The Basket

By Vicki Wollenhaupt
May 2008 - Issue 418

Many members remember Bill and Phyllis Smith. Frank and I knew the Smith's for almost thirty years. If you knew Bill then you Nearcut basket realize that he was always intrigued by the odd Cambridge pieces. For many years he carried a copy of the catalogue page that depicted the oil lamps. He was on a quest to find one. He could also talk to you in length about Cambridge door knobs. So it wasn't so unusual when he arrived at a study club meeting and unwrapped a basket most people would never have looked at twice.

The basket was a bit beat-up but Bill was really proud to sit it out for show & tell. It was the Basset hound of baskets. It was low, had a wide sturdy base, came in crystal and was from the Near Cut era. For years the basket resided on a shelf in the Smith's living room. Every time we were there (and that was many), I would see the basket sitting on the shelf with all the "pretty" baskets. Nearcut basket In all our years of shopping and looking, I had never seen another one. Years passed and Bill died. Phyllis had several auctions but that basket stayed on the shelf. After Phyllis died, there was an estate auction and the basket was there. I thought after all these years, we should buy the basket, even tho it was a bit worse for the wear. We bid, bid some more and even bid more but sadly, the basket didn't come home with us.

I thought my chances of ever finding that basket ranged from slim to none. One day I was looking at Longaberger fabric on eBay. One listing had quite a bit of fabric and a lone crystal basket. In looking closer at the photo, it was "the basket". Don't you hate eBay when you find something and you now must wait the 3, 7 or 10 days till the auction ends? I certainly did not want this one to get away. Fortunately I won the basket, and then I had to wait and hope that the person (a non glass seller) would package the basket so that it would arrive undamaged. It arrived in great shape.

At the convention in 2007 I was relating to a fellow club member my basket story. I tried to describe the basket as best I could and she told me that she had a basket that had to be the same pattern. She told me that her sister had given it to her as a Christmas gift. She thought that it had been purchased at an auction and it had a bit of damage. Her Christmas gift had Nearcut basket to be the "Smith basket." I'm glad that the basket found a good home and happy that I have been able to find one for myself.

The most obvious thing about this basket is the shape. As you look down at the basket, it resembles a diamond. As you can see from the photo, this is a very sturdy basket. The handle is thick and the base is stair stepped. It is pattern #3000 with cutting #2078. It appears in a Near Cut catalogue which dates from the teens. There are 34 different items in this line. The majority of the pieces are nappies. It is interesting to note that when a "nappy" has divisions it is listed as a lunch tray. There are two square comports, a 5 inch and 7 inch. Four bowls, a 7 inch and 8 inch round, 8 inch square and an 11 inch oval orange bowl. A berry sugar and creamer but no butter. A half gallon tankard and tumbler are pictured along with a 9 inch square and an 8 inch round vase. Four trays are listed, a 9 inch round candy tray, a 12 inch celery, a 9 inch pickle and a 7 inch spoon tray. The last three trays are actually oval in shape and are shallow bowls. A 6 inch high footed Bonbon (compote) and 5 inch square footed mayonnaise which may have one or two handles. As you can see, this isn't a very extensive line.

Three separate cuttings were offered on this line. The cuttings were numbered 2075, 2078 and 2079 and Detail of cutting all three cuttings were flowers. The leaves are actually molded with the flower petals being the only thing that is cut. The basket was offered in two sizes, a 7½ inch and a 6 inch. The basket in the photo is the 7½ inch size. The measurement is taken across the widest part of the bowl. This pattern appears to have disappeared from the line by the mid 1920's. One piece that is the basic shape of the #3000 pattern is listed in the 1927-29 Smith catalogue reprint on page 12. The piece is #722 and is obviously being depicted as a mayonnaise. The 1930 catalogue does not list this item, so it is assumed that all of the pieces have been dropped from production.

To date, I have seen four pieces of this pattern. All have been in crystal. Since the one basic shape piece was listed in the 1927-29 catalogue, it is possible that it was produced in a color of that era. Has anyone ever seen this pattern in a color other than crystal?

If you collect Near Cut era baskets or baskets in general, this would be a star attraction to your collection. Since this basket was made in 6 inch and a 7½ inch sizes it would be interesting to see both of them sitting side by side for comparison. If you have any additions to this story or have seen a piece in a color, please email me at fewvic303@sbcglobal,net.