Cambridge Laboratory Glassware Line

by Mark Nye
Issue No. 448 - May 2011

Many collectors of glass produced by the Cambridge Glass Co., Cambridge, Ohio, are either unaware or are only marginally aware of the fact that in addition to the world famous lines of handmade table and decorative glassware, Catalog page the Cambridge Glass Company also had a line of chemical, laboratory supply, physicians, druggists, photographers, and watchmakers glassware. In fact this line existed almost from the very beginning and continued to be an important part of the original Cambridge Glass Company's business until the 1954 closure.

The origin of this line was the Canton Glass company of Marion, Indiana, one of the original National Glass Company companies. By early 1902 Canton Glass Company was one of the twelve remaining National glass companies. On May 3, 1902, the two local newspapers, The Marion Chronicle and The Daily Leader announced that the Canton Glass Company would close and move to the new plant in Cambridge, Ohio. It was reported the move was made necessary by the shortage of fuel (natural gas). The blow shops and mold departments were the first to close and their equipment moved to Cambridge. By July 1, 1902, all operations had ceased at Canton.

Among the lines produced by Canton Glass were druggists goods, graduates, pressed percolators, mortars and pestles, plain funnels, ribbed funnels and it was these wares that were subsequently produced at the Cambridge factory and became the basis of their line. A Cambridge Glass Company advertisement that ran in China, Glass and Lamps, September 27, 1902, just a little or four months after the Cambridge factory had begun operations, as well as a second one that appeared a little later, made reference to the Canton Glass Works, a name more recognizable to the trade than that of the fledgling Cambridge Glass Co.

The first known Cambridge catalogs were issued the following year, 1903. The first was entitled "1903 Catalog of Pressed and Blown Glass Ware, Manufactured by the Cambridge Glass Co., Cambridge, O." while the cover of the second read "1903 Cambridge Glass Co. Operating the Canton Glass Works Manufacturers of Glassware for the Drug, Chemical, Surgeons and Photograph Supply Trade. Also for Confectioners and Dealers in Specialties. Cambridge, Ohio USA."

During the next 50 years there were apparently sixteen successive catalogs of chemical, laboratory supply, Physicians, Druggists and Watchmakers Glassware if we are to believe the numbers that appear on catalogs that have survived and there is no reason not to. The last, No. 17 is dated 1953. Most catalogs from this line were not dated and dating can be a problem. No. 12 appears to have been issued circa 1942. Hence, Nos. 13-16 apparently appeared in the nine year period between 1942 and 1953. The issue Catalog page date for Catalog No. 11 was probably in the early 1920s while No. 8 was probably issued after 1915.

Catalogs Nos. 8 and 11 are essentially the same catalog except for pricing and the addition of a few items. During the years No 11 was in use, many items were discontinued. Subsequently Catalog No. 12 is significantly different than No. 11. This trend continued with Catalog No. 17 showing only eleven pages of ware versus the twenty eight pages in No. 12.

How much of this type of ware was marked is not known. Very infrequently a piece of laboratory ware bearing the Triangle C mark will be found, thus it is known some pieces were marked.

After the 1954 demise of the original Cambridge Glass Company, molds from the pharmaceutical line were obtained by the newly organized Variety Glass Company and became the basis of their product line. To this day, Variety Glass Company continues to manufacture items from the Cambridge line.

Unlike tableware and decorative glassware that tended to pass from generation to generation, laboratory glassware most often got used until it broke or the marking lines wore off and then the item discarded. Hence only a small amount survived to end up in the resale market and subsequently in Cambridge collections. Finding pieces that be authenticated as being made at the Cambridge factory can be a daunting task for today's collectors.

In June 2010, NCC, Inc. issued a reprint of "Catalog No. 8 of Chemical, Laboratory Supply, Physicians, Druggists, Photographers and Watchmakers Glassware." The reprint is available at the NCC museum or can be ordered by mail.