Hear! Hear!

Firing glasses (so called because of the musket-shot report the glasses produced when slammed on table tops in enthusiastic agreement with orators and speakers) first appeared in the late seventeenth-century. Firing glasses from this period are rare; the majority of surviving glasses are eighteenth-century (and shouldn’t be confused with nineteenth-century penny licks[1]).

Firing glasses were stoutly made – particularly the stem and foot – to withstand the maltreatment they received. The glasses are small; usually no more than 2-3/4″ to 3-1/8″ (7cm – 8cm) tall. The bowls’ meager capacity held just sufficient for the immediate toast – anymore and the contents would be sloshed around the room when the glasses were ‘fired’. Frequent topping-up was all part of the ceremony.

firing_glass_c1750_01cFig. 1. Circa 1750 firing glass engraved with motifs in support of the Jacobite movement.

The Masons were apparently a loquacious faction as firing glasses (as well as roemers and ceremonial goblets etc.) frequently turn up bearing Masonic arms or emblems.

firing_glass_Masonic_c1755_01eFig.2. Circa 1755 firing glass engraved with Masonic Square & Compass emblems.

firing_glass_c1765_02aFig. 3. Circa 1765 firing glass with ogee bowl, double series opaque twist and plain foot.

firing_glass_c1780_01aFig. 4. Circa 1780 firing glass with engraved, ovoid bowl, double series opaque twist and conical foot.

At informal gatherings, toasts were proposed by anyone with a point to voice and a speaker (usually a verbose and eloquent individual), maintained control of events at more formal assemblies.

Speakers were expected to enliven formal events with sobriety. To this end, a glass with the same outward appearance as a firing glass was produced, but with a deceptively small bowl (figs. 5 & 6). Further, the high quality of the lead glass reflected the contents of the bowl, giving the impression of it being as full as other revelers’ glasses.

Eighteenth-century ‘deception’ glasses followed the shape and proportions of commensurate firing glasses, however, as the prominence and status of the speaker increased, so did the shape and size of their glasses.

Aside from the reduced capacity of deception glasses, the feet were also thinner than those of firing glasses; more in keeping with other styles of drinking glasses. The stems were often knopped like wine glasses of the period and the overall height grew to around 3-1/2″ – 4″ (9cm – 10 cm).

deception_glass_c1720_01dFig. 5. Circa 1720 deception glass with funnel bowl, multiple knopped stem and stepped foot.

deception_glass_c1770_01Fig. 6. Circa 1770 deception glass with trumpet bowl, single ball knop and stepped foot.

Jack Plane

[1] Penny licks are small glasses with thick-bowls (to deceive customers), in which one pennyworth of ice cream was served by nineteenth-century street vendors.

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About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
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One Response to Hear! Hear!

  1. Le Loup says:

    Great post Jack, thank you. I had not heard of these glasses before this. Much appreciated.
    Regards, Keith.
    Shared http://woodsrunnersdiary.blogspot.com.au/2014/07/firing-glasses-and-deception-glasses.html

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