Bennett, of Cambridge, Proves that Profits, as well as Presidents, Come from Ohio

Reprinted from the December 1930 issue
of The Crockery and Glass Journal
Issue No. 200 - December 1989

Some months ago, we recorded in this journal, briefly a history of the Cambridge Glass Co. from its inception to its present position of prominence in the field. "It is now our pleasure" - as kings, editors and banquet orators remark - to chronicle the career of the man who has guided that enterprising company through the many vicissitudes of its earlier years, through later chances and changes, to the prosperity it now enjoys and who, accordingly, has become its chief executive.

Arthur James Bennett, born in London in January 1866, has spent most of his life in the United States, the country of his adoption, although his boyhood and early youth were spent in England, the land of his birth. A. J. Bennett It follows naturally, then, that he combines in himself the qualities of British pluck and persistence and American energy and determination, fused by the level-headed conservatism which is a characteristic of the race, an Anglo-American trait. His forebears, including his parents, he describes as "commercial people" occupied with business in England for many years; they formed part of the sturdy backbone of the body politic which regularly conducts affairs in the chief cities of the Isles and regularly sends representatives to Parliament. Bennett's parents came to the United States about a decade before the Civil War; in fact, from 1850 to 1862, during the time when this country was torn by conflict between the North and South and when the Northwest in particular was disturbed by outbreaks of the Indian tribes, especially the Sioux. Chicago was then a flourishing town, already giving promise of great development in the future, when peace should be restored; and as the Bennetts were active participants in the growth of the community, they left it, presumably, not without regret.

In London, therefore, Bennett first saw the light of day, and in that historic city he received his earliest education.

Like many other British boys in those troubled times, he went to work at a tender age; he was only thirteen, to be exact, when he obtained his first job, that of errand boy with the John Mortlock Co., retailers of china and earthenware. He remained with that firm for five years, gradually progressing into the order department; then, at eighteen, he became a salesman in the china department of Barker's Ltd., where he worked for two years, incidentally acquiring the rudiments of knowledge of the great game of merchandising and selling; and presently, strengthened by that experience, he took a position as salesman with James Scholbred & Son. Not long after this, however, he decided to go to the United States.

He then came to this country and his first position here was with Jones, McDuffe & Stratton, of Boston. Evidently he came well recommended, for his position was that of city salesman, in charge of the general retail department. Three years later, desiring some "road experience" and perhaps wishing too, to see something of this country which his parents had often described, he joined the Abram-French Co., likewise of Boston, and traveled for them, not in the Northwest as he may have expected, but in the no less interesting southern territory. Then came his first serious "set-back." Traveling in the South, it was his misfortune to fall a victim of malaria; he suffered a severe attack of this malady and returned to Boston in the state commonly described as "a physical wreck," though in his case this may be a slight overstatement, for after a few months he regained his health and resumed his activity - now as buyer for the Jordan Marsh Co., in charge of the china, glass and lamp departments.

During his association with Jordan Marsh's he made four European trips for the firm, and in 1894 he accepted a partnership with Benjamin F. Hunt & Sons, Boston and New York merchants. Having become specially interested in the creation of new lines, he made it a point to give his particular personal attention to this work at the factories of Haida and Elbogen in Bohemia (now Czechoslovakia.) (now the Czech Republic)

Events were thus slowly shaping a course for his later entrance into the field of glass manufacture. Before very long, in January 1902, he became president and general manager of the Cambridge Glass Co.

Now the Cambridge Glass Co. at that time was only a link in the proposed chain of factories that the ambitious but ill-starred National Glass Co. attempted to stretch across the country; it was, in fact, an operating company leasing a new factory which was being completed by the National at Cambridge, Ohio. Bennett became vice-president of the National Glass Co. Some months later, as we have related elsewhere, that company failed. The ambitious project was shattered like a broken tumbler, and over the far-flung, disjointed links of the chain reigned chaos.

Bennett, being president of the Cambridge Co. and having a persistent faith in its future, "stuck by" it in the midst of confusion. When the factory's supply of natural gas ran short, unexpectedly, he met the emergency by purchasing a coal mine. Other difficulties arose, but he and his loyal associates faced them and solved their problems, one by one. Determined to keep the factory running, in order to meet its various obligations, he managed to bring the hopeful company safely through "a sea of troubles" due to their connection with the National Glass Co.

Shakespeare wrote:

"There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune."

Bennett took the commercial tide at its lowest ebb and piloted the ship safely to port. His hand is still on the helm. In 1910 he purchased from the bondholders and banking interests the entire assets of the Cambridge Glass Co. including buildings and equipment, and since that time he has remained at the head of the firm, directing its policies, witnessing its progress.

More recent history of the company may be too familiar to require repetition here. Besides, this is intended to be an account, brief as he would wish, of A.J. Bennett himself, not of his firm and of its well known productions. It is somewhat difficult to present vividly a man whose portrait, sketched in words, should be as simple and direct and genial as his own personality; but if we attempt to do so, if we try to summarize him in a sentence, we should undoubtedly speak of Bennett as his friends describe him; a man whose chief interests, outside of business are in church activities, in golf, in good music and above all, in good friendships.