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).
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.
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.
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).
 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.