply. These cheaper, more uniform products were much better suited for the distribution of foods, beverages, and cosmetics. In 1904, Michael Owens single-handedly revolutionized the glassware industry with his new bottle-making machine that employed vacuum technology to churn out bottles cheaply and quickly (up to four bottles per second!). The Hazel Company was innovative in its own right. Brady was always on the lookout for talented inventors, and under his guidance, Hazel began making pressed glass tumblers using a newly developed “Merry-Go-Round” machine. The Atlas Glass Company and Hazel Company combined in 1902 to form Hazel Atlas. The merged company expanded its now sizable product line to include tableware – a smart move, since the company’s mold-etched, machine-made tableware patterns (like Royal Lace) helped them weather the Great Depression. At its height, Hazel Atlas employed 5,000 employees, and was the largest glass-container maker in the world.
While the Hazel Atlas Royal Lace items in our museum are not for sale, we do have a variety of Royal Lace pieces available for purchase in our inventory; be sure to browse our web site. And remember that we always invite you to visit our facilities – here you'll see a stunning variety of silver, china, crystal, and collectibles! Our 500,000-square-foot facilities hold more than 12 million individual pieces in more than 400,000 patterns! Our showroom and museum are open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm ET, 7 days (except holidays); free tours are available from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm ET, 7 days. The showroom and museum are conveniently located between Greensboro and Burlington, NC, at exit 132 off Interstate 85/40. We look forward to seeing you!