Pristine, Part I

by Mark A. Nye
Issue No. 163 - November 1986

According to the 1940 Cambridge Catalog, the Pristine line was covered by four design patents. The earliest of these, filed on January 21, 1937, was for a candelabra, later known as the Pristine #502 6" 2-lite candlestick with prisms, or similar article. Eight days later a patent for a bowl or similar article was filed and the bowl shown in the patent application drawing appears to be the #438 10" 2-handled bowl. Then in February, an application was made for a design patent to cover a comport or similar article. Quoting from that application:

"The characteristic feature of the design resides in the glass base portion of the comport which, due to the concavity of the bottom, presents a bulged appearance when viewed from the top thereof."

The fourth and final patent, for "Combined Cheese and Cracker Tray or Similar Article" was granted on June 1, 1937, having been applied for the previous March. Based on known patents covering the line, it appears the stem associated with the Pristine line was never patented by Cambridge and hence one could assume the "look-alikes" we see today preceded the Pristine line and perhaps were patented by another glass house.

In addition to the patent information, a 1937 introduction date for the Pristine line is further supported by trade journal advertisements. From the April 1937 issue of China, Glass and Lamps comes the following:

"The bowl and goblet shown are from the Cambridge Glass Co., and are representative pieces from the handmade Pristine line which is brand new. The pattern shows gold filled Laurel Wreath. This line is made in full stemware and a good selection of tableware pieces. The shapes are patented."

The last sentence was, at the time it was written, not quite entirely true in so much as even though all the patent applications had been submitted by April of 1937, the last two were not granted until May and June of that year. In the same issue of China, Glass and Lamps was the following which dealt with the display of glassware:

"Model homes or dining rooms offer another good method for display of glassware. The illustration above shows the 'Pristine' glassware of the Cambridge Glass Co. in the new 'Modern House' at the F & R Lazarus Store in Columbus. The 'Pristine' glassware is based on simplicity in design and offers opportunity for beautiful cuttings and etchings."

Over the years, as we all know, Cambridge brought out some etchings that simply "took the country by storm" and years later are still sought after by collectors and connoisseurs of fine glassware. Not so widely known is the fact that there was also a group of etchings that, to use another colloquialism, bombed! In this later group was one called Firenze.

China Glass and Lamps of July 1937 contained a Cambridge advertisement featuring Firenze and, in part, the text read:

Pristine with Firenze "... are a platter, plate and stemware in the etched 'Firenze' design - a part of the new full line of the Cambridge Glass Co. The 'Pristine' shape in both tableware and stemware has been used for this new etching, with its fan and scroll motif. It is also produced with the etching gold filled, in all the same assortment of items. The 'Pristine' is also shown decorated with two handsome new cuttings - one of them the 'Chesterfield,' a design of close set squares with punties in each square; the other, 'Belfast,' a pattern of mitred diamonds."

For some reason, Firenze never caught on with the buying public and very little is seen today.

During 1938, Pristine blanks, both tableware and stemware were extensively used for rock crystal engravings. Included among those cut on Pristine blanks were: Fantasy (#921); Strawflower (#922); Killarney (#920); Neo Classic (#907); The Pines (#919); Etruscan (#935); Grecian (#936); Belfast (#942); Broadmoor (#951); Chesterfield (#952); American Star (#953); Cranston (#960); and Whitehall (#981). Of this group, Whitehall was used the least during the early months of 1938 with only 12 pieces of Pristine available with this cutting, including the P166 13½"Cabaret plate; P212 10" 5-part Celery and Relish; and the P386 11" ftd bowl. In addition to the preceding, the cutting Courtship (#939) was also being used on Pristine stemware and possibly some pieces of tableware as well. (Note: Examples of these cuttings may be found in C.B. issues #151, #153 and #154.)

Retailers then and now, in order to create more sales, will be innovative and such was the case with those outlets selling Pristine during the early months of 1938. What they did was to put a ladle with the Pristine #18 bowl and sell it as a mayonnaise set. This practice soon came to the attention of the Cambridge factory and company management reacted by making it an "official" set, known as the Pristine #19 2-piece Mayonnaise Set. Quoting from the announcement of this set to the Cambridge sales staff:

"This (P19) of course can be furnished in all etchings in which the Pristine #18 is made, which are: Firenze, Rose Point, Wildflower, Candlelight, Diane, Elaine, Portia, Valencia and Minerva."

From the early years, with the exception of the reference to Firenze in July 1937, this is the only specific reference found to etched Pristine.

Over the years, several unrelated items not having any of the characteristics associated with the Pristine line found their way into the line. One such pieces is the Pristine #68 Shrimp Cocktail or Strawberry Service. It was brought out in the summer of 1939 and was introduced thusly:

"We have produced a new Shrimp Cocktail or Strawberry Service. You will readily see the idea of it. For Shrimp, the cocktail sauce is put in the center and then the shrimp around the edge; while for strawberry service the powdered sugar is put in the center and the strawberries arranged around the edge. This is a very clever idea and one we think will meet with the general trade."

Apparently the Pristine line was initially an expensive pattern to produce. Some two years after its introduction, Cambridge announced a price reduction along with the following explanation:

"We have found it possible to made a reduction in our Pristine prices, as we have now produced this line for a sufficient length of time to be able to get the proper results in production. Another thing that has made this design very high priced is the fact that it has all been made with cut tops or edges, such as on bowls, relishes, etc. We find that the majority of the trade objects to the cut tops, due to the fact that they chip so very easily. Cutting the top edge is very expensive so by eliminating this we are able to make quite a reduction in our prices. Therefore, we are eliminating this cut edge - in fact, we have been eliminating it for a long time and no one has objected, even at the high prices."

Nothing like doing a market test before making the elimination of the cut edge known!

The Pristine line continued to grow as witnessed by the following that appeared in the June 1939 issue of China, Glass and Lamps:

"Among the new items being shown by the Cambridge Glass Co., are the two shown at the right, both in the 'Pristine' Line. The #477 corn dish can be retailed for approximately $9 per dozen - and is available plain, cut or etched. The #225 twin stewed fruit or salad bowl represents an innovation in the partitioning of bowls, done by a method which lightens the weight. It can be retailed for approximately $3 each and is available plain, cut or etched."

In terms of today's dollars, $3 was not much, but in 1939, the twin Pristine salad bowls were not inexpensive.

Webmaster's Note: There are quite a few Pristine Catalog pages in a separate web page. We have done this to accomodate visitors on dial-up connections. The page may load very slowly, as the Catalog page images are relatively large.