Cambridge History From News Articles

by Kurt Tostenson
Issue No. 249 - January 1994

Skilled Craftsmen are Employed at Plant
The Daily Jeffersonian
Sept. 19, 1947

One of Cambridge's best known industries is the Cambridge Glass Co., for 46 years one of America's largest producers of fine crystal which is known the world over. The glass industry has made this city as famous for its crystal as Venice when the Italian City was the art center of the world and holder of a virtual monopoly on the glass industry.

Cambridge is not the only producer of hand made glass in Ohio. In fact it is one of many, but the plant here is the largest in size of any in Ohio and the second largest in production of hand made crystal in the United States.

In a day when machinery has become the basis of American production, the firm started here in 1901 by the late Arthur J. Bennett still produces exquisite glass by hand. The emphasis is on quality and perfection not mass production. Machinery has not been invented to produce beautiful crystal as efficiently as that produced by the work of hand.

Cambridge Glass Co., was started here by Mr. Bennett because of the natural gas fields in this area and the famed sand beds of western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. Since his death in 1940, the men he assembled to help start the plant are carrying on his ideas to produce the best glass possible.

Heading the company is W. L. Orme, who served under Mr. Bennett as vice-president; G. Roy Boyd is vice-president and treasurer; W. C. McCartney is secretary and sales manager; and Howard A. Lovelady serves as assistant sales manager.

House of Wonders

Cambridge Glass Co., has been called the house of wonders. An inspection trip through the huge dull red brick building with its quaint roof angles and cone shaped smoke stacks jetting above the roof leaves an impression of antiquity and old-worldliness.

Hundreds of skilled workman huddle around the base of the stacks which are about 100 feet in diameter, each containing 14 openings spaced at regular intervals where the molten glass lies in clay pots ready to be transformed into beautiful crystal.

According to Mr. Lovelady, the pots hold about a ton of material, enough to make several hundred finished pieces. The pot is charged and remains undisturbed for 12 to 18 hours in which time the temperature will reach about 2700 degrees.

Use Two Methods

At Cambridge Glass Co., two methods are used around these stack bases to form the ware. One is by blowing the glass which will shape a ball of molten glass on the end of a hollow blow pipe into a hollow shell, the start of a hand made goblet.

The other method is pressing. The molten glass is forced into cast-iron molds so that glass assumes the shape and design of the mold.

After the stem and base are put on a goblet by workers around the furnace, it is carried to the lehr, a long furnace extremely hot at one end and cool at the other. This process is necessary to remove internal strain from the glass.

In the cutting and etching rooms, the process is extremely interesting as where the glass is shaped. Cambridge Glass Company's etching room is the largest and finest equipped in the country and another department where the exacting work is all done by hand.

Process Complex

Before any design can be placed on glass in the etching department, the design must be cut on steel plate, not as it will appear on the crystal but exactly in reverse. The print is inked on paper and transferred to the glass, excess paper removed, a covering of acid resisting wax applied and then to the hydrofluoric dip which eats away the glass that is exposed.

In the cutting department steady nerves are at work cutting thin lines in the glassware, perfect lines being cut by a hand operation that modern machinery fails to do. Throughout this big factory, the poise and dignity and pride-of-craft still have their place in the 20th century of stamping machines.

Workers Skilled

Possibly the most modern part of the entire factory is the large display rooms where thousands of pieces of etched, cut stemware, gold decorated and plain lines of crystal are shown. The five mirrored rooms contain samples of every product made by Cambridge Glass Company's 700 skilled craftsmen.

In various lines of crystal Mr. Lovelady explained the company produces eight patterns of etched glassware, 45 of cut stemware, 10 of gold decorated and many patterns in plain lines. Today, there are more than 5,000 separate items of the Cambridge line which grew from a cut glass pitcher, the first piece of glassware made in 1901 and now a treasured possession of the company.

From New York to California and Mexico to Canada, Cambridge Glass has won wide acclaim for its product of quality and sheer beauty. The company maintains sales offices in New York City, Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles, to distribute crystal produced by one of Cambridge's largest industries.