Cambridge Swans - Part V - Reissues

by Les Hansen
Issue No. 322 - February 2000

A key challenge for beginning collectors of Cambridge swans, as well as many dealers of elegant glassware, is identifying swans reissued by manufacturers using the original molds of the Cambridge Glass Company. For experienced swan collectors, definite identification of reissued swans is quite easy. This fifth of six articles on Cambridge swans will review the history of the Cambridge molds following the final closing of the Cambridge Glass Company in 1958, and the swans that have been reissued using the original molds.

Imperial Glass Corporation acquired the Cambridge swan molds in 1958 for all sizes of swans except for the 13" swan. The 13" swan had been produced in only Crystal since the time the swan molds were altered to make Type 3 swans in 1939, but by the late 1940s there was no mention of 13" swans being produced. This has led to speculation that the 13" swan mold may have gone into the WW II scrap drive. Hence, there should be no reissues of 13" swans.

According to Clyde Ingersoll in his article on the evolution of the Cambridge swan molds in Issue #202 of the Crystal Ball, the Mosser Glass Company obtained the 3" Type 3 swan mold as early as 1958. Mosser has used the 3" Type 3 mold to reissue a very large number of swans in a wide variety of colors, many of which are easily confused with Cambridge. Indeed, these Mosser swans have been the most difficult of all the reissues to distinguish from Cambridge swans.

Most, if not all, of the Mosser swans are unmarked, as are the vast majority of Cambridge Type 3 swans. Ingersoll described a method of differentiating the Mosser and Cambridge swans using a small glass projection on the swan's left foot. I have found this method of identification far less useful than examining the heads and wings. Cambridge altered the 3" Type 3 mold on several occasions that affected the head of the swans. The 3" swans produced by Cambridge from the mid-1950s until 1958 have a "large" head with full detail and a long, pronounced beak. All of the Mosser reissues have this large head with defined head features. However, Mosser has not used a flaring tool to spread the wings outward. Cambridge Type 3 swans with the large head and defined head features all have substantial outward spread to their wings.

From numerous references (including issues #23 and #299 of the Crystal Ball, it appears that Imperial used the Cambridge molds to reissue swans on a regular basis during only one year - 1962. Imperial reissued swans with the Cambridge molds in only the 6½, 8½, and 10 inch sizes, and none were made with colored glass during that year. All Imperial swans reissued in 1962 from the Cambridge molds were crystal, crystal with a satin finish ("laliqued" or "doeskin"), or crystal with ruby flashing ("cranberry") According to Willard Kolb, Imperial inter-office memos from 1962 indicate the swans were not good sellers; consequently only a few turns ("batches") may have been made.

Imperial did use the flaring tool on the wings of most swans of these three sizes when they came out of the mold, just as Cambridge had. Therefore, I'm unaware of a method to distinguish Imperial crystal swans in these three sizes from Cambridge Crystal Type 3 swans. I have heard a theory or two, but none seems foolproof to me. It probably doesn't make much difference, because both Imperial and Cambridge produced high quality glass and because crystal swans in these sizes do not command premium prices today. Some collectors believe that the satin finish on Imperial crystal swans is less pronounced than it is on Cambridge crystal swans with a satin finish. As I have commented earlier in this series of articles, I don't put much stock in satin finishes because they can be so easily applied anytime post- manufacturing. The ruby-flashed Imperial swans are quite nice and are sought by many Cambridge swan collectors. They are well made, seldom surface (produced in only 1962), and add a touch of luster to a swan collection. More than likely all of the 6½, 8½, and 10 inch swans from Type 3 Cambridge molds that have ruby flashing were made by Imperial.

Other than the 3" Type 3 mold used by Mosser, it seems no reissues of Cambridge swans were made from 1963 through 1981. However apparently the 6½" mold was again used to maKe swans in 1982, based on the following information provided by Willard Kolb:

In 1982, while owned by Arthur Lorche (ALIG - Arthur Lorche Imperial Glass), Imperial made 6½ inch swans in black for Harold Bennett and marked them with a B in a triangle. Imperial also continued to make more of the 6½ inch swans in black without the B in a triangle. Also, in 1982, Imperial produced the 6½ inch swan in a color called sunshine yellow with an ALIG mark.

