Porcelain copies of American glass

In 1840 a representative of the Meissen porcelain factory in Dresden, Germany, complained that they had received so few "new glass samples since 1838" that the factory may be forced into "the invention of their own designs."

Meissen Copy of Sandwich Lacy Pressed Compote (45I)

This porcelain compote is a copy by Meissen of the "pressed glass from North America with the most appealing designs ... and ... distinctive appearance" that was on sale at the Leipzig fair in 1835. A closer look emphasizes that it is a copy of a familiar Sandwich design. Other pieces such as those at the Bennington Museum copy equally iconic American designs including the base of a familar covered dish.

Meissen's complaint about the lack of new designs coincided with America's financial panic of 1837. American pressed glass designs greatly enriched its line of porcelain versions of fashionable glass. The line started with faithful copies of cut glass from Belgium, France and the rest of Europe and accounted for as much as half of Meissen's sales at the Leipzig fairs of the 1830s. The American financial panic and following depression slowed not only a period of exuberance in American design, but its influence on the major manufacturers of Europe.

The full story of how and why Meissen copied American glass has only recently been told. Previously many glass scholars had assumed that the porcelain must have been the prototype for American glass designs.