Pristine, Part II

by Mark A. Nye
Issue No. 165 - January 1987

Continuing from the November 1986 issue of the Cambridge CRYSTAL BALL - The general catalog issued by Cambridge in January 1940 devoted eight pages to the illustration of Pristine blanks and by 1942, six additional pages of Pristine blanks had been issued as supplements to this catalog.

All of the 1940 etchings (Blossom Time, Candlelight, Chantilly, Diane, Elaine, Portia, Rose Point and Wildflower) will be found on at least a few pieces of Pristine, such as bowls, plates, shrimp cocktails and mayonnaise sets. In addition to etchings, the gold decoration D/Astoria (450) was used on Pristine, but with a wider of selection of blanks. Also at this time, Pristine stemware was being etched Rose Point and decorated with a gold edge.

During the early war years, Cambridge continued to promote the Pristine line and in fact brought out some new pieces, including vases #594, #595, #563, #557, #573 and #560. As late as November 1942, new items were being added to the Pristine line.

"Recently brought out by the Cambridge Glass Co. are these low, oblong pan bowls in the simple 'Pristine' design in heavy crystal, designed either for flower arrangements or for floating flowers. The 10" bowl is #445 and the 12" bowl is #466."

Then, all mention of the line ceased; apparently discontinued due to wartime shortages in labor and materials.

Even with its extensive list of pieces, during this time period, Pristine was never a complete dinnerware line as there never was a cup and saucer or dinner plate in the line. Nor was this a line noted for its color as the true Pristine line blanks were made only in crystal.

The period roughly covering the years 1942-1948 is one for which we have little documentation on what was happening at the Cambridge factory. New material, acquired as the result of the Imperial liquidation, is slowly becoming available in useable form. For the time being, however, the primary source of information remains trade journals published during those years.

Based on extant Cambridge catalogs and price lists, it is easy to reach the conclusion Pristine remained in the Cambridge line from its introduction until the final plant closing. It wasn't until the following was discovered that this conclusion was challenged.

"The 'Pristine' line of plain ware is once again complete, for the first time since the war. Items recently brought back include a full line of stemware, a three section fruit or salad bowl to retail at $5, bud vases retailing at $1.50, a cheese and cracker dish at $3.50 retail and a three part relish dish price at $3 retail. Finger bowls are also back again, retailing at $9 dozen." China, Glass & Lamps, August 1949.

Obviously, some or all of the line had been discontinued, probably beginning sometime in 1942. However, we still don't have the complete picture since the phrase "once again complete" implies the line wasn't completely discontinued, only reduced and that certain items remained available. If this was the case, we have yet to learn what portion of the Pristine line did remain in the Cambridge catalog during the war years and immediate post war years.

Four pages of the June 1949 Cambridge catalog were used to illustrate Pristine items while the price list that accompanied the catalog indicates a much larger line was available. In August 1949 seven supplemental catalog pages showing Pristine were issued and these included the stemware. Much of which was shown on these additional catalog pages had been previously detailed in the June 1949 price list.

Additional trade journal items that dealt with Pristine include the following two, taken from the July 1949 issue of Crockery and Glass.

"Additional news from Cambridge Glass Company is that they are bringing out a full line of 'Pristine' flatware and decorative pieces to meet the current style trend with a fine staple line of merchandise."

"Complete line of modern 'Pristine' stemware is being shown by Cambridge Glass Company."

At this point, the stemware being shown was that introduced in the 1930s except in two instances. The stemmed comport being shown with the line was from the #3700 line, the true Pristine stemmed comport apparently a war victim. Recently discovered information indicates there were plans to modify Pristine stemware prior to its reintroduction in the summer of 1949. Comparing pristine stemware shown on catalog pages issued in 1940 and 1949, the only apparent difference is in the 12 oz. and 5 oz. footed tumblers with the 1949 version of these two items having shorter stems.

The Pristine line as it was being sold in the Summer of 1949 included both pieces first designed and manufactured in the 1930s and newly conceived items. Many of the latter have the simplistic, clean lines associated with Pristine but do lack some of the unique styling of the late 1930s and early 1940s Pristine. (The reader is urged to compare the pieces shown on the catalog pages reprinted here and with part I to those shown in the 1949-53 Cambridge catalog.) (Webmaster's Note: The Catalog pages from both articles are combined in one web page for convenience. Warning: it may take some time to load as the images are rather large. CLICK HERE to see the Catalog pages.) Sometime in the fall of 1948, a woodworker created models of what was to be the Pristine #254 pressed sugar and cream, for on December 29, 1948 the molds for these pieces were ordered and this order included the words "like wood model." While some new pieces did require new molds, other "new" Pristine items were accomplished by reworking existing molds. Four of these new pieces were described in trade journals in this manner.

