Hazel Atlas Milk Glass Cups
by Terry Woods
[Introductory note: After learning about the West Virginia Northern Community College Alumni Association’s Hazel Atlas Glass Collection currently on exhibit in the Board Room at the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling, Terry Woods, from Texas, decided to loan his own amazing collection of more than 100 Hazel Atlas milk glass mugs to the library archives. These cups are painted with important themes for children of the fifties and sixties like Mr. Woods, including early TV westerns and space shows, as well as Christmas. After receiving the disappointing news that two-dozen of the fragile mugs were broken in transit, Mr. Woods worked tirelessly to replace them via online auctions. As a collector, he admitted to having a great deal of fun doing so. We thank Mr. Woods for sharing his collecting story.]
The collection started when I found a blue Hoppy just after my wife and I got married in November of 1988. I then found a green Hoppy and a children’s circus themed mug. The quest was on!
The collection features three styles: the pedestal and two straight-sided with D handles. Why two straight-sided styles? One has the Hazel Atlas mark on the bottom and the other style does not. The height, width, and thickness are just slightly different. The bottom and sweat ring are also slightly different. However, there are certain characters – especially in the western scenes – in the artwork that appear on both styles. Why? My guess is that a copyright was involved. The cups without the HA mark could be copyrighted by the customer and those with the mark by the company could not.
Saturday morning TV is a recurring theme, and Western themes are certainly the most popular. Besides Hoppy, there are Ranger Joe (2 colors), Tex the Marshall (6), Wyatt Earp, Daniel Boone, Buffalo Bill, western kids (4 colors with small kids in the scenes), Native Americans (6 maroon with white graphics), a bronc-buster, The Cisco Kid and Davy Crockett. There are nine different Crockett’s in the collection. One is obviously Fess Parker and has a Disney copyright [unfortunately, this one was broken during shipment, but Terry is still looking]. There are six different colors that have “Famous Frontiersman” on the banner and are unmarked. These may have been Big Top promos. The two that have the HA mark and the banner “Indian Fighter” are my favorites of this group. You never see this cup in any color but red. One night, while perusing EBAY I found the brown Crockett cup. In my 28 years of collecting, this is the only one I’ve ever seen. Is it an error of a bad die lot? No one will ever know for sure, but that’s my guess.
Space was another popular TV theme in the fifties and sixties, and the mugs featuring space scenes boldly imitate Buck Rogers graphics with four different scenes in four colors. The entire set is done again in the pedestal style with the same graphics, but swapped colors.
Another popular theme was Christmas. These were usually punch bowl sets, featuring Victorian scenes in various color combinations. Music for Jingle Bells is found on three different mugs. Another has Auld Lang Syne lyrics. Santa Claus is featured on two; Currier and Ives on a set of five; Polka dots, holly leaves, deer, and skiers. There are also mugs with simply “Egg Nog” and “Hot Buttered Rum” painted on them for the holiday season.
One of the most common Christmas themes is “Tom and Jerry,” not the American cartoon cat and mouse, but the British pub drinkers.
According to Ron Allen (Victorian Footnotes Blog):
“Tom and Jerry was a tale of generally rakish behaviour that also became an instant success in the theatres of London, running at the Adelphi for two seasons, and being exported to France and the US. Illustrated by George and Robert Cruikshank, ‘Tom and Jerry’ became a euphemism for riotous behaviour and was, from 1830, attached to the avalanche of small beer houses – Tom and Jerry Shops – often set up in people’s houses, that appeared in Britain after the Beer Act of 1830 freed up the market for ale. These were to continue throughout the 19th century.
The term also became attached in the US to a hot eggnog style drink, spiced with brandy and rum, probably some time in the 1830s and purportedly invented by one Jerry Thomas. The drink swept the US for well over a century, most particularly as a Christmas drink, and with ‘Tom and Jerry’ punch bowl and mug sets to drink it in.”
Other sets in the collection include Children’s Prayers—several different sets of graphics with color variations (One of these, a yellow cup with green graphics, is fairly rare, and may be the prettiest mug of all); alphabet mugs with only A, B, C, D, F, G, and H. Somebody didn’t like the letter E; and plain, pastel colors mugs, obviously from the 60s, with no graphics. One-offs include a Maple Leaf, Henny Penny, Schroeder’s Restaurant, Rabbit and Puppy and Niagara Falls.
In summary these mugs represent my youth (born in 1947): Christmas and the early years of TV. But how did they forget Roy Rogers and The Lone Ranger?
Note: A selection of Terry’s milk glass cups are now on display near the rear entrance to the Ohio County Public Library. This display, which emphasizes the Christmas themed mugs, also includes two milk glass Christmas themed bowls and Christmas themed glassware from the West Virginia Northern Community College Alumni Association’s Hazel Atlas Glass Collection. To view additional pieces from these collections, be sure to visit the main Hazel Atlas Exhibit in the Board Room on the Lower Level of the library.