Baskets - Part II

by Mark A. Nye
Issue No. 169 - May 1987

In December of 1920, the Cambridge Glass Company was extending Seasons Greetings and The Best of Wishes for 1921 to the trade and, at the same time, introducing a new line of tableware and novelties, known as Chelsea. This line, along with Stratford, was the last of two major pressed lines of the "Nearcut type" introduced under the Nearcut trademark. As the ads stated, Chelsea was a full tableware line; there being stemware, bowls, flatware, jugs, creamers, sugars, etc.

It is difficult to ascertain exactly what was meant by novelties and given the choice of classifying baskets as tableware or novelties is somewhat akin to putting the proverbial round peg into a square hole. Faced with the choice and forced to pick one, I would have to say baskets fit better into the category of novelty items.

As shown in the illustrations, there are four Chelsea pattern baskets, two being of the type previously described as "tall handled May baskets." The other two, while definitely of the "squat basket" type, are quite shallow and were captioned as celery baskets. This is a class of basket not seen in previous catalogs and the use of the name celery basket may be limited to the Chelsea line. All four Chelsea baskets have applied handles, as do most if not all Cambridge baskets, i.e. handles that were made and affixed to the basket proper after it came from the mold. At the time of their introduction the larger of the two tall flower baskets were selling to the trade for $15 per dozen in barrel lots or $16.50 per dozen in less than barrel quantities. Not exactly inexpensive in 1921.

The Chelsea line, one of the last of a long line of Nearcut patterns, was featured in the Cambridge catalog issued as Catalog No. 10, circa 1920, and was discontinued prior to circa 1927. At the very least it was not being promoted after 1927 as it does not appear in the catalog issued that year. The molds for the Chelsea line were junked in 1940.

The Community or #2800 line very much remained an active line as the 1920s opened and in Catalog No. 10 under the caption "No. 2800 – Community Crystal," are illustrated eight Community line baskets not seen in earlier catalogs, #220, #221, #222, #223, #224, #225, #231 and #193.

Four of these, #220 and #223, had seats for flower blocks and were sold complete with a perforated flower block. Two of this type baskets, #2800/222 and #2800/221 were shown with part 1 of this article, published in the March issue of the Cambridge CRYSTAL BALL. Note the differences in the basic shape of these two baskets. There were two sizes in both shapes, 12" and 9" in height as measured from the bottom of the basket to the top most portion of the handle. #224 and #225 have the same shape as #222, but do not have the seat or flower block and are 9" and 12" respectively, in height.

On this same catalog page was shown the #2800/231 11" basket which is of another shape and it too was illustrated in the March issue. On another page in Catalog No. 10, captioned "Miscellaneous Vases and Baskets," are pictured two additional sizes of this style basket, #218, 8" in height and #230 at 9"; these two were shown in the March 1987 CRYSTAL BALL.

Continuing with lines shown in Catalog No. 10, we have baskets from: #2660 Wheat Sheaf pattern; #2699 Buzz Saw; #2750 Colonial Ware; #2860 Lexington and #2960 "Four Lines." Of these five baskets, four had been seen in previous catalogs with only the Buzz Saw basket being a newcomer. That is not to say Buzz Saw was a new pattern, as it was not. Having been shown in previous years, it is entirely possible that the basket itself was not a new item. It just may never before have made its way into a catalog.

In the #1917 or Plain Ware Line there are two baskets, #41 and #42. #41 was described as "Basket Oval, Optic, star Bottom, 5" Diameter x 6 ½" High" and #42 differed only in its dimensions, 5 ½" Diameter x 8 ½" High." Illustrated next to the two baskets was a piece many collectors would refer to as a basket but is properly known as the "#73 9" Handled Cake Plate, Star Bottom." It consists of a plate whose edges have been rolled up and an applied handle, and obviously was not intended for a whole cake, rather for pieces of cake, probably squares.

From the same time period and catalog, we have baskets from the lines known as #4022, Cut Chrysanthemum and #4030, Cut Hibiscus. In both cases the basket is 11" tall and was also available with no cutting. Around 1920-21, the cut baskets were selling for $3 each, while those with no cutting and known simply as #4022 pattern, the price was $2 each.

In January 1922, Cambridge introduced the color Azurite at the Pittsburgh show with one trade journal of the time describing the new color as "a full-body blue not unlike Harding Blue." At the same time, Ebony was re-introduced into the Cambridge line and among the objects made in it plus the new Azurite were six baskets, #118 thru #123.

Catalog descriptions must be read carefully and no assumptions made without concurring information, especially when dealing with dimensions. A perfect example of this is the #122 basket whose illustration in Catalog No. 10 is captioned as "8 ½" basket, PM" with the latter standing for Paste Mold. Now based on what was said in a previous paragraph regarding dimensions, one might assume this basket measured 8 ½" from the top of handle to base. You would be very wrong. In this case, it appears the stated measurement is the height of the basket itself, exclusive of handle. A price list entry for this particular basket gives the overall height at 14", quite a difference! The #123 has a total height of 12" while #118 and #119 are also 14" and 12" tall.

The remaining two baskets from the grouping made in Azurite and Ebony are #120 and #121 and it is not clear exactly what dimensions are referred to in their description. The price list simply repeats the size given in the catalog, i.e. 5", with no further clarification except for calling them favor baskets.

All of the baskets made in Ebony and Azurite were also made in crystal and you may find baskets in all three colors, plain as well as decorated. If the decoration is an etching on an Ebony or Azurite blank, it will probably be gold or possibly silver encrusted.

We now skip ahead in time a few years, to 1927. In a Cambridge Catalog issued that year, only a single basket appears, the #119. No doubt this basket would have been made in many of the prevailing colors of the late 1920s, especially crystal, peachblo, amber and light emerald. (Editor's Note: This #119 Basket has also been seen in Rubina, a very short term color that was introduced to the trade January 1925.)

Cambridge's Aero Optic Line was introduced in 1929 and appears in catalog pages issued to supplement the 1927 catalog. Based on the little that is found today, the line must not have sold well. Further evidence of this is the fact that the Aero Optic line does not appear in the 1930 catalog, only a year after its debut. In the line, which consisted mainly of accessory and decorative items in addition to a full grouping of stemware, were three baskets; these being #118, 119 and 120. Most, if not all, of the pieces in the Aero Optic line used existing molds and thus are of familiar shape and the baskets are no exception. These are the same baskets that were made in Azurite and Ebony, except they now have the Aero Optic effect and were made in such colors as gold krystol, amber, light emerald, peachblo, willow blue and crystal.

To be continued ...

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