Colors in Cambridge: Mardi Gras

by Jabe Tarter
Issue #9 - January 1974

Among the most highly collectable and scarce in Cambridge Glass is the Mardi Gras. It is unusual and beautiful regressing from the usual end-of-day glass of the period. And yet having so much the same characteristics of the so-called end-of-day as to be confused in the hands of the collector.

Arthur J. Bennett, that master mind of beauty and creation, wanted something different in the line of glass which did not copy that of other glass houses. He had always appreciated end-of-day glass, but didn't want the same thing he had seen in the poorly made glass. Neither did he want a cased glass, such as was prevelent from other houses.

Bennett knew that there was no such thing as mixing all the pots of glass together at the end of the day to make a spatter color. To have mixed all colors together would have made a muddy color or mixture resembling slag. And he wanted to ohange the name of this misnomer.

In the early 1940's, he asked the late John Degenhart to experiment with blowing glass and see what he could come up with. The bases of paperweights and the different colors had already given the idea to John, and his experiments started.

Mr. Degenhart took a gather of glass on a blow pipe and began experimenting. Ground cullets of different colors of Cambridge Glass were laid out in a "scattered row". The partially blown piece was heated and rolled in the cullets. It was reheated and blown further. The final step was to swing the piece to give an elongated effect.

While it was still attached to the blowpipe, the top was cut off, that is the bubble formed by blowing, and the top was shaped into the form needed. Mr. Bennett was so pleased that he immediately dubbed it "Mardi Gras" after the confetti filling the streets of New Orleans at Mardi Gras time.

The blowpipe was broken off leaving a rough pontil mark. That was one of the trademarks that the pontil mark would not be ground smooth and polished. Unlike the popular end-of-day (an erroneous name), Mardi Gras from Cambridge is quite heavily flicked with colored cullets near the bottom, but widely scattered nearer the top.

The glass was not in full production until after John Degenhart left Cambridge Glass Co. to form the Crystal Art Glass Co. But under the direction of Mr. Orme, Mr. Bennett's son-in-law, it saw wide distribution.

Actually the discovery of Mardi Gras, a glass with scattered ground cullets on clear base glass, was an extension of the paperweight bases from both the Cambridge Glass Co. and later the Crystal Art Glass Co.

It is still scarce because it has been confused with the spatter glass from other factories. But while the other firms molded their glass from the blowpipe, all of the Cambridge Mardi Gras is free hand and shaped entirely from the blowpipe.

The original piece of Mardi Gras, blown by John Degenhart for Mr. Bennett wan given to John before his death. It is now part of the collection of this writer.