Sugars & Creamers

by Shelly Yergensen
Issue No. 460 - August 2012

I didn't always prefer collecting sugars and creamers. I think like most people, my glass collecting focus started with a Rose Point s/c much wider view and as I became aware of the huge numbers of options available, my focus began to narrow and I gravitated to sugars and creamers without even realizing it. I was introduced to glass collecting by my former mother-in-law and friend, Hazel Jackson. Hazel's mother had a set of green Hocking Cameo dinnerware which she used as her everyday dishes and when she passed those dishes onto her daughter, Hazel decided to rebuild a table service for 8. This was in the mid-1980s. I had three little kids and Hazel and I would pack up the snacks and strollers and head out on glass-buying trips to look for green Cameo.

Attempting to purchase any Depression Glass in Utah and the surrounding states is an exercise in long distances driven for very little reward. Hazel started picking up Depression and Elegant Glass vases in addition to the Cameo, just so we would have some fun returns on our efforts. The kids enjoyed Grandmas glass hunting trips and we let them choose little vases to add to Grandma's collection. Hazel's vase collection grew by leaps and bounds, her Cameo collection grew slowly. I became Azurite c/s the keeper of an inventory list so we didn't purchase duplicate vases and that led me to purchase a used copy of Gene Florence's Collector's Encyclopedia of Depression Glass, 3rd Edition. It had been water damaged and it smelled funky. I still have that book and it still smells funky. Other books followed as did a subscription to The Daze which we found to be very helpful in locating scarce Cameo pieces. At some point, I started purchasing a few pieces for myself, mostly small items. My budget was limited as was my display space. The sugars and creamers just sort of quietly moved in.

I'll stop with the historical narrative right here, I'm sure you can fill in the blanks with pieces from your own story about how you got into glass collecting, or the stories of your friends. Many of our stories are remarkably similar. My collection waxed and waned, my interests changed, my financial situation changed, the size of my house changed and during those years when I was paying for groceries and car insurance for 3 teenage boys, I didn't purchase any glass at all. And through all that, the sugar and creamer sets persevered. They were diverse, required less space to display and they sparkled like many different colored jewels in the modest china cupboard that I had acquired. And the majority of them were unidentified.

About 5 years ago, I seriously began to identify my sugar and creamer collection and I found that I Tally-Ho s/c needed a book that was just devoted to sugars and creamers (S&C). The sheer number of sets that were not illustrated in the Depression and Elegant Glass books was astounding. The book I needed didn't exist, so I put together my own. It was a blue, three-ring binder and it got heavy real fast. The rest, as they say is history.

At 40 pages, the Cambridge chapter is the largest chapter in Book 1. Much of that is owed to the dedicated folks in the Cambridge Collecting Clubs and the NCC who took the time to reprint the catalogs and make the material available for everyone's benefit. Very early in the process of collecting photographs, I had the privilege of being invited into the home of a couple who had hundreds of Cambridge S&C sets. This was the day that I realized there was enough variety and selection within Cambridge S&C that you could spend a lifetime just concentrating on Cambridge.

The other thing that happened to me that day, standing in that house seeing all of that beautiful Elegant glass 3400 creamers displayed together was the realization that the decorations could not be ignored. That may be a funny thing to read if you have always been surrounded by decorated Elegant glass, but bear in mind, I've lived in Utah my whole adult life. Not only did most Elegant Glass patterns never make it to this part of the Intermountain West in their original distribution but the decorated barware which celebrated the end of Prohibition had little market out here amongst the pragmatic, teetotaling Mormon farming communities. Decorated S&C were typically associated with the serving of coffee or tea to guests and the Mormons didn't partake of coffee or tea. Up until that point, I was only going to include sugar and creamer blanks for identification purposes. I was not going to show decorated pieces because this was a book about the S&C, not the decorations. That day, I realized that you can't ignore the decorations and I decided to include photos of the wonderful and stunning eye-candy of the many decorated S&C sets. So while it's still not a book about the decorations, I included as many different decorations as I could fit into the limited space that I had.

