Indiana Glass Company
Dunkirk, Indiana (1907-2002)
Indiana Glass produced a Hen-on-Nest covered dish that’s retained the same basic appearance throughout many years of production. Two sizes were made. The earliest version is smaller, the top portion measuring approximately 4 and 1/2 inches in total length, but very similar in design to the later version, which measures about 7 inches in length. The “nest” (base) of the smaller version measures 4 and 3/8″ from end to end.
NOTE: The smaller version (commonly known by hen-on-nest collectors as the “MYSTERY HEN”) is considered as a “PROBABLE” product of Hazel-Atlas Glass Company instead of Indiana Glass Company by author Shirley Smith in her authoritative 2007 reference book on hen dishes. However, my personal opinion is that the smaller hen was also made by Indiana Glass, but that is only my opinion and it is possible that more conclusive evidence, if found, could prove me wrong!
The earliest examples of these hen dishes are believed to date from sometime in the 1930s or 1940s, and they are found only in clear and white milk glass. There doesn’t seem to be any concrete, absolutely reliable information (found so far) that gives proof on exactly what year the earliest Indiana Glass hens were made. If you have information that sheds light on this question, I sincerely request your help!
The early, smaller version has a base with a cross-hatched or basket-weave style pattern on the sides. Diagonal oriented lines cross each other at right angles to form, more or less, a pattern of interconnected diamonds. (A larger version with this base type also exists, but they are much, much scarcer).
These small hens are very close in appearance to the similar-sized hens produced by Imperial Glass Company, but the Imperial examples have a split-tail, not flat as on all Indiana Glass pieces. The bases are very similar, although the Imperial version has a basketweave design on the very bottom (Indiana’s is smooth) and there are short vertical ribs arranged all around the outside top rim of the dish. (Many, if not all, of the Imperial-manufactured hens are marked, rather faintly in some cases, with their “I superimposed over a G” trademark on the underside of the lid.)
The later, larger (and much more commonly seen) version, which was probably introduced sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s (sources disagree), measures about 7 inches from end to end. The base has either a very finely stippled surface, or a “pebbly” or “ripply” abstract pattern that is supposed to represent a straw nest (this is called a “striated base” by Shirley Smith in her book on hens). An example of one of the earlier large size hens in clear glass is shown above. The bottom (basket or bowl) measures about 2 inches in height, and when both pieces are in place, the total height is typically about 5 and 3/8 inches.
These hens are NEVER marked with an actual trademark or logo representing the company, however, the Indiana Glass hen can easily be recognized at a glance from it’s characteristic form. The tail is narrow and “flat”, pointing straight back from the head, and is never “split” or “divided” as is common on many, many hens made by other glass manufacturers. The cover (“back”) of the dish has a mold “circle” about one and 1/4 inches in diameter (this measurement referring to the larger size hen) in the center, which can basically be considered a diagnostic feature of all Indiana hens. This circle is actually called a “valve mark”— please see the post submitted by Bob Rawlings, former plant manager at Indiana Glass, in the Comments section of this page.
Posted here are various pictures of these hens so you will soon be able to recognize them easily!
The earliest version of the large-size hen has a smooth rim on the base, and later versions (probably introduced in the mid-to-late 1950s or early 1960s) have a “beaded” edge, somewhat similar to the beaded Candlewick pattern made by Imperial Glass. In the earlier years clear and white milkglass hens were made. A very rare “mulberry” colored hen (clear with mulberry stain) with a smooth upper base rim is also known and is assumedly from the early period.
Many of the early clear and milkglass hens originally came with the combs painted with red cold paint which has partially or wholly worn off.
Some of the white milkglass and amber hens have an “open beaded” rim, with small gaps in between each bead. These may be a transition type, made after the early “smooth rim base” version but before the last and most common beaded version.
The era of the “colored” hens (any color other than clear or white) seems to have phased in sometime during the mid to late 1960s, with possibly the amber and the green hens coming into production first, followed by many other colors throughout the 1970s, ’80s and into the 1990s.
