by Mark Nye
Issue No. 121 - May 1983

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is the fourth in a series of articles by Mark Nye dealing with the "Cambridge Girls", i.e. those etchings bearing girls' names.

"Portia - A new service "Lace of Glass"" was the banner of a May 1932 advertisement in a Pittsburgh newspaper by Kaufmanns, a local department store. Quoting from an article in the June 1932 issue of China, Glass & Lamps, "The ware came from Cambridge Glass Company and the "Portia" is among the leading acid-etched patterns on tableware and stemware made by that factory". Time has proven this to be a true statement.

Many consider it in poor taste to discuss a lady's aged. In this case, I feel all will be forgiven. Portia was most likely introduced in late 1931 or early 1932, based on the previously cited ad and the fact the etching does not appear in the 1930 catalog or 1931 supplement but is shown in the 1932 supplement. Portia Etching detail Portia remained in the Cambridge line until sometime between June of 1949 and October 1953. Thus, for approximately 20 years, Portia was one of the Cambridge "girls" and in fact, assumed the role of a "Grande Dame."

The first catalog showing of Portia included three stemware lines, Nos. 3121, 3124 and 3126, shown on as many pages. A fourth page was devoted to items from the 3400 line, that for the most part, are seldom seen today; the 3400-50 four toed cup and saucer, 7 items from the ball shaped line including the 3400-108 80 oz. cocktail shaker with chrome top and the 34000-98 5 ¼" ivy ball. Another interesting item shown etched Portia was the No. 119 7" basket. Based on what was shown, I would surmise a rather extensive grouping of Portia, particularly on 3400 blanks, was available at the time of introduction. In the 1933 catalog supplement, Portia appears as D-1001 (gold encrustation) on Crown Tuscan vases.

In the Welker Book II of catalog reprints, there is a page from a folder showing Portia on No. 3120 stemware. Since Rosepoint, Valencia and Minerva are also shown in the same illustration, the folder can be dated to the period 1935-1939. I have also seen No. 3122 cordials etched Portia and while I can find no reference to use of the etching on this stemware line, it is my opinion they date to the mid to late 1930s.

The next available general reference for Portia is the 1940 catalog and price list. 21 pages of this catalog were turned over to Portia and the price list contained some 354 listings for Portia on crystal. This does not include the special treatments; gold encrustation - 179 catalog entries and 22 listings for Portia etched, gold encrusted Crown Tuscan pieces. All together, this adds up to 55 catalog items of Portia available in January 1940.

The Nos. 3120 and 3124 stemware lines etched Portia had been dropped by 1940 and taking their place were Stradivari and Nos. 3035 and 3130 along with the continued listing of the 3121 and 3126 stemware, etched Portia. A complete grouping was available in each stemware line, including Stradivari. Listed in addition, were the No 7966 2 oz. sherry and the 1 oz. cordial as well as the No. 7801 5 oz. footed tumbler. Dinnerware was offered only on 3400 blanks. The place setting pieces included 5 sizes of plates from the 6" bread and butter to the 10 ½" service plate, 3400-54 cup and saucer, A.D. cup and saucer, cream soup & sauce, cranberry, fruit saucer and 6" cereal. Serving and accessory pieces included 11 different pickle, celery or relish dishes, 5 sets of salt and pepper shakers, 4 oil bottles, butter and cover, at least 11 bowls, assorted bonbons, handled plates and comports, all from the 3400 line.

Complimenting the stemware various tumblers from the 3400 line were offered with the Portia etching, including the numbers 3400-100, 3400-115 and 3400-38. Also from the 3400 line were the No. 100 and No. 38 jugs as well as the 3400-152 Doulton pitcher with the Portia etching.

Rounding out the 1940 Portia etched 3400 line were 5 candelabra and a candle stick. All told, there were at least 106 3400 line listings under Portia in the 1940 catalog.

The No. 3500 or Gadroon blank with Portia was limited to 7 relish dishes, 2 candy boxes, ash trays, comports and assorted miscellaneous items.

Various salad dressing sets from the Tally Ho or 1402 line were offered with the Portia etching as were the 17 ½" and 18" plates.

Pristine and Martha blanks etched Portia number 19 in 1940. The Pristine group included the No. 87 2 pc. grapefruit or salad icer and the No. 18 2 pc. cocktail icer. Three of the five Martha items were candelabra or candlesticks, Nos. 495, 496 and 497.

The balance of the 1940 catalog listings for Portia consisted of items not associated with specific lines and include 21 vases, 9 additional candelabra, candlesticks or epergnes, cigarette boxes, more shakers, tumblers and assorted items. A real challenge would be to find all 21 of these vases plus the 2 from the 3400 line.

As reprinted by the NCC, Inc., the 1949 catalog contains 8 pages of Portia etched ware, quite a few less than the 21 used in 1940. From the 1949 catalog we learn two stemware lines were still being made at that time with the Portia etching; Nos. 3121 and 3130. The No. 3121 brandy and claret are not shown nor are three of the 3130 footed tumblers, 12 oz. with no stem, 8 oz. and 2 ½ oz. otherwise the balance of the items in each line are illustrated etched Portia.

A basic dinnerware place setting utilizing the No. 3900 or Corinth blanks was available in 1949, the 3400 essentially discontinued by this time. In the place setting were the bread and butter, salad and dinner plates as well as the 3900-17 cup and saucer. Sufficient serving and accessory pieces, almost entirely on the 3900 blank, were available to serve an elegant meal. To provide candle lighting, 3 candlesticks, single, double and triple, as well as 2 styles of hurricane lamps, No 1603 and 1607 might be had. To decorate the table or home, a hostess had her choice of 9 flower holders, ranging from the No. 6004 6" footed flower holder to the 13" No. 279 holder.

For those who enjoyed a cocktail prior to dinner, the Pristine No. 101 32 oz. cocktail shaker and the No. 7801 4 oz. cocktail, etched Portia were provided in 1949. The sherry drinkers were not overlooked; for them was the No. 1321-7966 7 pc. sherry set, made up of the No. 1321 28 oz. footed decanter and the 7966 2 oz. sherry, again both pieces etched Portia.

Prior to the issuance of the October 1953 price list, Portia was discontinued for there is no mention of the etching in this list or in any subsequent lists from the re-opened period.

While Portia in color is not unknown, it is most often found on crystal blanks. No. 3126 stemware in Heatherbloom and Forest Green are known and Portia etched No. 3121 stemware in Heatherbloom has been reported. No. 3035 stemware with carmen bowls, crystal stem and foot, etched Portia and gold encrusted have also been found. Occasional pieces in solid carmen with gold encrusted Portia appear from time to time. A Heatherbloom 3400 dinnerware service has been seen as well as amber items. I have a pair of 3400-18 shakers in gold krystol etched Portia which indicates more items are to be found in this color. A Portia etched, gold encrusted Royal Blue bowl is also known and as mentioned earlier, Portia gold encrusted on crystal and Crown Tuscan was produced.

Webmaster's Note: CLICK HERE to display a number of Catalog pages showing the Portua etching. Note that loading this page may be slow on a dial-up line.