Duncan & Miller Swans

by Virginia Scott
Rainbow Review Glass Journal - April 1975

The swan motif has been a popular one with glassmakers down through the years. Many companies have made swans during this century. Some of Swan Advertisement the most famous swans were made by the Duncan and Miller Glass Company of Washington, PA. Parts of three Duncan advertisements are shown here. All of the swan dishes pictured are Duncan's No. 30 "Pall Mall" pattern. Duncan made swan dishes in at least one other pattern, "Sylvan Leaves."

The "Pall Mall" pattern, according to a Duncan ad, was "in The modern feeling." A wide assortment of items were included in the pattern: Classical urns, cornucopia vases, smoking sets, cigarette boxes, and a variety of animal figurines - Sailfish, Heron, Bird of Paradise, ducks, swans and solid swans. (Refer to the House and Garden 1943advertisement at the end of this article)

Duncan swans started as a dish which was passed, while still hot, to a glassmaker who placed a gather of glass in the proper position and quickly pulled and rounded it into the gracefully curved neck. When the head, beak and eyes were added, the dish was turned into a beautiful swan. Because they were shaped by hand, the shape and size of the head and the tilt of the neck and throat varied with each swan.

I have found ads for swans in several colors, in addition to the crystal, ruby and milk glass shown here, a 1948 ad shows chartreuse swans. Weatherman Book 2 states that swans were also made in Biscayne green, Avocado, Teakwood and the Duncan Opalescent colors of pink, blue and yellow. The ruby swans are probably the most sought after and prized by collectors.

Although Duncan swan dishes were very ornamental, of themselves, they were made to be useful. They were made in at least six sizes: 3½", 5", 6", 7½", 10½", and 12". The smaller ones could be used for nuts, olives, bonbons or as ash trays; the larger ones for fruit, salads or flowers. Swans with candleholders, called "Candlelite Gardens" and designed to hold a candle and flower arrangement, came in 7½" and 10½" sizes. Two 7½" candleholders and a 12½" swan bowl made a handsome console set for dining table or buffet.

The 10½" swan pictured at center right clearly shows two distinguishing characteristics of Duncan "Pall Mall" swans:

  1. The base of the dish is oval and is rather small in comparison to the size of the swan
  2. The front of the dish is pulled up into a gently rounded point and the neck is set below this point (½" or more in the larger swans)

It must be pointed out that the U.S. Glass (Tiffin) swans made from the Duncan molds after Duncan went out of business, are very similar. New Martinsville-Viking swans, which are often confused with Duncan ones, have a round base and the neck is set into a "V" scallop, directly even with the edge of the dish.