Cambridge Showrooms

by Mark A. Nye
Issue No. 159 - July 1986

The July issue of the Cambridge CRYSTAL BALL is usually distributed at the annual convention and thus available prior to most of the convention activities. Since we are so fortunate, I have decided to tie in this month's article with the convention and specifically with the topic of my Saturday morning talk, "What's New in the Cambridge Showrooms."

During the fifty plus years the Cambridge Glass Company was in business, it maintained showrooms in several major cities as well as in the factory itself. Over the years, particularly in New York City, the location of a showroom changed from time to time and, fortunately for us, trade journals often published detailed description of the new showroom as well as a picture. So the listener will have some idea of how a Cambridge showroom appeared and since I suspect many of you might enjoy reading about two of the former Cambridge showrooms, the balance of this article will be devoted to descriptions of Cambridge showrooms, descriptions that have been taken from trade journals of the day.

Our first report comes from the May 1930 issue of Crockery and Glass Journal and was headlined:

"Cambridge Glass Co.'s NEW Factory Showrooms

Factory Showroom Recently the Cambridge Glass Co. completed the construction and equipment of new showrooms on the lower floor of their office building at Cambridge, Ohio. These consist of a group or series of rooms totaling 2600 square ft. of space, designed in the most up-do-date manner of showing merchandise to advantage in a harmonious setting. The ceiling and walls of the rooms are in light buff tones, the floor is of rubber composition tile in dull red with black border, the fixtures are of natural oak with silver antique finish, specially designed to give the best illumination of crystal and colored glass; many of the tables have mirror tops, reflecting the contours and colors of the ware. All is arranged with the purpose of giving the visitor an impression of the most advantageous modern methods of display."

As many of you are no doubt aware, the NCC is fortunate to have in its possession the door to these showrooms. (Editor's Note: This door was donated by the Cambridge Buffs Study Group and is on display in our Museum.)

The Cambridge showroom best described in the trade journals is the one formerly located at 212 Fifth Avenue, New York City, NY. The June 1941 issue of China, Glass & Lamps contained this announcement:

"Cambridge Glass Co. will open a new showroom at 212 Fifth Ave. in July, comprising 4000 feet of floor space, it was announced"

Delays are not an invention of the 1980s, for the showroom did not actually open until September of that year, some two months behind schedule. There were several trade journal "write-ups" of this new Cambridge showroom and since all were somewhat different, three will be repeated here.

From the September 29, 1941 issue of the magazine, Retailing comes the following:

"Glass Shown with Class"

A series of prismatic colored panels against a pale gray background has proven a very effective way to display glassware in the new showrooms of the Cambridge Glass Co. Interesting contrast to the panel colors is the sheet of pyroxylin coated shade cloth over squares which suggests the soft luminosity of frosted glass.

How to effectively display glassware has always been a vexing problem in retailing circles. The solution reached in the new showrooms of the Cambridge Glass Co. at 212 Fifth Ave. should prove very interesting to the trade,

Here glassware has been segregated as to type and color, and placed against a series of prismatic contrasts in an architectural plan that strongly suggests the Swedish style. The entire background, walls, ceiling, floor, is gray, and against this a continuous, flowing arrangement of glass shelved wall cases, designed as a series of panels, has been placed. The panels are only painted in prismatic colors but relief is gained by the occasional use of natural burled walnut, and a pyroxylin coated window shade material, stretched over squares, so it simulates glass.

Glass Sparkles Against Colors

As one enters the showroom, one is aware of a sparkling and extensive collection of glass in a setting radiating such colors as chrome, yellow, maize, smoky gray, azure blue, bright pink, celadon green, chartreuse and white. The paint colors are flat, and against them the glassware is decidedly glamorized. In the open floor is a series of oblong and round tables, natural walnut or painted tops on inset natural maple legs designed in the bentwood manner. On these tables are other special displays.

There is not one panel of mirror used in the entire showroom. Mirror, it was decided after much thought is a distracting display medium for glass, since it repeats a shape two or three times with a confusing result. Mirrors on table tops, however, reflect the design of certain types of decorative glass. The showroom space was designed as an open exhibition place for glass; separating glass types into a series of small rooms also detracts from the one idea any showroom should have…that of presenting great variety.

Notables Present at Opening

Antonin Raymond, who also designed the Pitt-Petri shop in Buffalo, was the architect for the Cambridge showroom. It was introduced to the press at a gala party last Thursday, and to the trade last Friday afternoon.

Among the executives of the Cambridge Glass Co. who were present for both showings were; W.L. Orme, president of the company, with Mrs. Orme; W.C. McCartney, sales manager; H. A. Lovelady, assistant sales manager; H. R. Pickering, road representative in New York and Pennsylvania; E. P. Henn, the New York manager; and H.J. Nichols of Mumm, Romer, Robbins and Pearson, Inc. Columbus, O., in charge of advertising for the firm."

The October 1941 issue of China, Glass and Lamps, under the headline "New Cambridge Showrooms," carried the following description of these same Cambridge showrooms.

"Colors combined in striking effect are among the dominant features of the handsome New York showrooms which the Cambridge Glass Company opened late in September at 212 Fifth Ave. Twenty-Sixth Street and Fifth Avenue. More than twice as large as the quarters at 184 Fifth Avenue which the company occupied for 25 years, the showrooms were designed by Architect Antonin Raymond. The style is definitely modern, with straight lines broken by curves - as will be observed in the lines of display tables - which the wall cases are divided into panels of varying colors. Soft gray and subtle tones of coral, rose, blue, chartreuse and other colors have been used in these backgrounds with occasional panels of natural stained wood or of white, lighted from behind to simulate daylight. The glassware is arranged in prismatic contrast against these colors, and also on the display tables which are topped in pastel tones. Fluorescent lighting for the wall cabinets is smartly combined with overhead lights spotted over display tables.

The entire room is carpeted in a neutral color, and at the entrance are huge double doors made of panels of heavy plate glass. The private office of the New York Manager, Eugene P. Henn, at the Fifth Avenue corner of the showroom is decorated in deep blue and white."

This article then went on to describe the opening parties and who was in attendance.

A somewhat shorter report on the New York City Cambridge showroom appeared in the October 1941 issue of Crockery & Glass Journal. Its headline read:

"Cambridge Glass Co. Opens Largest New York Showroom in its History"

Quoting from this article, in part:

"After a quarter of a century at one address, the Cambridge Glass Company of Cambridge, Ohio, have moved to new offices and showrooms at 212 Fifth Ave., where they occupy the entire fifteenth floor.

This showroom is twice as large as the previous showroom and was styled and arranged for dramatic effect by architect Antonin Raymond. The showroom is done in panels of varying colors, ranging from grays, coral, rose and chartreuse.

One of the most striking effects in this new room is the unusual color theme which emphasizes the wide variety of colored stemware which has always been a feature of the Cambridge line."

This New York showroom was to serve the Cambridge Glass Co. for the next thirteen years, only closing in 1954 with the demise of the original Cambridge Glass Co. During the reopen period there apparently was no permanent major showrooms outside the factory.

Below is an illustration of the New York showroom as it appeared in an ad 35 years ago this month (July 1951), during the 50th Anniversary year of the Cambridge Glass Company. This picture is the same one that was used in 1941 advertisements that announced the opening of this New York City showroom.

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