Vases - Part I

by Mark Nye
Issue No. 176 - December 1987

(NOTE: On a separate page, find eight pages of "catalog" illustrations which will be used for this article (and Parts II to follow). The supplemental page will load very slowly on dial-up connections due to the number of Catalog images.)

I place the term catalog in quotes since it is generally believed these and other similar pages covering other items and lines (many of which have previously been reprinted in the Crystal Ball) are not from a complete catalog (such as the 1930, 1940 or 1949 catalogs), but rather are stand along materials issued individually. As to the date of publication, a bit of detective work will disclose this information.

First, note the trademark that appears on all except the first page - it still contains the "Triangle C." Since it is known a new trademark without the "Triangle C" was put into use in 1938, these page date prior to 1938. Second, on the first page we find illustrations of Shell Line items, a line that was introduced in 1935; hence we have narrowed the possible time period to 1935-37. Careful examination of the pages reveals one of the colors listed as Moonlight, a color introduced by June 1936. Thus we can conclude the pages under discussion were in all probability issued in 1936 or 1937 with the latter date the more likely of the two.

An astute observer should notice the absence of Caprice vases even though the line was in production at the time these catalog pages were thought to have been published. The Caprice line was brought out in 1936 and numbered among its many items a wide selection of vases. At this time I have no explanation of their absence on these pages.

Before I go any further, let me say I have no intention of attempting to cover, in great detail, all of the Cambridge Vases. The sheer number of vases and the possible variations as to color, etching and other decorations would consume the Crystal Ball for years to come. From the first catalog to the last, from the earliest of the Nearcut type lines to the styling of the 1950s, vases were a significant part of the Cambridge line.

For example, on the eight pages under discussion, 86 vases are shown and listed. Thirty-nine of these were available etched and even though we don't know from these pages what etchings were available on what vases, it would probably be safe to assume many were available with more than one etching. Being conservative, let's say two per vase for a total of 78 etched vases. This makes for 164 vases, assuming production in crystal only; however, most of the vases shown were being made in more than one color. When the possible color combinations for all 86 vases are added up, we find we are now talking about 489 vases, not 86! This, plus the assumed 78 etched crystal items come to 567 different vases on these pages alone.

Since more detailed information regarding Cambridge production in 1940 is available, a rather precise figure regarding the total number of vases being offered can be calculated. Using the 1940 Catalog and price list, and counting all the possible combinations of color, etchings and other decorations except cuttings, buyers had 784 vases to select from! Note, however, most of the vases shown in 1937 continued to be available in 1940; hence, we are not talking 784 plus 567, just that in 1940 there were at least 784 vases available. From these numbers the reader can gain an insight into the wide selection of vases Cambridge manufactured for its customers; as well as to the magnitude of the project it would be to provide, in detail, a complete history of Cambridge vases.

What I intend to do during the balance of this article and in the future, is to offer some general information on vases from the major lines along with the same type of information for several classes or types of vases not belonging to a major pattern line, an overview so to speak. This article, plus one to follow, will deal with vases shown in the September 1987 issue of the Crystal Ball and the read must use that issue for illustrations of vases under discussion. Page numbers will refer to the theoretical page number of the actual catalog section and not the number used in the Crystal Ball. .

The two vases shown directly beneath the heading on page 1, #79 and #80, date to at least 1920, if not before. They belong to a large grouping of somewhat similar items, stemmed and footed as well as flat, that were blown using paste molds. Shown in 1937 in crown tuscan, other colors, transparent and opaque, were used for these vases during the 1920s and early 1930s when they were available plain and decorated.

The Shell Line was brought out early in 1935, and in addition to the colors listed for 1937, the Shell flower holders may be found in windsor blue. Discontinued during the 1940s, some Shell molds including the #46 Flower Holder, were reactivated during late 1953 or early 1954 for use with the Milk Glass Line.

Three very familiar lines appear on page 2, namely Everglade, Mount Vernon and Martha Washington. The Everglade Line originated in the late 1920s and early 1930s without a line name, as well as having roots in such lines as LaFleur and Springtime. Four of six vases shown in 1937 remained in production into the 1940s; these being #38, #22, #21 and #20. Except for moonlight, production of Everglade vases in color ceased prior to 1940. At least four Everglade vase molds, #20, #21, #22 and #23 were removed from idle storage and used to produce milk glass during its limited production run in late 1953 and early 1954.

The Mount Vernon Line was brought out in 1931 and while some of the line was still in production as the 1950s dawned, the three vases had been dropped from the line sometime between 1940 and 1949.

First seen in the 1927 catalog as a part of the Centennial Line, the #18 Martha Washington tall footed vase (shown on the right) was revived and included in the reintroduction (under the name Heirloom) of the Line that occurred in 1953. The #17 fan style vase was produced in limited quantities in milk glass during late 1953 and early 1954.

Of the nine vases shown on page 3, six are from the #3400 Line introduced in late 1929 and early 1930. The remaining three, in shape at least, date back to the early-to-mid 1920s, if not before, even though at times different item numbers were being used. Except for #1297 and #1298, these vases were also illustrated in the 1940 Cambridge catalog. The 1949 catalog pictured the same three keyhole vases as well as #278 and #279 and these were being produced in crystal, amber and amethyst. Two keyhole vases, #1237 and #1238, along with the #278 11" footed vase, in crystal only, were offered in the final Cambridge catalog.

On page 4 we find nine vases from the #3400 Line, including three more keyhole stemmed items. All of these had a late 1929, 1930 or 1931 introduction and most were featured in crystal and color, plain and etched.

The 7" and 9" handled baskets date to the Nearcut years and the reader is referred to the recent series on baskets for details about these pieces (Crystal Ball Issues #167, #169 and #173.) The #272 and #274 vases were first seen in the early 1920s and production of the #274 continued until the final plant closing. What became known as the #272 (the shape had a different number in the 1920s) was dropped from the line during the mid-to-late 1940s. While production up through the early 1940s was in many colors, late production of these vases was limited first to amber, amethyst and crystal and then crystal only.

Probably the most spectacular Cambridge vase is the #1336 18" vase shown on page 5. First seen on a catalog page dating to 1933 where it was shown decorated in two ways, etched Diane and engraved Achilles or #698, this vase by 1940 was being offered etched Elaine, Diane, Portia and Rose Point, as well as engraved Achilles. Production of this vase, sometimes referred to as a floor vase, ceased during the 1940s. Reading the fine print we discover that in 1937 the #1336 vase was made in crystal, forest green, royal blue, amethyst and carmen. By 1940, however, production of this item was limited to crystal and royal blue.

As stated earlier, this series is simply an overview of Cambridge vases. If any reader desires more specific information on any given vase or vases, please contact me through the Crystal Ball, and as time permits, I will provide what additional information I have available or can find.

In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to wish each and everyone ... HAPPY HOLIDAYS, MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR.

As part of your decorations, use the #1336 floor vase filled with evergreens!