Pioneering In Quality Glassware at Cambridge

by J. M. Hammer (part 2)
Issue 27, July, 1975

Early in the month of May, 1902, The Cambridge Glass Co. made its first piece of glassware. That jug or pitcher is still in existence and is illustrated at right. Pitcher, first piece of Cambridge glass It was the forerunner of a great production in gold encrusted glassware in the present day.

And yet the man who has guided the Cambridge Glass Co. over the last 25 years was not a manufacturer by training or experience. He who had been a buyer and importer of china and glass proved his ability in the field of production and there are few in any industrial endeavor in these United States who have carried on to a greater vision than Arthur J. Bennett.

Some there are in the glassware trade of today who will recall the activities of the National Glass Co., planned as a country wide and all-embracing combine of glassware factories. The only factory erected by the National Glass Co. was that at Cambridge, Ohio. In the latter part of 1901, the Cambridge Glass Co. was incorporated under the laws of Ohio as the operating company for the factory at Cambridge. Arthur J. Bennett was called from New York to take charge.

It was planned to have three melting furnaces of 14 pots each in the Cambridge factory but only one was completed when the first piece of glassware was made in May, 1902. The first product was common pressed ware. The moulds available were those gathered from other factories of the National Glass Co.

One of the reasons for the location of the factory at Cambridge was that there was reported to be a good supply of natural gas. It is true there were gas wells but they were shallow. However, when the first fires were lighted and operations began, it was found the supply of gas was not sufficient. There was not enough gas to supply furnace, lehrs and equipment. A real problem for the new factory manager, but a few months before an importer of china and glass.

We have stressed the fundamental factor of courage. Determined not to be overwhelmed by this unsuspected development, Mr. Bennett obtained a supply of gas from a commercial company. As soon as a new source of supply was assured, a gang of men was rushed into the field to make the necessary connections and before few realized what had happened, the Cambridge factory was launched insofar as a supply of fuel was concerned.

Came the panic year of 1907 and financial difficulties for the National Glass Co. resulting eventually in its bankruptcy. For three years the position and future of the Cambridge factory was uncertain.

Courageously, Mr. Bennett continued operations. Conditions were adverse, the future of the plant was in doubt but the operating company, represented in Mr. Bennett, carried on. In the scrambled financial troubles of the National Glass Co., it appeared at one time that The Cambridge Glass Co. would lose its factory. Mr. Bennett went to Byesville, three miles from Cambridge, and with the assistance of the townspeople got control of a small plant there. It was smaller than the plant at Cambridge, but it was a factory where Mr. Bennett was safe from the financial alarms surrounding the closing days of the National Glass Co. debacle.

After a long drawn-out fight with the receivers and bond holders of the National Glass Co., an arrangement was finally effected whereby Mr. Bennett purchased the factory with all the machinery and personal property of the Cambridge Glass Co. This was a real burden to assume for any one individual--the total amount represented being well under $400,000, of which $50,000 was paid in cash and the balance carried about 50% in notes and mortgage bonds, maturing over a period of 10 to 15 years. This was an individual transaction on the part of Mr. Bennett and was accepted by the bankers, who had confidence in him, without any outside endorsement.

In reply to an inquiry as to why Mr. Bennett carried this proposition through as an individual and never attempted to sell stock, he stated he had a well defined idea of what he wanted to do and the policy outlined might not be satisfactory to outside stock holders and capitalists. Therefore he preferred to take the entire risk and if it was a success the profits accrued would help retire the obligations that much sooner. His prediction on this was sound for all of the obligations, including the mortgage bonds, were retired several years ahead of the time limit. And when all of these burdens were removed, then came the opportunity for a complete re-arrangement of the capital structure, and the putting into effect the plans for the perpetuation of the business.

Reprinted from a December 27, 1926 issue of China, Glass and Lamps. It is reprinted with the permission of China, Glass and Tableware. Continued Next Month....