Cambridge Showrooms

by Mark A. Nye
Issue #366 - October 2003

During the roughly fifty years the Cambridge Glass Co. was in business, it maintained sales showrooms in a number of major cities as well as at the factory itself. The largest of these showrooms was in New York.

In 1930, Cambridge completed construction of a new, larger showroom at the factory. Crockery & Glass Journal reported that, "The Cambridge Glass Company completed the construction of new showrooms on the lower floor of their office building at Cambridge, Ohio. These consist of a series of rooms totalling 2,600 square feet of space."

At that time, the chosen way to display the glassware was on oak tables, many with mirrored tops. The door from this showroom is now incorporated into the National Museum of Cambridge Glass.

The showroom in New York was even larger and more lavishly furnished than the one at the factory. In 1941, Cambridge opened an expanded showroom, of some 4,000 square feet, at 212 Fifth Avenue in New York. The latest styles and techniques of display were used in this showroom, including pyroxilyn shade cloths (whatever those were). The innovative choice was made to make the walls, floor and ceiling all gray, providing an ideal background for the glass.

There was not one panel of mirror used in the new showroom, as it had been decided that mirror was a distracting medium for the display of glass. "It repeats a shape two or three times with a confusing result," was how Cambridge press materials described the choice to omit mirrors.

Cambridge's New York showroom was designed by Antonin Raymond, apparently one of the top retail designers working at the time. The large space replaced a showroom at 184 Fifth Avenue, which Cambridge had been using since 1915. The new showroom was to be Cambridge's New York home until 1954, when the factory closed. During the "reopen" period, Cambridge maintained no showrooms outside the factory.

In 1930, at the same time that Cambridge was opening their new factory showroom, the company opened its first permanent showroom in Pittsburgh. Before that, the company's presence in Pittsburgh had been at trade shows only. The Pittsburgh showroom, however, was not much of a success, and was certainly not permanent. It lasted only one year at its original location, moved in 1931 and was closed for good by 1935.

The Cambridge showroom in Chicago, opened sometime during the late 1920's, was second in size to the New York showroom. According to photographs from the period, the Chicago showroom displayed the glassware on tablecloths, unique among the known showroom designs. There is no record as to why this unusual choice was made in Chicago. The Chicago showroom remained in operation until 1954.

In 1931, Cambridge had showrooms in New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Detroit, Kansas City, Denver, Los Angeles and Boston; as well as the factory showroom in Cambridge, Ohio.

Over the next 23 years, many of these showrooms did not survive. The company was, apparently, unable or unwilling to maintain showrooms that did not perform well.

Some collectors in recent years have observed that the largest quantites of Cambridge Glass found today are found in areas near the old showrooms. While the evidence of that is only anecdotal, it does seem to make sense.

The Cambridge Glass Company did, during it's most productive years, make an effort to market Cambridge Glass internationally. A permanent showroom was established in London in the 1930's. There is no record of how long it operated.

In addition, the company established relationships with independent sales representatives in other international locales. There are records of Cambridge reps in Australia, Canada, Venezuela, Cuba and Argentina. Little is known about how much glass these reps sold, but some fine examples have been coming out of Australia in recent years. Could there be a treasure trove hiding there? Hmmmm