Peg Carmack Short - Produced by Jill Leslie Haack
- Photography by Jessie
- Walker Styled by Aurelia Joyce Pace
Toes were tapping to Wee Bonnie Baker as she
crooned, "Oh, Johnny! Oh!" Moviegoers were sighing
over Clark Gable as the dashing Rhett Butler.
And for bobby-soxers, mismatching shoes and socks
was all the rage. But in 1940, while Americans
were attempting to appear hard at play, the threat
of war was looming on the horizon, and tensions
were running high. With the country in the last
throws of the Great Depression, product manufacturers,
movie theaters, and gas stations continued to
lure customers with premiums that promised "wonderful
gifts" and "extraordinary value." A few coupons
and $1.69 entitled a homemaker to a "beautiful
36-piece dinner set," which, in the 1960s, would
come to be known as Depression glass.
in cheerful colors with jaunty shapes, flirty
'40s dishes, such as Moderntone Platonite, were
designed to help weary housewives forget their
depression-time woes. No wonder that today's collectors
continue to be drawn to this playful dinnerware.
For many, it strikes the cord of memory. "Nostalgia
is an important factor with many collectors,"
says Chicagoland antiques dealer, George Hurney
of the Glass Connection. Long gone are depression-era
connotations. Instead, collectors remember a pastel
sherbet just like the one grandma used to serve
Depression glass was usually clear and pastel-colored,
and it was first introduced in the mid-1920s by
Fostoria Glass Company. Fostoria's glassware was
expensive, but its popularity spurred the manufacture
of similar pieces by companies who produced a
cheaper glass through a process called tank molding.
Though this glass was often flawed or had bubbles,
the process made it affordable for the masses.
By the 1930s, many of these manufacturers were
starting to produce opaque forms of glassware.
But it wasn't until 1940 that the Hazel Atlas
Glass Company introduced Moderntone Platonite,
an opaque version of one of their clear patterns,
known simply as Moderntone. Platonite was first
produced in white, then in pastel shades of blue,
green, pink, and yellow.
bargain in its own era, Moderntone Platonite continues
to have the same appeal today. According to Hurney,
"other forms of Depression glass are probably
2 to 3 times higher priced than these." Pieces
of white Moderntone may be purchased for as little
as $2.50, with pastels starting at $4.50. A Chicago
area collector shares that she has even found
pieces for as little as 50 cents at garage sales.
In fact, part of her joy in collecting Moderntone
is its affordability. "I started out thinking
I wanted to collect elegant cups and saucers,
but everything I wanted cost $200 to $250," she
says. "I switched to Moderntone because I liked
collecting something that I could afford to buy
a lot of." Despite this resurgence of interest
in Moderntone, it is still reasonably available.
Gene Florence, an expert in all forms of Depression
glass, and author of Collectible Glassware of
the '40s, '50s, and '60s says in his book that
he was able to gather "at least 4,000 pieces of
Platonite," attesting to its availability. Hurney
suggests that if you have any difficulty finding
pieces, Moderntone can be located through mail-order
newspapers, such as the Daze, that specialize
in antiques and collectibles. The internet has
also become a good source for finding Depression
glass, including Moderntone. But one collector
shares that for her, "Part of the joy in collecting
is the thrill of the hunt." She prefers finding
"a piece here and there-in secondhand stores and
flea markets." In her experience, yellow is the
easiest color to find, with berry and cereal bowls
being the most difficult pieces to locate. She
collects both the pastel hues and the deeper colors
of orange, gold, and teal. Other collectors of
Moderntone Platonite prefer the white trimmed
in red or blue; although these pieces are much
Whatever their color preferences and reasons for
collecting Moderntone Platonite, most collectors
find that learning about the history of their
pieces becomes an important part of their enjoyment.
A collector in Glencoe, Illinois, says "I like
researching the pieces I collect and seeing how
they fit into the fabric of our era. For example,
did you know that the sherbet was invented when
Jell-O became popular? They needed something to
serve it in."
agrees that "talking and listening to other collectors
is part of the fun." He and his wife glean some
of their information through clubs such as the
'20s, '30s, '40s Society, in LaGrange, Illinois.
Books, too, remain an important source of information.
Many general books are available on Depression
glass, but it is sometimes possible to locate
books on a specific pattern or even the company
of manufacture. Shows devoted to depression-era
glassware, are also excellent sources of information.
Moderntone, like other forms of depression dinnerware,
remains less valuable than the more elegant forms
of glass, collectors agree the true value is in
the eye of the beholder. Whether they are drawn
by the color and playfulness of the pattern or
a reminiscence, all agree it's a way to capture
a bit of history and experience the joy of what
was once "hard-times glassware." .
included here are copyrighted by Peg Carmack Short
and may not be copied in full or part without
written permission of the author.
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