Cambridge in the 1950s, Part II

by Mark A. Nye
Issue No. 182 - June 1988

Webmaster's Note: Along with this article, and the one for May 1988, we have constructed a separate page which contains illustrations of Cambridge advertisements and Catalog items from the 1950s. It is intended as the reference page for this article by Mark A. Nye and Part I from last month.

As the 1940s were drawing to a close, specifically June 1949, the Cambridge Glass Co. issued their first complete general catalog since January 1940. Little did anyone realize at that time that this catalog along with its numerous supplemental pages would be the last to be issued by the original management of the company. The fates would not be kind to Cambridge and it would go the way of so many other glass houses (Heisey being a good example) before the 1950s were half over.

Except, after the Cambridge Glass Co. closed, it was sold and then reopened under its new owners; and did operate for a few more years during the second half of the 1950s. It is not the intent of this article to dwell on the original 1954 closing. Rather, we return to the early days of the 1950s and the months and years leading up to 1954 to take an overview look at the types of wares being produced during those years.

The only major Cambridge line from the 1930s to continue into the 1950s and feature stemware, dinnerware, flatware and accessory items, was Caprice. This is indicative of the popularity this pattern enjoyed over the years. Shown in the 1949 catalog was the original #300 stemware line: four plates (salad, bread & butter, luncheon and dinner), the cup and saucer, and a wide assortment of serving and accessory items.

During the early 1950s, a few new items were added to the Caprice line. These included a new line of stemware; the #301, which used the Simplicity shape, the cake plate and the quarter pound butter dish. The latter butter dish was not introduced until just before the original plant closing.

A complete Caprice line, as offered in 1950, was available in crystal and moonlight and seventeen accessory and decorative items were also available in crystal and moonlight alpine.

Another old friend from the 1930s still around as the 1950s dawns, was Mount Vernon. But, by then, the line was limited to stemware, covered urn, cup and saucer, finger bowl, fruit saucer and salad and bread & butter plates. Production of this line in the 1950s was limited to crystal.

1950s Ad The Pristine line made a comeback during the late 1940s and early 1950s, having been discontinued during the years of WWII and a complete dinnerware set, as well as stemware, once again became available in this pattern. During the early 1950s this line featured such items as a 3-piece relish server that used a candlestick as its base and a 5-piece castor set that also used the same principle.

With a few exceptions, to be mentioned later, the Pristine line of the 1950s was made only in crystal.

Cambridge ware of the 1950s did include a few items from two other major lines - #3400 and #3500. The most notable of which is the #3400/52 butter and cover. The bulk of these lines, however, were discontinued during the 1940s.

During the early 1950s, the familiar etchings of Candlelight, Chantilly, Diane, Elaine, Rose Point, Portia and Wildflower continued to be a mainstay of Cambridge production. Another etching from the 1930s, Vichy, played a much smaller role, showing up only on some barware. During this period, these etchings were placed only on crystal blanks; however, selected items could be had gold encrusted or with a gold rim band.

The etchings continued to be available on complete stemware and dinnerware lines and while much of the stemware lines were from earlier years, the blanks for dinnerware and accessory items now came primarily from the #3900 or Corinth line. The number of available items with each etching was notably decreased from that available during the prewar years, but sufficient items remained to fulfill the needs of most, if not all discriminating hosts and hostesses.

The last known printed price list was issued in October 1953 and by then Portia and Candlelight had been discontinued. Three new etchings brought out during the final years of the original company were Daffodil, Roselyn and Magnolia. None of these were available in complete dinnerware sets and Magnolia was the smallest set of the three. Stemware was produced bearing all three etchings but lack of a dinner plate made these lines incomplete, when it came to flatware.

Stemware lines held over from the 1940s and before included #1066, #3111, #3121, #3130, #3500, #3122, #3139, #3776, #3700, #3725, #3750, #3775, #3600, #3625, Regency and others. The age of color was over, however, and with only a few exceptions, stemware during these years was limited to crystal. The #3103 line was revived and produced in carmen, for example, and a very early line, #1401 was brought out in emerald and mandarin gold.

Color apparently never completely disappeared from the Cambridge line. At the beginning of the 1950s, amber, amethyst, moonlight, crown tuscan and to a very limited extent, gold krystol were in production. At this time color was used mainly for vases, candlesticks, tumblers, decanter sets, and smoker items. Mandarin gold and emerald (late) were brought out in the summer of 1949 and carmen and ebony were brought back into the line before the Fall of 1950. Produced in carmen during 1950 were such items as the #1040, #1042 and #1043 swans, the #3011 Nude cocktail and the #3400/92 Ball decanter, among others. Ebony was used to manufacture ashtrays, a few items from the Pristine line, including the #P492, #P493 and #P495 block shaped candleholders and a variety of vases, bowls and assorted items from other lines.

Color production did decrease and the last published price list failed to mention moonlight, crown tuscan, gold krystol, carmen and ebony.

The Cascade and Corinth lines made their debuts prior to the start of the 1950s but continued to play an important role in the Cambridge line during the early 1950s. The Corinth line was the major blank used by Cambridge for etching during the 1950s, replacing the #3400 and #3500 lines, and came in stemware, dinnerware, serving and accessory wares. Corinth stemware, however, is not known etched.

Cascade featured stemware, flatware but no dinner plate, serving pieces, accessory items and a punch bowl. Somewhat diminished in the number of pieces available, Cascade was still listed in the final price list.

By far the most important ware to be introduced by Cambridge during the 1950s was the Cambridge Square line. The reader is referred to last month's article to read how the line was first introduced to the trade. Actually, the stemware lines had been introduced sometime prior to the dinnerware and accessory lines. Cambridge Square remained a major part of the Cambridge line right up until the initial closing and again during the reopen period. More on the Cambridge Square line in a future article.

Rock Crystal engravings also played an important role in the Cambridge story during the last years of the company as they had over the years. Well over 50 different engravings appear in the 1949-53 catalog and include such well known favorites as Adonis, Achilles, Croesus and Laurel Wreath, along with many dating to the 1940s and 1950s. Many Rock Crystal engravings appeared on stemware during this period while others were limited to a few pieces of barware or tumblers. A future article will take a more in-depth look at engravings during the 1950s. It was during these years that the celebration, in 1952, of the Cambridge Glass Company's 50th anniversary took place. The first piece of glass having been made in the spring of 1902. Advertising during the 50th year made prominent mention of the anniversary. (Note use of the 50th year emblem on advertisement shown.)

During the first half of 1954 two new lines were introduced. Ebon, a matte finished ebony and milk glass. (Please refer to the reprint of one of, if not the last, advertisement published prior to the initial plant closing.)

Existing molds, created for the Cambridge Square line, were used for this new ebon color, and new molds were not made. Likewise, none of the molds used in the production of milk glass were new, or at the very least they did not produce new shapes. They were new in the sense that the items being offered had not before been seen in milk glass; however, all the pieces shown in the Milk Glass line were items from existing Cambridge lines - Everglade, Mount Vernon and Cascade, to mention three.

This is, by no means, a comprehensive look at the complete Cambridge catalog for the years 1950-54. It does give the reader a broad picture of what was being produced during that period. Many previous articles, such as the series on Butter dishes, Punch Bowls, Decanters and the, just concluded, one on Vases; as well as those dealing with specific lines such as Cascade and Corinth and individual Etchings, dealt with production of these items during the early 1950s. The interested reader is referred to these articles for specific information about production in the 1950s.