Fast forward to October 2011. The book was nearly complete and I was working through the final editing pass before I gave the file to the book Arcadia c/s designer, and I came across a reference for the Miami Valley Study Group website. I was curious so I launched my browser toward www.mvsg.org and clicked on the glass photo albums. My heart skipped a beat and then it started beating really fast. There were S&C here that I didn't have in my Cambridge chapter. Oh my. Lots of them. At that point, the Cambridge chapter was at 38 pages and I was out of time, but I had to write and see if the MVSG would allow me to use some of their images.

I didn't wait for a reply; I started working immediately on a chapter rewrite. It killed me to remove some of the photos that I had included. But I was able to incorporate 95% of the catalog reprints which I had asked for while only adding 2 pages. Now ... all I needed was permission to use the images. It seems backward, I know, but I was flying low and fast at this point. We wanted to get the book out in time for the Christmas season and the publication date we were shooting for was the end of November. If MVSG did not give me permission, I still had the previous chapter version to fall back on. When I got the email giving me permission, I was so excited. I wanted to fly right down to Florida and give all of them a big hug. Really? Not in Florida, you say? There goes my beach vacation. I put my metal detector away.

As it turns out, it was fortunate that I had taken the initiative to rewrite the chapter because the MVSG group wanted to see how I would use their images. I was able to pull these pages out of my back pocket and turn that email right around. Dave Rankin and Frank Wollenhaupt were so kind and easy to work with. They both graciously offered me some photos which improved on what I already had and were generous enough to proof-read the whole chapter for me. All the while, they were mindful of the fact that I had a deadline looming over my head. The Cambridge pages are bursting with good stuff and I owe both of these men and the whole Miami Valley Study Group my thanks.

So, while this seems like the happy ending, and you could stop reading right now and know more about the writing of the Cambridge chapter than you ever thought you wanted to know, it just gets better. The first proof of the complete book came back to me for review and the book designers had used the old 38-page chapter. This is the place where I learned a hard lesson Caprice set about writing a book. A limit of 150 pages doesn't mean I get to write and fill 150 pages. I have to allow for blank pages at the front and back of the book. The book was 146 pages at this point and I still hadn't completed the 1-page Bibliography and the 3-page Index. It wasn't that the new 40-page Cambridge chapter couldn't be inserted; it was that there wasn't any space for it.

So the publisher and I put our heads together and tossed around some ideas. I volunteered to give up the Canton and Dell chapters. Each was only 1-page in length and it was that important to keep the Cambridge material intact. But the Publisher didn't want to lose any of the chapters, so the decision was made to remove two blank pages, leave all the existing chapters intact and add the 40-page Cambridge rewrite. This caused a several week delay because the new chapter had to be laid out, Decorated set proofed by myself and the publisher, edits submitted and incorporated, then pages had to be renumbered and only then could page numbers be inserted into the index. So while the Cambridge chapter was responsible for the book being published 1 month late, it was well worth it and no one will ever know that I almost took the guillotine to two little chapters. If removing blank pages seems simple, open any book and see how the blank pages are used at the front and the back. They serve to unobtrusively define the beginning and end of a book.

My favorite part of the Cambridge chapter was all the colors. My least favorite part of the Cambridge chapter was all the colors. I wanted to do the colors justice but I found that in 40 pages, I simply could not. So I hope everyone will forgive me for not always using the proper Cambridge color names. Another thing I beg your indulgence on is the use of a few collector names. Cambridge collectors have impressed me as being quite Book I respectful of maintaining the use of proper historical Cambridge numbers for identification instead of using collector names. S&C collectors are not always as respectful. When we talk amongst ourselves, we tend to pick a name that references a particular visual characteristic so we know which pieces we are referring to. Many companies used numbering systems and trying to remember all of those numbers from across 40-50 companies can result in confusion. It's much easier to remember a unique name. I shared in the Cambridge chapter some of those collector names for the Decagon and No. 3400 lines as they are blanks that vary widely in form but carry the same line name. I certainly do not imply that anyone should use these names unless they choose to.

However twisty the path of this journey became, I'm pleased to report that the 40-page Cambridge chapter with all its delightful inclusions is nestled in its rightful place between Beaumont and Canton. Right now it looks like Book 2 will be Fenton Indiana and I'm working with the goal in mind of having it ready by late Summer 2012.

If you haven't seen the book, I hope you get the opportunity to do so and if you would like to comment about anything, not just the Cambridge chapter, please feel free to write to me at shelly.yergensen@q.com.