A Week at the Cambridge Factory - Part II

by Mark Nye
Issue No. 452 - October 2011

In a previous article we took a look at a week's production in the press shops operating at the Cambridge factory during the last week of May, 1952. In this article we take a look at what was going on in the blow shops the preceding week. Unfortunately, the records of blow shops for the week ending May 31 did not survive the passage of time.

During the week that ended May 24, 1952, a total of 13 blow shops operated. Similar to the press shops, a full 40 hour or more week was not to be. Most of the blow shops worked 24 hours during the week with several working a little less than that. These workers were luckier than their press shop counterparts who only got a 16 hour week the following pay period.

Blow Shop No. 1, headed by George Petit spent their week producing items from the Square Line. There were two turns of the 3797/decanter. These did not go well at all. A total of 207 were made, of which only 51 were good. They then turned to vases, the 3797/79 11 inch vase, the 3797/77 7½ inch vase and the 3797/78 9½ in vase. Once again, the piece proved difficult to make; the first turn saw 39 good and 82 bad while the second turn produced 53 good and 71 bad. The turn of the 7½ inch vases went better; out of a total of 266 produced, 167 were good and 99 bad. The shop just about broke even with the 9½ inch vase for which the turn lasted only 3 hours. Out of 78 vases made, 37 were acceptable and 41 rejected. Totals for the shop for the week were 347 good and 449 bad pieces.

Blow Shop No.2 started their week with an Amber liner for Farber Bros. Three turns of the liner by this shop, headed by Carsie Allen, saw 913 pieces made with 139 deemed not suitable. A turn of 497 16 oz tumblers in lead glass did not go so well with about equal amounts of good and bad, 146 vs. 151. Shop No. 2 ended their week with two turns of the 1633 5-3/4 inch vase. The total production consisted of 977 pieces with 129 of these being rejected.

Gus Heyman, a blower whose picture appeared in Life magazine, headed up Shop 3. They spent the week making items from the 7966 stemware line. They started out making the 12 oz. footed tumbler, 554 of them. Of this amount, 206 never made it to the stock room. Next came the cordial and two turns saw 768 made with 101 never to hold liquid. Ending the week were two turns of sherbets, the second being a short turn of only 3 hours. Altogether, 491 sherbets were blown with a total of 111 deemed unacceptable.

Shop No. 4 with Ernest Watson in charge also produced 7966 stemware the week ending May 24. Their output consisted of sherbets, low wines and oyster cocktails. Out of 661 sherbets made that week, 544 were good and 117 were bad. Total wines produced numbered 712. Unfortunately the number of defective pieces was greater than seen with the sherbets with 219 unacceptable wines. The shop did better with the oyster cocktails with 123 bad and 470 good.

Goblets and saucer champagnes (tall sherbets) were the output of Shop No. 5, headed by Ralph Wilson. There was one turn each of 3775 goblets and 3775 saucer champagnes. The shop made a total of 363 goblets with 104 bad and 349 champagnes of which they lost 87. Next was a turn of 3130 goblets when out of the 421 made, 86 were rejected. For the last three turns of the week, the shop turned to 3121 stemware. First came saucer champagnes with 194 good and 98 bad. Two turns of 3121 goblets produced 651 with 79 going into the scrap pile.

Jake Gatz and his Shop No. 6 started the week with three and a half turns of 3790 or Simplicity Line goblets. Out of the 1253 made, 862 were deemed good and 391 bad. A half turn of 3121 goblets did not go too well with 83 out of 183 being rejected. A turn of 3790 cordials had a loss of 50% with 217 good and 217 bad. The week ended for Shop No. 6 with a turn of 3500 or Gadroon line cordials. Results were better for these cordials with 275 good and 53 bad for a total of 328 pieces.

Two turns of Square Line No. 3798 goblets (These are the ones with a cube as part of the stem.) began the week for James Nichols and Shop No. 7. Out of 812 produced, 507 were accepted by the inspectors as they came out of the lehr. The shop then turned to producing 3798 sherbets for a turn and a half. Total number produced was 519, out of which 313 were good. A half turn of 3121 cocktails ended with 103 good and 44 bad. The next turn was split between 3779 line cocktails and Square or 3798 line wines. 223 cocktails were made and 34 of these were found not acceptable by inspectors. The shop made 219 of the Square line wines and 76 were rejected at the end of the lehr. The week ended for this shop with a short run (1½ hours) of 3779 cocktails. The report sheet gave no explanation for the short run but could have been due to the tank of molten glass being finished. Out of the 176 cocktails made, only 64 were good.

Shop No. 8, headed by Herbert Watson, worked four turns of 3779 stemware including goblets, saucer champagnes and low sherbets. All told, 1549 pieces were made with only 272 deemed unacceptable by the inspectors. The shop finished the week with two turns of 3121 5 oz footed tumblers that resulted in 867 good pieces and 105 bad.

