Thursday, September 23, 2010

Learning About McKee Glass Company...

I just picked up another really fun book at the library and thought you might be interested in hearing about it - you might want to check it out for yourself. It has big, beautiful photos of the full line of McKee glass from the depression era.

 I typically do not like Milk Glass (opaque white glassware), but add some polka dots, or stripes, or other small fun designs in bright colors and I'm all over it!

 This is what I learned...

In 1853, McKee and Brothers Glass Works originated in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They produced crystal glassware (not the glassware that is made from mineral quartz crystal, but in this case, the word crystal refers to the clear color). They operated successfully at this location until 1888.

During the spring of that year, H. Sellers McKee procured property from a couple of farms, in Westmoreland County (which is about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh). This area was rich in coke and coal as well as natural gas, and made it a very desirable location for a glass factory.

In April of 1888, there were so many employees and businesses offering goods and services to them, that a town was born. The town was named Jeanette after H. Seller McKee’s wife.  New brick home were built in rows, on lots that sold for only $400.  By April of 1889, those same lots were sold for $1200 due to a huge influx of people (about 4000) relocating to the area.

Most of their glassware was sold in the United States, with only about 20% of their total production being exported to Europe. At this time, they were operating six furnaces, on around six acres of land with between 500 and 600 employees.  They were becoming popular and making a name for their themselves with the production of  milk glass containers that were shaped like animals.

By 1901, McKee and Brothers Glass Works was acquired by the National Glass Company (which was operating 19 factories at this point), and the name was changed to McKee-Jeanette Glass Company. Many of their directors ended up leaving, to develop competing businesses.

In 1904, McKee-Jeanette Glass Company was awarded a patent for its Pres-cut trademark. Pres-cut glass was a line of glassware that was produced to simulate the highly popular cut glass designs. This line consisted of 27 patterns.  It was hand pressed glass made to resemble cut glass, but was produced and sold at prices the average working family could afford.

In 1908 the company became McKee Glass Company and National Glass Company reorganized and developed the Cambridge Glass Company and the Indiana Glass Company.

In 1917, Glassbake ovenware was developed to compete with the very popular Pyrex brand produced by Corning Glass Works.  Glassbake was produced until 1983.

In 1951, McKee Glass became a subsidiary of Thatcher Glass Manufacturing Company, who began their business around the turn of the century with the production of reuseable glass milk bottles.

In 1961, Jeanette Glass Company purchased Thatcher, and with that purchase, they acquired McKee. Jeanette Glass Company produced tableware until it closed in 1983.

This book is full of history and information about McKee kitchen glass. There are wonderful, bright pictures displaying their most collected items, and gives current prices. I really enjoyed learning about this company, and drooling a little over their products!


  1. Very interesting! I'm just starting to discover McKee and find that some things I've liked for a long time were made by them. I'll be on the lookout for more at Midland Antiques on Saturday.

  2. I have recently acquired a set of 4 McKee milk glass bowls with the red sailboats on them. Someone said they were made in China. I find that hard to believe. Do you know where they were manufactured and in what year? Thank you! Mary Ellen