Firing Glasses and Drams
Georgian firing glasses and Georgian dram glasses are highly collectable, these are the miniatures of the 18th century glass genre. A dram is a measure of whisky, the water of life. Before the unwelcome European metric system a measure of one dram in an Edinburgh Inn was a quarter of a gill, a gill being a quarter pint, or 5 fluid ounces if you prefer. Thus a dram was 1/16th of a pint or one and a quarter fluid ounces. In England where the more temperate roamed, a dram was one fifth of a gill, a little less than in Scotland where it is wrongfully claimed people are mean - quite the opposite when it comes to dispensing measures of whisky, it woud appear ! Nowadays a metric dram is just 25ml, smaller than even the old English measure of 28.5ml. An excellent reason to vote for Independence from Europe will be the promise of "return to the full dram", but I digress...
18th century firing glasses, dram and gin glasses are delightful. My favourite Georgian drinking glass of all is a Jacobite engraved dram glass that may be slipped into a pocket. The firing glass should really be called a firing foot glass. The bowls have a small capacity and were used for toasting and still are today amongst the "Freres Macon". When the latter day "shot glass" had been consumed it would be slammed into the table, thus requiring a thickened foot to avoid unseemly breakages. It is said that when the assembled throng at a Jacobite Society meeting or the notorious anti-catholic Hell Fire Club did this in unison the sound was reminiscent of a volley of muskets, hence the name firing glass. There are many stem types, opaque twist, colour twists, plain and baluster. The engraved examples with drinking club and society names and those with masonic engraving are widely collected.
Firing feet are not restricted to small drams and the like, and may be found on larger glasses such as short cordials, gins and ale glasses, these though are very much in the minority. One of the absolute rarest must be the Georgian opaque twist "captains glasses" standing around ten inches tall and normally having a terraced firing foot. You should not assume that the name relates in anyway to a nautical theme - the captain in this instance would have been the nominated head of the table at society meeting clubs and the like, and he would have sued his glass to rap on the table to call for order. The most readily available example to view of these particularly rare glasses is illustrated in A Wine Lovers Glasses - the A.C.Hubbard Jr Collection, a must have book for those who aspire to owning a fine collection of glass. You may also like to take a look at https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/19675/lot/119/
Please don't try
slamming 18th century firing glasses on tables in your local bar, unless on
very good terms with the proprietor, and you can afford the period replacement
- some rare examples with baluster stems have been known to fetch four figure
sums, more than the equivalent taller Georgian wine glasses