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Give Us This Day, Our Daily Bread

Posted on 11/19/2020 at 03:00 PM by Allison Sheridan



As we begin this season of bounty and thanks one aspect of Victorian life comes to mind, especially since the upcoming holidays are deeply focused around food and, for many, religion. During the 1870s to early 1900s many patterns for pressed glass had the Bible verse "Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread" (Matthew 6:11) molded into a bread plate or tray and included as part of the table setting. Some bread trays had other mottos or no motto at all. The trays ranged from depicting a geometric pattern to a popular actress, Egyptian scene, or even the Last Supper. Most bread trays or plates were roughly rectangular or oval in shape and around 12 inches long by 7-9 inches wide, although some were round. All the examples in our permanent collection happen to be clear glass, however trays were produced in colored glass as well.

Bread plates and trays were given prominence on the Victorian table to give thanks and pay homage to the bounty the family was experiencing. Bread continues to appear on our tables during the holidays – an indulgence even if we are counting carbs – and the tradition of “breaking bread”, a metaphor for gathering for a meal, remains a part of our dining experience.

In pop culture, the bread tray makes an appearance in the pages of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie about a homesteading family whose meals consisted of meat, potatoes and “daily bread”. An example of this same bread tray – the Wheat Sheaf pattern - can be seen in the museums’ permanent collection:  

"For themselves, they decided to buy a present together, something they could both use and enjoy. After much studying of Montgomery Ward’s catalogue, they chose to get a set of glassware. They needed it for the table and there was such a pretty set advertised, a sugar bowl, spoon-holder, butter dish, six sauce dishes, and a large oval-shaped bread plate. On the bread plate raised in the glass were heads of wheat and some lettering which read “Give us this day our daily bread.” … “When the box came from Chicago a few days before Christmas and was unpacked, they were both delighted with their present."

~ Laura Ingalls Wilder, in The First Four Years


HEADER IMAGE: Paneled Dewdrop pattern Platter or Bread Platter, 1878. Manufacturer: Campbell Jones & Company, American, 1865 – 1883. Gift of the Iowa State Questers. In the Iowa Quester Glass Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. UM2004.21

INSET IMAGE: Wheat Sheaf pattern Bread Tray, c. 1886. Manufacturer: McKee Glass Co., American (Jeannette, PA), 1904 – 1961. Gift of Ann and Henry Brunnier. In the Ann and Henry Brunnier Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. 3.15.37


1: Actress pattern (AKA Theatrical, Opera) Bread Tray, c. 1879. La Belle Glass Co., American (Bridgeport, OH), 1872 – 1887. Gift of Ann and Henry Brunnier. In the Ann and Henry Brunnier Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.  3.15.28. Actress (AKA Theatrical, Opera) pattern depicts famous actresses of the day on many table service pieces. This Bread Tray depicts impressed portrait of actress Lillian Adelaide Neilson (pseudonym of Elizabeth Ann Brown).

2: Egyptian pattern (AKA Parthenon) Bread Tray, c. 1875. Manufacturer: Adams & Company, American, 1861 – 1891. Gift of Ann and Henry Brunnier. In the Ann and Henry Brunnier Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. 3.15.17. Egyptian pattern is believed to have been inspired by the gift of Cleopatra’s Needle to the US in 1877. The woman is said to represent Cleopatra.

3: Be Industrious pattern (Lion/Lamb) Bread Tray, c. 1881-1882. Manufacturer: Iowa City Flint Glass Co., American (Iowa City, IA), 1880 – 1882. Gift of Sue Slight in memory of Berni Donnelly to the Iowa State Quester Glass Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. UM2005.344

4: Horseshoe pattern (AKA Good Luck, Prayer Rug, Prayer Mat) Bread plate, c. 1881. Manufacturer: Adams & Company, American, 1861 – 1891. Gift of Vicki D. Baker in honor of her mother, Hermina N. Nebben. In the Iowa Quester Glass Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. UM2005.285

5: Wheat Sheaf pattern Bread Tray, c. 1886. Manufacturer: McKee Glass Co., American (Jeannette, PA), 1904 – 1961. Gift of Ann and Henry Brunnier. In the Ann and Henry Brunnier Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. 3.15.37

6: Deer and Pine Tree pattern (AKA Deer and Doe) Bread Tray, c. 1886. Manufacturer: McKee Glass Co., American (Jeannette, PA), 1904 – 1961. Gift of Lynn and Lonnie Sulzberger. In the Iowa Quester Glass Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. UM2005.341

7: Clear Diagonal Band pattern (AKA California, "Eureka") Bread Tray, 1879. Manufacturer: Ripley & Co., American (Pittsburgh, PA), 1866 – 1891. Gift of the Iowa State Questers. In the Iowa Quester Glass Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. UM2003.78

8: Frosted Lion pattern (AKA "Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread") Bread Plate, 1890s. Manufacturer: Gillinder & Sons, American (Philadelphia, PA; Greensburg, PA), 1861 – 1891. Gift of Carol Pletcher. In the Iowa Quester Glass Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. UM2003.197

 

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