Albert Jones and his Shop No. 9 spent their week making Square 3797 stemware. (This is the line without an actual stem; the bowl sits on a square base.) The shop made goblets, cocktails, 5 oz. footed tumblers and sherbets. They had difficulty with all. After six complete turns, the results were 1103 bad pieces and 886 good.

Simplicity or 3790 stemware was the major output of Shop No. 10, led by Harold Arnold, during the subject week. Sherbets were the primary piece produced by the shop along with a short run of cocktails. The cocktails turned out to be a problem, with only 66 good out of 119 made. The sherbet production ended better. Total produced was 1220, of which 866 were good.

No. 497 16 oz. shammed tumblers were the main output of Shop 11 during the week under review. Out of the six turns worked by this shop, headed by John Ravak, four and a half were devoted to this item. The rest of time was spent making No.1530 mayonnaise bowls. 454 bowls were made out of which 245 were good and 209 bad. A total of 946 tumblers were made, out of which 466 were good and 480 were bad.

Lewis Wilson and his Shop No. 12 made two and half turns of No. 3700 12 oz footed tumblers, one and half turns of No. 3121 10 oz. footed tumblers and a turn and one half of No. 3121 cocktails. The cocktails went well with a total of 794 made, of which 667 were good and 127 ended up as rejects. The number of 3121 tumblers made totaled 304 of which 90 were bad. Altogether a total of 776 No. 3700 10 oz. tumblers were made, of which 534 were good and 252 bad.

The last of the blow shops operating during the week ending May 24, Shop No. 13, was headed up by Charles Hall. It made a turn of 4 inch bandage jars for the pharmaceutical line, a battery jar and then items for the regular catalog. Out of the 575 bandage jars made, 536 turned out good and 39 bad. In the case of the battery jar, there were 356 good pieces and 43 rejected items. Next the shop produced a turn of Corinth or 3900 line jugs, specifically, the No. 115 which has a stuck handle. [A stuck handle is a free formed handled that when both the jug and handle are hot, is literally stuck on to the jug, the hot glass forming the bond.] A total of 231 jugs were made, 159 deemed good by the inspectors and 72 bad. Then came a turn of 3900/100 oil bottles, these too having stuck handles. These went well with only 27 out of 469 being rejected as they came off the lehr. The week for this shop ended with two turns of Caprice No. 96 shakers. In two turns, the shop produced 1726 shakers, of which 1457 were moved to stock and 272 junked.

For the week, the thirteen blow shops produced a total of 26,197 pieces. Of these, 18,919 were deemed good by the inspectors and 7,278 bad for an overall scrap rate of 27%. The skilled labor cost was $1906.63 and boy labor totaled $1552.84. As mentioned in the previous article, Cambridge used standard costs when calculating losses. For the week ending May 24, 1952 the standard cost of all items produced was $17,540 with those bad having a standard cost of $5,410 for a loss of 30%. Using data from 1949 (as done for the press shops), the average weekly loss was 27.5%. Hence, for the week in question, the losses were a little above average.

The defective or "not so good" pieces were not a unique problem to Cambridge but typical of handmade glass manufacturing in general, going back to the earliest days and continuing on to the present. In the years Cambridge was operating, companies, for the most part, if at all, did not sell defective pieces as seconds. Rather off they went to the cullet bin or dump. Cambridge never operated a retail outlet and never sold seconds. In later years, "the not so good pieces" were sold in outlet stores. Remember the stores run by Fostoria, Imperial, Viking, and Dazell-Viking. Sometimes the defects were obvious, a lid did not quite fit for example, and at other times why a piece was called a second was hard to determine. By selling off the seconds, a company recouped some of its losses. In the case of Cambridge, the final retail price included allowances for manufacturing losses as did the other companies of the day.

Why the losses in the first place? For the most part, they did not reflect the ability of the shop itself. Looking at employee records, the skilled workers, pressers, blowers and gathers for example, were long time employees and would not have been such if their work was not up to standard. Certain molds and lines (Square Line comes to mind) were difficult to work, resulting in higher than average losses. On occasion, the glass batch did not melt properly resulting in "stones" and other problems. Problems could occur in the lehrs, too hot or not hot enough. It all added up to a certain rate of loss that all glass companies dealt with and included in their calculations when establishing retail pricing.

It was the intent of this two part series to provide to the reader an overview of what was actually produced during a week at the Cambridge factory as well as how much of that production actually made it into the Cambridge stock rooms. For the most part, Cambridge production records no longer exist, hence the look at weeks in 1952. Production was based on orders and could vary from season to season and year to year. It was only in good times that all furnaces and all pots were in operation. At other times, perhaps only one furnace and a total of 16 shops or less would be working. By 1952, the Cambridge factory had four furnaces but it is highly doubtful all four ever operated at one time and with all pots in operation. By then, the demand for handmade glass had passed its peak and actually was declining.