June/July 2001 Issue
Glass Knives from the Depression Era
by Walter Lemiski M.A.
For cutting and slicing acid fruits
This glass knife is specially made
For oranges, lemons, grape-fruit or limes-
And no stain will show on its blade.
From the mid-1920's through to the 1940's glass knives were
part and parcel of most complete kitchens. It was an era in which most
everything imaginable was made out of glass -- from mail boxes to
tableware to floor lamps to serving trays to dresses! Ranging in
size from about 7-1/2 to 9-1/2" these glass knives were most commonly made
in crystal [the Depression Glass collector term for transparent uncoloured
glass], but were also available in amber, blue, green, pink, and white.
Now, why would one ever want a knife made out of glass you may ask? The
best answer comes from an original advertisement for the `DUR-X GLASS FRUIT
and CAKE KNIFE' a gadget designed and patented by a certain John Didio
of Buffalo, New York in November 1938.
Important -- Please Read Carefully
I am made of glass, and will not stain or discolor; therefore I
am clean, stainless, sanitary and odourless.
Please take special care of me and I will give you many years of
I am as keen as a razor, ideal for slicing tomatoes,
oranges, lemons, grapefruit,
and especially constructed for separating the meaty parts
of grapefruit from its rind.
I will not punch a hole through the rind. It is
important that I only be used on a soft wooden board,
avoid metal or porcelain; after all I am
only made of glass.
When I am not in use put me back in the box or keep me away from
IDEAL FOR CAKE, PIES MERINGUE
I will make an ideal bridge prize and I am sure your dear friends
or neighbors will be delighted
with my services.
If you would like my twin the price is very reasonable.
The ads for the `STEEL-ITE GLASS KNIFE', marketed by Johnson
Products Company of
San Francisco, California, detailed the wonderful
uses of their glass knife:
TOMATOES can be cut very thin with your glass knife and
they will taste much better because
they do not have that `tinny' taste that comes from acid in contact
BANANAS when cut with the glass knife do not discolor so
quickly as do the ones cut with steel -
use the glass knife when cutting all fruits
for your salads, etc.
If you wish your APPLES and AVOCADOS to look nice
and not to discolor, use your glass knife.
This knife originated in England where it was first used as a GRAPEFRUIT
It is the finest thing in the world to use for sectionizing your
grapefruit and preparing it for service.
By peeling the grapefruit first you can then cut each section out
in its entirety.
All bitter skin can be avoided. Do not cut the fruit in half if
you wish to sectionize.
For slicing cakes, cutting pies, especially meringue pies,
and hot candies it is ideal.
As an added bonus, many suppliers of glass knives offered to regrind
a new edge on one's knife should it become damaged or chipped through accident.
The cost was a quite nominal 25 cents which also covered the return postage.
Additional decoration would also be sometimes added to the handles or blades
of these little sparkling knives. Hand-painted fruit or floral designs
can be found on the handles of many knives. Since glass knives were also
used as give-aways at carnivals and fairs, and sold as souvenirs, people
or place-names can sometimes be found engraved on the blades of these knives.
The more common crystal glass knives may still be very reasonably
bought for around $10-15. If the original box is with the knife and in
excellent condition another $5-10 may be added to the price. Frequently
found coloured glass knives may fetch around $25 to $35. Some of
the scarcer knives, such as the white Stonex knife, may command a couple
of hundred dollars. Of course, chips and nicks to the blade significantly
diminish a glass knife's value.
Although this `wonderful' invention of the second quarter
of the 20th century is no longer in vogue, many collectors have found that
these sparkling, clear little gems make for a splendid display in a cabinet
or in a kitchen display.
No metal to tarnish
When cutting your fruit,
And so it is certain,
This glass knife will suit!