The Avocado Code

By Les Hansen
Issue # 376 - August 2004

Avocado seems like an ideal name for the color of opaque glass made by the Cambridge Glass Company that collectors seem to either love or hate. After all, it is almost a perfect match for the flesh of the Avocado fruit as well as the full-bodied green color, named Avocado, of kitchen appliances that was popular with homemakers in the early 1960s. However, the Colors in Cambridge Glass book points out, "The name 'Avocado' has been affixed to this color by collectors of Cambridge glass." Furthermore, "No reference to the name [Avocado] has been found in any trade publication or company literature."

Henry T. Hellmers' Batch Book of Glass Formulae has allowed us to document the ingredients in many colors of Cambridge glass. The book also provides us some opportunity to check the names assigned to colors of glass. Hellmers' batch book contains formulas for all of the Cambridge colors from the 1920s and 1930s, up to Hellmers' departure from Cambridge in 1932. Hellmers was employed by the Cambridge Glass Company in 1930; however, clearly, he added the formulas for the earlier Cambridge colors to his batch book.

All of the Cambridge colors from 1920 to 1932 are labeled by name in Hellmers' batch book with just a few exceptions. The exceptions for the transparent colors will be the topic of a future article. However, the formulas for the opaque colors of Azurite, Ebony, Helio, Jade, Ivory, and Crown Tuscan in Hellmers' batch book are all labeled by the color assigned by the Cambridge company and also used by collectors today. The exceptions are Primrose, Carrara, and "Avocado". The formula for a white opaque, dated 1923 and attributed to Cambridge in Hellmers' batch book, almost certainly is the formula for Carrara. Likewise, a formula for a yellow opal attributed to A. J. Bennett of Cambridge, almost certainly is the formula for Primrose.

That leaves "Avocado" as the only Cambridge opaque color lacking identification in Hellmers' batch book. It is unlikely that the formula for Avocado would have been excluded from Hellmers' batch book, because the color was likely introduced shortly before Hellmers arrival in Cambridge. How many Cambridge formulas appear for opaque green colors in Hellmers' batch book? Only five - and three are alternative formulas for Jade with just slight differences. The other two formulas for green opaque colors have names assigned to them - Pomona Green, dated 1928, and Pea Green, dated November 24, 1932.

The 1928 date for Pomona Green is an extremely good fit for "Avocado", because the Colors book indicates, "The shapes found lead us to believe that it had limited production in the 1927-28 time period." Hellmers claimed credit for developing a green opaque named Pea Green for Cambridge; however, the dates of his employment with Cambridge and the date of the formula seem too late for "Avocado".

So, what can we conclude? Pomona Green was very likely the name used by the Cambridge Glass Company for the color that collectors today call "Avocado". Harold and Judy Bennett, in their book published in 1970 - The Cambridge Glass Book, identified a 13" vase (blank #2374) in the "Avocado" color as Pomona Green. Harold and Judy probably interviewed factory workers to assign Pomona Green to this color and, more than likely, they got the factory name correct for this color.

The formula for Pomona Green in Hellmers' batch book is extremely similar to the formulas for Azurite, Helio, Jade, and Ivory, except for colorants. The formula seems correct for the color, the date is appropriate for the color, and supporting sources suggest that the factory name for "Avocado" was Pomona Green.

What about Pea Green? Webster's dictionary states that pea green is a "yellowish green". Hellmers contended that Pea Green (dated 1932) was a production color while he was employed by Cambridge. Therefore, the "experimental" light opaque green items produce by Cambridge, especially in the 3400 line - see plate 50 in the Colors book, might have had the color name of Pea Green. [The color of these experimental items is unappealing to most people, and the color name of Pea Green is also less than appealing; therefore, it is little wonder why glass in this color was not produced in any quantity.]

The probable use of Pomona Green by Cambridge for the color "Avocado" brings forth the issue of the "Pomona" treatment reportedly applied to crystal blanks by the Cambridge Glass Company in the late 1910s - the topic of another future article.