by Bob Brooke
revolving caster was one of the most widely used pieces of Victorian
tableware. According to directions for setting the table given in
cookbooks of the period, the caster should sit in the center of the
table. Manufacturers generally made them of white Britannia Metal and
then electroplated them.
Casters had been used on the table early in the
19th century, but the early type of casters set on a footed tray with
center handle and weren’t electroplated. The earliest electroplated
casters had a wide pierced band which served as a holder for the
bottles, of which there were usually six, plus small salt dips. Makers
placed the base on four feet on a wooden bottom, then topped it with an
ornate handle in the center.
In 1860, casters became more elaborate and had
bottles of pressed glass. Pressed glass bottle patterns ranged from
Bellflower to Daisy & Button, Beaded Dewdrop, Beaded Grape,
Medallion Bull's Eye, Fine Cut, Fine Rib, Gothic, Hamilton, Ivy,
Honeycomb, Palmette, Powder & Shot, Thumbprint, Roman Rosette and
Eugenia. They even made more expensive ones in cut glass.
The rotary caster, in which the bottles fitted
into holes on a circular platform which stood on a tall cone-type base,
was patented in 1862. Makers often decorated its center handle with
elaborate openwork design. In the 1870's, they added heavy grape and
beaded borders. Later, the low caster came back into vogue and colored
pressed glass containers with Daisy and Button pattern or milk
opalescent or cased glass became the rage, thus reducing the silver
frame to a few wires.
Since the Victorians had a myriad of tableware,
each with its own use, there were also pickle and salad casters, their
containers being the most interesting feature of these later casters. In
addition to pressed glass of blue, canary or crystal, makers used Pomona
art glass, opalene twist, imported, decorated ruby glass and cut crystal
glass. The glass containers had a fancy plated cover and decorated tongs
were fastened to the stand.
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