The dealer Marc Witus and I had an enjoyable difference of opinion at the Weston Antiques Show. It was about what to call a glass in his booth that had a thick, almost unbreakable stem and foot.
Marc Witus called it a “thumper.” In England, I told him, it would have been called a “firing glass.” He looked at me with raised eyebrows.
A thumper, Marc explained, was a glass that you thumped loudly on the table when you had drained it. This told the innkeeper that the glass was empty and that he should correct the situation forthwith.
In England, I told Marc in return, a group of drinkers would drain their glasses as a toast to absent or present friends. They would then bang the glasses on the table to celebrate whomever they were toasting. The sound resembled a volley of rifle fire, hence “firing glasses.”
M Ford Creech Antiques had an explanation that was closer to mine than to Marc’s. On their website they called it a “firing glass,” and explained that “Firing glasses were used in the Georgian period for post-dining gatherings of gentlemen, who sang songs and told stories – most of which received applause and approval by rapping glasses on the table top. This sound resembled gunshots – thus the name ‘firing glass.’”
There’s a related glass that is sometimes called “a deceptive glass” but more often an “innkeeper’s glass.” It looks like a regular glass, but is solid, except for a tiny bowl at the top which held a tiny drink. This allowed the sociable innkeeper to drink glass for glass with his customers while remaining more sober than they! Very important.
Thumping, Firing or Deceiving? Whatever! The glasses are highly collectible and still usable for their original function – if you dare!