The Elusive Turtle

by Phyllis Smith
Issue No. 98 - June 1981

The September 24, 1914 issue of Crockery and Glass Journal included the following quote concerning the most elusive of all flower holders produced by The Cambridge Glass Company.

Cambridge turtle "The Cambridge Glass Company will undoubtedly have a good demand for the new flower holders which D. King Irwin (Cambridge's New York rep) has just placed on display. They include low, squat shaped bowls to be used in conjunction with a glass holder in the form of a turtle representing the reptile in the act of swimming through the water. Numerous round openings hold the flowers."

Evidently the demand for these holders was not as great as the author of the above quotation had anticipated. Whatever the circumstances concerning the number of turtles produced, not many of them have survived over the years. Very few have surfaced as of this writing.

Several (probably less than you could count on your fingers and toes) have been found in the colors of ebony and crown tuscan. One or two have been found in crystal and we have heard of one in dark green having been found in California. It could be speculated that they were made in other Cambridge colors, but no other colors have been reported thus far. If you know of other colors, please let us hear from you.

They have been found in two slightly different styles. The difference being that one style has a humped back (as shown here in side view (left) and front view (right) ) and the other style is quite flat on top. Otherwise they seem to be exactly the same.

Cambridge turtle front view The crystal fellow (or gal?) we are fortunate enough to have in our collection is really quite plump. He weighs just 3 oz. over 1 pound and measures approximately 3½" across his broad little belly. From the tip of his nose to the end of his tail, he is approximately 5¼" long. So you can see he really is a large "hunk" of glass.

In case you can't find the low, squat shaped bowl as described above to display your Turtle, you can always put him beside your telephone and stick pencils in the holes in his back. That's the way he was being used when we found ours. Needless to say, he has received much more TLC since he became a member of the Smith household!


Since writing about the Turtle figure flower holder in the June 1981 (#98) issue of the Crystal Ball, we have had some response concerning color from a couple of our members. We have also managed to uncover a little additional information concerning production dates.

First of all let us share with you the information that the color of royal blue can now be added to our list of known colors. We are also happy to tell you that one has been found in crystal frosted.

As mentioned in the June article, this flower holder evidently had its beginning in 1914. An old Nearcut catalog page pictures our Turtle (with the flat top) with other early pieces in the ebony color. Our research information tells us that ebony was a new color in late 1915, so this gives us another date of production. We find nothing more on this holder until the 1940's catalog. It is not shown at all in the NCC 1930-34 Catalog Reprints, so we must assume that is was not being made during that time frame.

In the 1940's catalog it is shown with the domed top and according to the Price List for this catalog, it was being made in crystal and the wholesale price was $7.50 per dozen. Since the asking price now begins at somewhere around $100 and goes upward according to color and condition, we can't help but wonder why more of these Turtles haven't surfaced before now. We can find no further evidence of their production after the mid-to-late 40's, as they are not shown in the NCC 1949-53 or 1956-58 Catalog Reprints.