Indiana Glass hen dishes show up for sale on ebay and other online venues frequently, and the names by which they are called range widely…… HON (Hen-on-nest) dish, Nut dish, candy dish, trinket dish, relish dish, hen dish, chicken dish, rooster dish, and many other names.
I’m trying to assemble a list of all of the colors found in these hens. As with any field of collecting glass, there is confusion on color NAMES, thus one specific, distinct color might be called a particular name by one collector, yet the same exact color may be referred to by an entirely different name by another collector, thus creating confusion and making the total number of distinct colors recorded as higher than in reality.
From what I have read, so far, it seems the total number of distinct colors range anywhere from 20 to 35 or so. There are also slight color shade differences, and grades of depth of a certain color — for instance, amber may range from a lighter almost yellowish amber, or lean toward a darker orange-amber or “beer bottle brown” amber. This might have happened occasionally if a particular batch didn’t come out exactly as intended (for a number of technical reasons), although normally Indiana Glass products are very consistent as to the exact color shade they were working to achieve.
It appears quite a number of different, yet basically identical molds (to the casual onlooker) were used over many years, as close examination of the fine details of the design show small variations, such as the exact shape and placement of the “feathers”. Also I believe that many, if not most, of the molds were re-cut and/or repaired sometime during their production life.
In order of commonness, (just my own thoughts here…….some of these colors are not that easy to find, and it’s hard to know how “scarce” they really are… ) : White milkglass, sometimes called “opaque white” or “milk white”, is probably #1 in abundance, followed by clear (colorless, “crystal” or “flint”), amber (all shades), olive or “avocado” green, shades of light blue (including cornflower), blue carnival glass, marigold carnival glass, green carnival glass, pink, very pale pink, midnight blue or “smoky” blue, “Horizon” blue, rich medium emerald green or forest green, lime green, teal (evergreen), aqua carnival, ruby red (stained over amber glass), cranberry (stained/flashed over clear), matte or frosted green, very light green or “pastel green”, yellow, mulberry stain and others. If you have an expanded list of known colors and/or have them rated as to approximate commonality, please drop me a line with your list, and let’s compare!
Trivia: Sharp-eyed classic TV show watchers might notice that in some episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show (as early as 1970), an Indiana Glass Company hen can be seen under the counter which separates the kitchen area from the split-level living room. This prop was in the studio set of the apartment that Mary supposedly lived in (the show was set in Minneapolis). The hen appears to be avocado green (or possibly emerald green?) in color. This serves to date the first avocado green hens to at least 1970, and probably from the late 1960s.
For more information on Indiana Glass Company and the many other products they made over the years, check out this site at: Indianaglass.carnivalheaven.com .
Indiana Glass Company was acquired by Lancaster Glass Corporation in 1957, and, along with several other glass manufacturers, became part of the Lancaster Colony Corporation in 1961.
The Dunkirk, Indiana facility ceased producing glass in 2002. Glass sold under the name “Indiana Glass” was also produced for a while at their “sister plant” located in Sapulpa, Oklahoma (the former Bartlett-Collins Glass Company plant).
That plant was also shut down (shortly after being purchased by Anchor Hocking Company) in the summer of 2008. I’ve been told that most of the glass molds have since been sold as scrap.
The very last Indiana hen-on-nest dishes were apparently produced in 1999 or 2000. If anyone has better information on the exact year they were last manufactured, please contact me!
“Hen on Nest” dishes, using the term in a general sense, of many different designs, types and colors, have been made by many, many glass companies in the United States since at least the 1870s, if not earlier. Early producers of the hens include Atterbury & Company and Challinor, Taylor & Company, both of Pittsburgh, in the 1880s and 1890s. Later on, other companies included Westmoreland Glass Company, Imperial Glass Company, L.E. Smith Glass Company, Fenton Art Glass Company, and many others. Hens were also made in porcelain and pottery.
Here is a page that discusses the general subject of “Hen-on-nest” dishes, written by glass researcher and hen-on-nest collector Shirley Smith: http://nmgcs.org/articles/42-hen-on-a-nest-studying-a-glass-collection.html.
This page (on the fentonaddict.com site) discusses the finer details in distinguishing Fenton Art Glass Company hens: Features and Characteristics of Fenton Glass Hens.
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