This was the first that I had heard of a yellow 6½ inch swan made by Imperial. After the closing of Imperial, glass molds in its possession were liquidated in 1985. At that time, the Cambridge swan molds went three different directions:

  • 3 inch Type 1 (however without feather detail) and 4½ inch to Boyd's Crystal Art Glass
  • 6½, 8½, and 10 inch to Summit Art Glass
  • 16 inch punch bowl to NCC

Like the 13 inch swan, the 16 inch swan punch bowl has not been, reissued. The swans reissued by Boyd using the Cambridge 3 inch Type 1 mold are easily distinguished from Cambridge 3 inch Type 1 swans, because all of the Cambridge swans from this mold have feather detail. It is important to remember that Cambridge removed the feather detail from this mold in 1939, but apparently never produced swans with it. Instead, Cambridge made a new mold for 3 inch swans (Type 2) in 1939. A very few Boyd 3 inch swans are signed with the "C in a triangle", but very soon after acquiring this mold, Boyd began signing all of their swans (both 3 and 4½ inch) with their "B in a diamond". All 3 inch Type 1 swans that lack feather detail are Boyd reissues, and they have been made in a wide range of colors and with decorations.

Boyd also has reissued swans using the 4½ inch mold. Like the 3 inch swan made by Boyd, he 4½ inch swans have been made in many colors and have had decorations applied to them. Cambridge made the ½ inch Type 3 Swans in only Crystal and Milk and used the flaring tool on the wings from 1940 forward. The Boyd 4½ inch swans don't have spread to their wings and are signed with the "B in a diamond".

This leaves us with the 6½, 8½ and 10 inch swans reissued since 1965 by Summit Art Glass, Ravenna, Ohio, owned by Russell and JoAnn Vogelsong. The Vogelsongs were early movers and shakers in NCC, and many items from their Cambridge glass collection were photographed for the Colors in Cambridge book. They acquired the three swan molds from Imperial and have periodically reissued swans in each of the three sizes. The swans reissued by Summit are not marked in any meaningful way and have been made in some colors that are similar to Cambridge colors. For experienced Cambridge swan collectors, distinguishing between Summit and Cambridge swans is easy. This might not be the case for a novice collector.

The key feature to identify swans reissued by Summit is that they lack the spread to the wings that is a hallmark of Cambridge Type 3 swans produced in the 1940s and l950s. Summit has not used a flaring tool to spread the wings after the swans come out of the molds: therefore, when viewed from above, Summit swans are more oval and Cambridge type 3 swans are more round in shape. A less reliable method to distinguish Summit and Cambridge swans is the necks on Type 3 Cambridge swans are heavily twisted to one side, whereas the necks on Summit swans tend to extend straight forward from the body.

I spoke with Russell and JoAnn Vogelsong of Summit in late November 1999 and asked for the colors of reissue for each of the three sizes of swans. Recalling from memory, they came up with the list that follows, which might not be complete. Summit produced a relatively small number of swans of each color. However, the three swan molds (originally made in the 1920s and reworked in 1939 to become Type 3) remain in fine working order, so Summit will likely reissue more swans using these Cambridge molds in the future.

Colors of Swans Reissued by Summit using the Type 3 (No Feather Detail) molds:

  • 6½ inch - rubina (blue, red, & green), amberina (red & orange), light blue, cobalt blue, irridized cobalt blue, black
  • 8½ inch - light blue, cobalt blue, irridized cobalt blue, black, yellow, chocolate (brown opaque), light emerald
  • 10 inch - amberina, light blue, cobalt blue, irridized cobalt blue

The knowledgeable Cambridge swan collector is aware that few of these colors are similar to colors used by Cambridge to produce type 3 (no feather detail) swans. Of course, the 6½ inch amberina could possibly be confused with Carmen, the 8½ inch yellow could be confused with Mandarin Gold, and most importantly, the 8½ inch light blue could be confused with Moonlight. The only 8½ inch Moonlight swans made by Cambridge were type 2 (these should be signed with the "C in a triangle"). All swans from the Cambridge 10 inch mold are impressive because of their size and style, therefore, the 10 inch swans in amberina and light blue have drawn tremendous attention at antique and glass shows. However, Cambridge made the 10 inch type 3 swan in crystal only.