Gas, Electric & Oil Lamps

by Mark A. Nye
Issue No. 198 - October 1989

Webmaster's Note: There were a large number of illustrations of lamps which went along with this article. They will take a long time to load on a dial-up connection, so they have been placed on a separate page. If you wish to view the catalog pages, follow the above link.

One of the products of the young Cambridge Glass Co. was oil lamps. Upon examination of surviving catalog pages, it would appear most, if not all, such lamps were made using molds from other companies and at this time any given lamp would be virtually impossible to attribute to Cambridge. Other than catalog pages, little is known about these lamps.

By 1906, Cambridge was producing shades for gas and electric lamps, again using some molds that may have been originated at other sites within the National Glass Co. Production of these items most likely continued until the 1920s. In the later years some of the shades were of Cambridge design.

Later, and indications are it occurred in the fall of 1911 after they had become an independent company, Cambridge began manufacturing complete gas and electric lamps using items or modified items from the Nearcut lines. Based on catalogs and trade journal information, it would appear this aspect of Cambridge production had ceased by the early 1920s. The information concerning Cambridge gas and electric lamps that is available comes from several sources, including the 1906, 1915-17 and #10 (1920-22) catalogs and trade journals. Information culled from two such journals, China, Glass and Lamps and Crockery and Glass Journal and reprinted catalog pages constitute the balance of this article.

The earliest trade journal reference found for Cambridge glass and electric lamps or portables, as they were called at the time, dates to October 1911 and comes from the October 12, 1911 issue of Crockery and Glass Journal.

"Electroliers in pressed glass are the very latest. The Cambridge Glass Co. has sent to its New York representative, William Dealing, two very attractive ones in the "Near Cut" brand of glass. They are not, of course, nearly so costly as cut glass, and look mighty good."

The earliest advertisements found date to December 1911 and appeared in China, Glass and Lamps and Crockery & Glass Journal. Shown are two portables, the #2760 described as "Flower Etched," and the #31 described as "Rich Imitation of Cut Glass." The #2760 pattern is also known as "Daisy," while the #31 is actually from the #2631 or "Marjorie" line.

The following is taken from the January 4, 1912 issue of Crockery & Glass Journal.

"The crystal lamps being shown by William Dealing from the Cambridge Glass Co. are proving good sellers, re-orders being received in satisfactory quantities. It is hard to distinguish, unless closely examined, the "Nearcut" lamps from the genuine cut glass articles. The shapes are artistic and elegant, and they may be had for electricity, gas or oil."

The following dates a week later and deals with the Cambridge display at the 1912 Pittsburgh Glass Exhibition at the Fort Pitt Hotel.

"Cambridge Glass Co. – W.C. McCartney and Arthur J. Bennett in charge. Three new table lines are being shown this year. A feature of the display is the new pressed glass portable in six different patterns and designs."

For three consecutive weeks in January 1912, China, Glass & Lamps carried a full Cambridge advertisement for "NearCut Fancy Portables and Oil Lamps" that featured an illustration of the #2760 Electric Portable.

The March 18, 1912 issue of China, Glass and Lamps had this to say about Cambridge:

"President Bennett of the Cambridge Glass Co. was in Pittsburgh during last week looking after business matters. The Cambridge Company is doing an excellent business particularly in the glass portables and electrics shown to the trade for the first time during the glass and pottery show here in January. They are of attractive design and so useful that buyers have picked them as among the "best sellers," and the judgement of the buyer in this instance is being gloriously vindicated if the orders reaching the Cambridge Company count as proof."

Gas and electric portables continued to be mentioned in the trade journals during the following years. From a January 11, 1915 article covering that year's Pittsburgh show comes this:

"Gas and electric portables, which are in good demand, add greatly to the display by giving an excellent lighting effect, the arrangement of ware being in good taste and very attractive."

After this date, lamps received only an occasional mention. This is not surprising since in most cases it was new items and lines that received notice by the trade journals and were the subjects of paid advertisements.

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, a full pate of "Portables, Gas - Electric - Oil" appeared in a Cambridge catalog issued circa 1915-17 along with another page devoted to shades for gas and electric lamps and oil lamp bases. This indicates the portables continued to be available as the 1920s approached. On this page are illustrated the previously mentioned "Daisy" and "Marjorie" lamps, as well as one of the #2660 or "Wheat Sheaf" pattern and three others; #2792, #2801 and #2351. As evidenced by the catalog captions, these with the exception of the #2801 were not small lamps. The #2760 has a total height of 22" while the #2801 only reaches to 12½".

One can only assume, based on the available information, that Cambridge discontinued lamp production sometime in the early 1920s.

Complete lamps or even parts seldom appear today and when they do, command attention of all serious Cambridge collectors (especially those specializing in Nearcut), and early lamp collectors.