A Week at the Cambridge Factory - Part I

by Mark Nye
Issue No. 451 - September 2011

It is the last week of May, 1952. Both the week and the month ended on Saturday, the 31st. From the remaining records, it is not known how many furnaces were in operation during the week. The records upon which this article is based do tell us that 10 press shops operated during the week ending May 31. That is the good news. The bad news, at least it was for the workers, is that each shop only worked a total of 16 hours that week.

For those who do not know what a glass factory "shop" is, it is a group of men, headed by a blower or presser, that work together to produce a certain article during a four hour period. This period is known as a turn and for each item Cambridge produced, there was a predetermined standard amount that this group should produce during the eight hour period. This amount was known as a "move" and was agreed upon by the workers' union and company management.

In an ideal situation, each shop would work eight hours per day for at least a 40 hour work week. This would mean a total of ten turns. The workers were paid by the time worked, not a flat weekly salary. Hence, the more turns worked, the more they earned. So what did the press shops produce during that last week of May, 1952?

Press Shop No. 1, headed by John D. Mosser, made No. 682 desiccator jars, Square line 3797/120 6 in nappies, 1491 mayonnaise bowls, Caprice No. 32 cabaret plates and Caprice 53 crimped nappy. The shop produced and total of 157 desiccator jars, of which 132 were good and 25 were bad. The Square line was not easy to produce, indicated by the fact the shop produced 381 No. 120 nappies, of which 143 were bad and 238 were good for a loss of around 37%. They did much better with the mayonnaise bowl, ending up with 353 pieces, of which 312 were good. The Caprice pieces also turned out well, 153 good plates versus 17 unacceptable pieces while the nappies were quite so good, 117 moved to stock versus 15 for the cullet barrel. Totals for the shop were approximately 80 dozen good pieces versus 19 dozen bad.

Press Shop No. 2, headed by Clayton Finley, produced decanter stoppers, a private mold sugar and No. 1936/253 individual creamers and sugars. This shop's biggest problem was with the decanter stopper. Out of a total of 378 made, only 91 were good. Under remarks were the words "crooked & blistered." The private mold sugar, being made for Farber Brothers, had its problems too. The shops comments were "checked edge and run down." Out of the 614 produced, there were 424 good ones and 190 bad. The individual cream and sugar fared much better; there being only 38 unacceptable sugars out of 670 and 595 good creams versus 59 bad.

Joseph Hickman headed up Shop 3 that produced two different 3400 nappies, Nos. 3400/48 and 3400/160; two Square Line plates, Nos. 3797/28 & 3797/125 ( Both of these are 14 inch plates.), and a Pristine nappy, No. 1936/431. The 3400 line nappies had a loss of only 40 out of 520 produced. The Square line lived up to its reputation of being hard to produce and the Pristine nappy also gave the shop problems with a 33% scrap rate.

Candlesticks, a Pristine comport and a Cascade tumbler were the output of Shop No. 4, run by Harry Jones Sr. The two candlesticks, Nos. 646 and 648 with bobeche collar did not give the shop too much trouble with a scrap rate of approximately 12 per cent. Once again a Pristine line item, this time the 1936/55 LF comport, caused problems. Out of the 433 produced by the shop, 117 were not acceptable. The Cascade tumbler, 4000/9 12 oz size, ended up with a total of 559 being made, of which 68 were not acceptable.

One of the less frequently seen pieces of Caprice was made during the week ending May 31, 1952, the 3550/31 cake plate with peg. Daniel Frontz shop, No. 5 that week, made 195 pieces of which 172 were deemed good. Other items produced by this shop were 306 3797/48 10 inch oval nappies of which 119 did not meet specifications, 376 Pristine No. 248 celery trays of which 48 were destined for the cullet pile and the3797/150 ashtray. In the latter instance 21 of the 269 produced would never see a cigarette.

Anthony Schwartz and his shop No. 6 produced 3 turns of 319 tumblers in Ambler and one turn of the 3979/40 individual sugar. In this instance the Square line sugar ran good with about a 6% scrap rate. The tumblers ran very smoothly with only 34 bad out of over 1500 produced.

Two sizes of desiccator jar covers and two relish trays were the output of shop headed up by James Watson. Of the 596 desiccator covers produced, 114 were deemed bad by the inspectors. 30% of the 3797/126 relish tray never made into stock while approximately 15% of the 3400/90 2 part relish production was rejected.

Shop No. 8 and Alva Keith made two turns of the 555 salad plate, each preceded by making samples of the 3797/23 7 inch plate. Twenty were made initially with 8 good and 12 bad. The second time, only 9 were made with 4 good and 5 bad. A 1000 555 salad plates were made with 868 destined for use and 133 ending up in the cullet pile. The other two turns of this shop also produced plates, the 556 8 inch plate and the 3500/167 salad plate. For these, the rejects were approximately 25% and 18% respectively.

The production of Shop 9, headed up by Robert Danford, is not readily known by the descriptions on the shop report sheet with two exceptions. The 3900/127 and 3900/153 mayonnaise bowls which gave the shop almost no problems. Out of the 504 produced, only 17 were scrapped. The 3797/67 item is described as nappy with peg. In fact, this is what was cataloged as the 3797/67 cupped candlestick. Again, production went well with only 15 pieces out of a total of 446 destined for the cullet barrel. The other two pieces produced by this shop are listed as the 1536 5 inch nappy with peg and 1537 5 inch nappy with peg. These were probably used as components of items such as the Pristine 2 piece relish tray, made up of a nappy with peg and candlestick. More problems were encountered with these two pieces. Out of a total of 1125 produced, 109 had defects, for a scrap rate of slightly less than 10%.

The first time Louis Robin's Shop No 10 made the 1936/492 square candle holder, things did not go well. The scrap rate was just over 50% with 181 being good and 185 rejected. A second turn of this same piece went much better with only 11 out of 376 found defective. Two turns of the Square line No. 151 ashtray were also successful. A total of 1711 were made with just over 5% scrap.

For the week, the pressed shops produced a total of 17,619 pieces of glass. Of these, 15,302 were deemed good and 2587 bad for an overall scrap rate of 14%. Skilled labor payroll amounted to $926.26 and Boy labor came to $1047.94. The company figured losses using standard costs for the items produced. For the week ending May 31, 1952, the standard cost of all items produced was $13,506.20 with those "bad" having a standard cost of $2338.10 for a loss of 17%. To give the reader a perspective of 1952 dollars, advertised food specials during the month of May included 43 cents a dozen for eggs, coffee – 85 cents for a one pound can, a pound of butter for 69 cents, a ten pound bag of sugar for 99 cents and a five pound bag of flour for 47 cents.

Most of the shop reports and their recapitulation sheets have been lost. The exception is those for the year 1949 for which most have survived. Based on these sheets, the average Press Shop weekly loss was 21%. However, it must be noted that the factory was much busier that year than they were during May 1952. Whether or not this increased the scrap and loss rate is not known. Based on just the numbers, the press shops, when it came to losses, had a better than average week that last week of May 1952.

What appears to be a discrepancy between costs of skilled and boy labor comes from the fact that there were more "boys" in a shop then "men." Positions considered skilled labor were presser, gatherer and finisher. Boy labor included Carrying In, Carrying Over, and any other job that did not require a skill usually acquired only by experience.

In a future issue, we will take a similar look at a blow shop operating during the same time period.