DEAR HELAINE AND JOE: I am enclosing two photos of a hand-painted seven-piece pitcher and glass set that was a wedding gift to my Kansas grandparents in 1907. The pitcher is 13 inches tall and the glasses are 6½ inches. All pieces are in perfect condition, and there are no markings anywhere as far as I can tell.
This set always sat on my grandmother’s buffet in her dining room. When I was 10 or 12 years old, the hired man offered my grandmother $50 for it, but she told him that one day it would be worth more. Any information would be appreciated.
— Thank you, L. W., Russellville, Ala.
DEAR L. W.: The question here is: “Did L. W.’s grandmother do the right thing in turning down $50 for this set some half a century or so ago?” The answer is yes if she liked and enjoyed using the set; no if she was looking at it as an investment.
The pitcher is called a “tankard” pitcher, and the set itself is often called a “lemonade set.” It would have been seen as being among L. W.’s grandmother’s best glassware. The set would have been used only when special company was being served.
The photos L. W. sent are good, but it is still difficult to tell exactly what the glass is and what its coloration might be. It appears to be frosted and shades from a clearer bottom to a greenish top. The flowers enameled on each piece appear to be lilies of the valley, but we do think a great deal of artistic license was used in depicting the foliage and the pinkish coloration of the leaves at the base.
The lily of the valley was once the national flower of Yugoslavia, and since 1967 has been the national flower of Finland. It signifies the return of happiness, and legend says the flower sprang from the tears of either Mary at the crucifixion of Jesus or from Eve on her expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
This particular set was probably made in one of the glass-making centers of Bohemia (modern-day Czech Republic). It did indeed originate at the beginning of the 20th century, but sets of this sort were made just a little earlier and a little later than 1907.
As for the decoration being “hand-painted,” it was — but the outlines were put down with a transfer print and unskilled labor just colored in the lines. It is wonderful that the set has its pitcher and six glasses and that all are in an undamaged state because this is a bit hard to find complete. It is a truly beautiful set and should retail in the $175 to $225 range, but its fair market value would be a little less than $100.
That makes the $50 offer way back when a fair offer because $50 at the middle of the last century would buy a lot more than $100 today.