Bottoms Up Tumblers by McKeeBy April Tvorak
Bottoms Up Tumblers by McKee: New, Old and Look-alike
During the 1930s, McKee Glass Company of Jeanette, Pennsylvania produced a series of glass drinking vessels with female nudes. Over the years, there have been a number of reproductions and look-alike. This article will show you how to detect the fakes and pretenders.
McKee made several different shapes based on the nude. The first was ca. 1930-31. It was a cup-shaped tumbler with a nude draped over the base, the so-called "bottoms up" tumbler.
This first original McKee bottoms up tumbler can be identified by the position of the nude's legs which are spread apart (Fig. 4). This style was not patented and does not have a patent number. It is the hardest to find of the McKee bottoms up pieces because it was made for a very brief time. McKee was forced to cease making it by a pottery company who sued them for copyright infringement. The open leg style was made in black and Skokie Green (McKee's trade name for jadite). We have seen a photograph of an open leg nude bottoms up tumbler in clear crystal but it was not made by McKee. The tumbler was molded jagged like rock instead of smooth like the McKee piece. The rim seemed to be about one-quarter inch thick. Original McKee open leg bottoms up tumblers measure about 2½" across the rim. Inside depth is 3", outside overall height is about 3¼". The tumblers hold about 2¼ ounces.
Around 1932 McKee obtained a patent of its own on a closed leg bottoms up tumbler. The key feature of these pieces is the molded patent number 77725 which appears under the nude's heels. Dimensions are essentially the same as the open leg piece with the exception that the rim is 2 7/16" in diameter. A 1932 trade ad lists the retail price of a box of four tumblers at $1.00 (Fig. 5).
Closed leg tumblers were made in black, Skokie Green (jadite), Cream Ivory (carmel/beige), Seville Yellow (pale lemon), French Ivory (various shades of yellow), Crystal Satin (frosted crystal), clear crystal, and transparent pink.
All of these colors had matching coasters except the Crystal Satin and transparent pink. Coasters are round and about 4" in diameter. They have a raised ring to fit the tumbler offset to one side, a split ashtray on the other side and two small cigarette stubbers. The back of the coaster is molded with concentric rings. The coaster does not have a patent number. Original coasters were made only for the closed leg bottoms up tumblers (not the open leg style) and were purchased separately from the tumblers. They are very hard to find and are worth about 1½ to 3 times the price of the tumblers depending on color.
The closed leg tumblers were also modified into cigarette lighters. This version had an electrical heating element inserted into the cavity and six knobs added to the rim. It also carries the patent number 77725 under the nude's heels. We have only seen the lighter in ivory but it may have been produced in other colors as well.
McKee also used practically the same nude theme on a footed mug. In the mug, the nude's legs come up to form the handle. Her bottom, hidden from view under the mug's foot, is seen only when the mug is raised. The beer mug has the same patent number as the tumbler, 77725, which is located on the nude's bottom beneath the footed base.
Overall height of the mug measures 5½"; inside depth is about 4½"; and top rim is 2¾" in diameter. Colors we have found this piece in are Skokie Green, crystal, and Seville Yellow. We heard of a transparent pink one but did not find out if it was authentic and had a patent number.
Closed leg bottoms up tumblers and their matching coasters have recently been reproduced. New colors include cobalt, blue carnival, green opalescent, green and white slag, green and light green slag, amethyst, orange and vaseline. The vaseline reproduction was first made in 1972 then made again in 1996. New tumblers and coasters have the same measurements as old. Reproduction tumblers are easily identified because they do not have the patent number. New coasters are identical to originals; the only way to tell new from old coasters is by color. Some new colors were never made in the original McKee production.
There is also a reproduction tumbler with advertising. It is in transparent amber and transparent green. Around the nude's head is "Berreteaga, the best drink in Mexico."
So far only the closed leg tumbler and coaster have been reproduced. The open leg tumbler and bottoms down mugs have not been reproduced.