"One of the Beautifully made pieces in the new Pristine line, this two-piece cake or sandwich server (P.424) consists of one 12 ½" plate, setting into a pedestal base. Handmade, these new crystal pieces cleverly revolve and turnabout for easier serving."

"Four-piece Sunday night supper set can be sold as a unit or retailed piece by piece. Includes 18" torte dish, 3-compartment relish dish, a handsome footed sauce dish and ladle. Glass is flawless."

"Unique Relish Server (P.425) revolves on the Lazy Susan principle. Center dish holds sauce, partitions are for hors d'oeuvres. Three-piece item retails for $5 and is patented. Cambridge Glass Company, Cambridge, Ohio."

Pristine seafood cocktail "Seafood or shrimp server (right) handsomely designed and practical. Two piece item is patented; bowl is for ice, shrimp cup fits into well; retails at $5."

The latter piece was quite easily converted to another use. The center shrimp cup had a peg which fit into a well in the bowl. One simply removed the shrimp cup and inserted a pegged vase and there was a 13" two-piece flower center.

Many pieces were designed for the Pristine line and most of these have some characteristic associated with the line. However, other pieces, such as the strawberry server discussed in part I do not and visually would not be associated with the line. There is a third group of items in the Pristine line, those simply placed there "for lack of a better place." It is from this latter group that the line finally acquired, in 1949, a dinner plate as well as a cup and saucer, something it did not have in the earlier period. These pieces, shown in the June 1949 catalog, come from the much older Round Line and even retain the Round Line item numbers; #810 for the 9 ½" dinner plate and the #933 for the cup and saucer.

During the period 1949-54, Pristine blanks, as during the late 1930s and early 1940s, were used as the base for cuttings and etchings. Among the rock crystal cuttings from these years to be found on Pristine are: Harvest, Ivy, King Edward, Laurel Wreath, Silver Maple and Thistle.

When the etching Magnolia was brought out in early 1953, 22 of the 31 flatware and decorative items utilized Pristine blanks. Likewise, out of the 35 similar pieces etched Daffodil, another etching from the late years, 20 are Pristine blanks.

The gold decoration D/1063 "Talisman Rose" will be found on a very limited number of Pristine blanks while D/American Beauty, another gold decoration, will be found on at least nine Pristine blanks.

A remnant of a typed price list, distributed to Cambridge salesmen in January 1954, survives and it is on these pages that we find the first mention of the stemware line #1937. This line of stemware is pictured in the Cambridge catalog issued during the reopen period and is a modification of the original or #1936 Pristine stemware line, and apparently, was made using molds ordered in June 1949. Other than the ice tea and the juice, the new version of which was shown with the older style stemware in the summer of 1949, there is no indication this type of Pristine stemware was sold until early 1954.

The #1937 Line, consisting of six pieces (goblet, sherbet, cocktail or wine, cordial, ice tea and footed juice or claret), uses a shorter version of the original Pristine stem. This shortening of the stem required the removal of one or more rings and in fact, only the goblet has two free rings, I.e. rings not touching the bowl of foot, while all stemmed items from the #1936 line have at least two. The #1937 goblet, sherbet, cordial, footed ice tea and juice or claret utilized bowls from the first Pristine stemware line while the cocktail or wine at 4 oz. used a bowl previously unused in the Pristine Line. Both lines used the foot that was apparently designed in the 1930s for the Pristine line. Except through special order, no Pristine stemware other than #1937 was available during the reopen period.

The #1936 line originally consisted of 13 stemmed and 8 non-stemmed items. At the time the Pristine line was reintroduced, only 10 stemmed items and no non-stemmed items remained. The #1936 line was not revived during the reopen period.

Pristine remained a major Cambridge line during the years of the reopen period, primarily as an undecorated pattern. A few blanks were used for engraving such as Rondo, Laurel Wreath, Harvest and Wedding Rings.

Of all the Cambridge lines, from a viewpoint of shape and styling, Pristine probably encompasses some of the more unique items made in the Morton Avenue factory. Examine very carefully the catalog pages reprinted here and in the November issue. Where else in the Cambridge line do you find an item similar to the 6" triangular cheese block or the oval lunch server! While there is no mistaking these pieces, it will take an astute Cambridge student to identify such things as the #714 ashtray or the tiny #571 vase, both of which would be extremely easy to overlook. These and many other Pristine pieces present a real challenge to the collector in as much as they are infrequently seen today, and positive identification as a Cambridge Pristine item, in some instances can be a problem.

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.