No. 1525 Salt Dip - Westmorland Sterling Co. - A Tale of Two American Companies

by RaNae Morris Travers
Issue No. 217 - May 1991

Last October, a friend who knows of my interest in Cambridge gave me one of the nicest gifts I've ever received. Before it was given to me, it had been a gift to him from his Mother. It was a Cambridge #1525 1" salt dish packaged in a little blue and gray gift box with a tiny sterling silver salt spoon. Salt dip My friend knew the glass salt was made by Cambridge because he has six other boxed sets. Some have salt dishes with the Cambridge paper label.

The gift box has a company name and trademark that looks like this:

Westmoreland trademark

The trademark between the two words is a Mountain Sheep, or Ram's Head.

The box made me very curious about the Westmorland Sterling Company and its business relationship with the Cambridge Glass Company. "The Encyclopedia of American Silver Manufacturers" by Dorothy T. Rainwater (Crown Publishers, Inc., 1975) includes a short paragraph on Westmorland that says the company was created in 1940 by Wearever Aluminum, Inc. and Wallace Silversmiths. Wearever developed the company's marketing program; and Wallace Silversmiths manufactured five sterling silver flatware patterns to be sold on a direct-to-customer basis. This information isolated the time period of a business association between Westmorland and Cambridge to 1940-1958, the year Cambridge closed. My other questions were answered by Mr. William Brennan, the current President of Westmorland Sterling Company, during a telephone interview in early February 1991.

Mr. Brennan, who has worked at Westmorland since 1947, said that the company was established in Wallingford, Conn. in 1939, although actual production did not begin until 1940. The formation of the silver company was an attempt to continue to provide jobs for aluminum workers if America entered the War in Europe. The venture was a hedge against the war as it was assumed that most aluminum would go to defense contractors.

Sometime in the early 1940s, probably in 1942-1943, Westmorland began to purchase quantities of the #1525 salt dishes from the Cambridge Glass Co. Each salt dish was boxed with a Westmorland sterling salt spoon. The sets were made to be given away as gifts by the company's salespeople when they made their sales calls. These sales calls were not to department store buyers, but to individual potential buyers. Westmoreland salt spoon My friend remembers the saleswoman who called on his Mother and ultimately sold her a set of flatware in a pattern called Enchanting Orchid. She must have given the boxes to his Mother as samples of the available patterns.

The five sterling flatware patterns that were available to my friend's Mother are still available in 1991.

They are named:

  • Milburn Rose
  • George and Martha
  • Lady Hilton
  • John and Priscilla
  • Enchanting Orchid

Drawing shown here is not to scale. Actual length of the spoon is 1-15/16". Pattern shown here is: Enchanting Orchid

The most prominent design on the handle of my salt spoon, an Orchid, identifies the pattern as Enchanting Orchid, which was introduced in 1952. Mr. Brennan related some fascinating information about the Enchanting Orchid design. Across the handle are three silver beads which represent three pearls:

  • The pearl of all metals, Silver.
  • The pearl of flowers, the Orchid.
  • The pearl of music, the "G" Note.

In addition to an Orchid, an artist's interpretation of the G Clef is on the handle of every piece of Enchanting Orchid. I had the impression that all of Westmorland's designs were the result of real creative effort.

The sales promotion, using Cambridge salt dishes, continued until approximately 1960, using in-stock inventory. In 1987, Mr. Brennan decided to reoffer the combination of a sterling silver salt spoon and a lead crystal salt dish. However, from the beginning of the planning process, it was intended that the item would be sold, not given away as a gift. Unaware of Cambridge's closing in 1958, Mr. Brennan sent one of the #1525 salts from Westmorland's remaining inventory to be chemically analyzed. He wanted to be assured that the salts were lead crystal. The analysis results were that the salt dish was potash glass, without lead content. Concurrently, Mr. Brennan learned that Cambridge was no longer in business. A German glass company was ultimately chosen to supply 24% lead crystal salt dishes for Westmorland. The new version of a salt spoon and salt dish became available in 1988.

While Cambridge always advertised that they never made tank glass, they never claimed that all of their glass had lead content. Additionally, the #1525 salt was purchased during World War II when lead was very difficult to obtain. The original contract with Westmorland must not have specified that the salt dishes have lead content. The lead that was available to Cambridge was most likely being saved for making glassware destined to be cut, as lead content is critical to the cutting process. Without documentation, we will never know the answer.

In 1987, the Westmorland Sterling Company moved from Wallingford, Conn. to Lincoln, Mass., the present location. Their five flatware patterns are nationally marketed.

I enjoyed learning about Westmorland, which, though small, continues to be part of the American sterling silver industry because of its classic designs and attention to detail. When one is aware of the history of both companies and appreciative of their products, combining a piece of Cambridge glass with a piece of Westmorland sterling in a small box has a poetic aptness to it. My initial curiosity satisfied, my gift now represent a small piece of Cambridge history.