Maryland Diagnostic Artifacts

Table Glass



Glass Composition

Vessel Decoration

Vessel Forms

Quick Reference Table on
Glass Composition

Illustration of Hot Glass
Techniques of Blown Molded
and Pressed Molding

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Table Glass Vessel Forms

This website will provide basic identification and dating information on table glass recovered on archaeological sites dating from the 17th through the early 20th centuries, using artifacts contained within the collections of the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory.  The website is structured into three basic sections: Glass Composition, Vessel Decoration and Vessel Form.

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Stemmed Glasses

  • Stemware - Stemware is a general term used for glass vessels that have a foot and a bowl joined by a stem. Stemmed glasses were used for a variety of purposes, from wine to dessert, and the bowl shape and other characteristics can be used to help determine function.  Stem and bowl shapes, as well as characteristics of the foot can assist in dating the vessel as well.  The stems of English glasses changed more over time than bowls or feet, so the stem is the best indicator of dating (Bickerton 2000:12).

  • Folded feet (foot rim folded back on itself) - disappeared around 1740 (Bickerton 2000:13).

Click here to see illustration of stemmed glass bowl shapes, stem shapes and foot shapes.


Dating English Stemmed Glasses (after Bickerton 1986)

Stem Formation Date Range Comments
Heavy balusters c. 1685-1710 Large, heavy knops, conical bowls, rarely engraved
Balusters c. 1710-1735 Smaller knops in variety of shapes, coupled with bell, thistle and trumpet bowls
Balustroids c. 1725-1760 Knops and balusters separated by elongated sections of plain stem
Molded pedestal stems c. 1715-1765 4, 6 or 8-sided stem tapering to the foot
Plain stems c. 1730-1775 Usually paired with trumpet shaped bowls, sometimes “tear” of air in stem
Air twist stems c. 1745-1770 Formed from air trapped in stem during production, drawn and twisted to form shape
Opaque twist stems c. 1755-1780 Use of opaque white glass rods in the interior of the stem to create thread-like patterns, drawn and twisted
Facet cut stems c. 1760-1810 Cut multi-sided diamond or hexagonal stems


A tumbler is a cylindrical open-mouthed vessel for consuming beverages. Tumblers are flat bottomed and do not have handles. They are the most commonly-found table glass vessel on archaeological sites and are generally difficult to date. Tumblers can have straight, tapering, barrel or waisted side walls.

Leaded tumblers were most common in the first half of the 19th century (Jones 2000:225). Tumblers could be left plain or decorated by engraving, cutting, contact molding, or after 1830, by press molding.

  • Panelled Tumblers - Pressed panel tumblers were first introduced in the mid to late 1830s (Jones 2000:225). Mold lines are often difficult to detect, since they will be hidden along the paneled edges and are not usually visible on the base. Panelled tumblers are a common find in 19th-century archaeological contexts.

  • Packer’s tumblers - Commercial glass vessels that were produced to hold mustard, jelly and other food. Once emptied of their original contents, they were used as tumblers. They show a number of different closures/finishes, including Anchor Cap closures, lugged closures or slip tops (Jones 2000). Rows (1 to 3 rows is typical) of fine vertical ridges near finish indicate an Anchor Cap closure. The Anchor Cap was introduced in 1908 and made into 1960s (Jones 2000:119).

Other Beverage Vessels

  • Firing Glass - A firing glass has a short stem and a thick foot. Firing glasses were rapped on
    tabletops during ceremonial occasions; hence the thick foot (Corning Museum of Glass).

  • Rummer - The word "rummer" may be derived from the German word "roemer" a drinking vessel
    with a large capacity bowl glass (Scottish Antiques website).

  • Mugs and Cups - Handled drinking vessels. Small handled cups were used for desserts, like custard and sherbet, in the 19th century and, starting around turn 20th century, for drinking punch (Jones 2000).

Bowls, Cruets, Decanters

  • Bowls - Hollow vessels that varied in size and shape for holding various items.

  • Cruet/Castor - Small bottles used at the table for condiments.  Often grouped in a stand; in the
    mid-19th to early 20th centuries, the bodies were often shaped to fit into ring holders in the stand (Jones et al. 1985:133). Cruets were stoppered, with a pouring lip and held liquids; cruets were
    more likely to have a handle. Castors (also spelled caster) had perforated tops for shaking sugar, pepper, etc.

  • Decanter -A narrow mouthed, stoppered vessel used for holding alcoholic beverages. Decanters
    do not have pouring spouts. The inside of the upper neck of the bottle may be ground for helping secure the stopper. Decanters can be dated by their body shapes and decoration.  See McKearin
    and McKearin (1989) for American glass decanters.


  • Salts - Small, open dishes common until the 1870s, when they began to be replaced by salt shakers (first introduced in the late 1850s). Salts were also made in individual sizes.

Other Vessel Forms

  • Dessert Glass - Individual serving vessels for syllabub, jellies or custards.  This leaded colorless glass vessel is in a shape called a jelly glass. Also included handled cups with feet, small shallow dishes and stemmed glasses (Jones et al. 1985:134)

  • Compote - “A dish, usually with a stem and a base, and sometimes with a cover, for serving compote (fruits cooked in syrup), or a smaller dish of similar form used for individual servings” (Corning Museum of Glass website).

  • Spooners or Spoon Holder - Used to hold teaspoons on the table.  May or may not be footed, but often have scalloped rim. Often came as part of a set consisting of butter dish, cream jug and sugar dish.

Introduction | Glass Composition | Vessel Decoration

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