Are all of these Fish Dishes Reproductions?By

Are all of these Fish Dishes Reproductions?

Was the glass fish covered dish in Fig. 1 ever made before 1940 or are they all reproductions with no old counterpart ever made? There have been so many reproductions made for so many years, collectors may be mistaking reproductions for originals.

This particular covered fish dish was made by L.E. Smith. It was sold in opaque colors of pink and green (Jadite) for $25 and an unknown number of transparent colors for as low as $15. The sample ACRN bought, shown below, was transparent blue.

Smith bought the mold at the L. G. Wright Glass auction in May 1999. Former Wright sales representative W.C. "Red" Roetteis told ACRN the Wright mold was made new sometime in the early 1940s by Joe Weishar of Island Mold and Machine Company, Wheeling, West Virginia. This was confirmed by correspondence with John Weishar, grandson of Joe Weishar, who continues the business.

Wright made the dish in various colors from ca. 1940s until 1965. "The best selling color was milk (white)," said Roetteis. Roetteis told ACRN that he believes the original which inspired the Wright mold, was "made in Canada in the 1880s but the tail was part of the cover, not the base." John Weishar said he had no information where the design of the Wright mold came from.

Confusion surrounding the Wright fish is compounded because it is shown in two reference books with what ACRN believes are mistaken attributions. In Covered Animal Dishes by Everett Grist, a Wright fish in milk glass and another in transparent pale green glass dish are described as early Fostoria (Grist, pages 68-71).

In the highly respected Yesterday's Milk Glass Today, R. & M Ferson, ©1981 (out of print). Fersons list the dish as "...heretofore unreported..." and describe it as "scarce".

Compare their detailed written description to the photos of the Wright piece shown in Figs. 1-3.

"The base, with wide vertical ribs similar to those on the [Atterbury & Company] Boar's Head base, is encircled by a one-half inch flat flange, netted on the under side. Above the flange the base extends vertically as part of the fish body and tail. Detail work is fine, reminiscent of the patented Atterbury fish design, with scales, fins, and gills meticulously delineated. The eye is a large, slightly domed circle with a deep rim. 8½″ long."

Fersons' attribution to Atterbury would imply a production date ca. 1870-1900. The "patented Atterbury fish" refers to pieces with a fish design–for pitchers, platters and relishes–for which Atterbury received a patent in 1872. These original Atterbury fish platters and relishes are embossed with the patent date JUNE 4, 72.

The patent drawing of one of Atterbury's fish relish dishes (Fig. 6) bears a strong resemblance to the Wright piece. Wright's has the wide base flange and the Atterbury has a second fin, but otherwise they are virtually the same viewed from the top. Note especially the eye, gill area and oval body shape and tail.

Although Wright's glass copied the general look or general shape of original antique glassware, virtually all of Wright's glass was produced from new molds made in the mid-20th century, not original 19th century molds. In every case where Wright copied a specific milk glass covered dish, for example – such as McKee animals, Vallerysthal squirrel, and Atterbury duck– there are significant differences between old and new. Since the Ferson and Grist pieces are identical to the documented Wright pieces, we can only conclude that they too, are made from the Wright mold.

It's up to buyers to decide whether the ca. 1940-1965 Wright pieces are collectible. Just be aware that it now appears none of these covered fish dishes were made prior to the 1940s.

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Fig. 1 Covered fish dish in transparent blue glass. Now made by L.E. Smith from mold previously used by L.G. Wright.

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Fig. 2 Side view of L.E. Smith fish. About 8½″ long; exact length varies with the curve of the tail.

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Fig. 3 Angle view. Only the top side of the fish's body lifts off. The tail is part of the base. The flat rim on the base is molded with fishnet pattern. Good detail on the scales and gills.

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Fig. 4 L.E. Smith makes opaque glass versions of the fish dish for Martha Stewart's mail order catalog, Martha by Mail. This example is Jadite. Also available in pink opaque. Price, $25.

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Fig. 5 The LG Wright covered fish dish as shown in Yesterday's Milk Glass Today by R & M Ferson © 1981. Attributed by Fersons to Atterbury, ca. 1875-1900.

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Fig. 6 Original patent drawing filed by Atterbury for fish relish dish. The top view is very similar to top view of Wright's dish. Was this the inspiration for Wright's new mold?