Cambridge Square

by Mark Nye
Issue 287, March 1997

Square bowlThe theme for the 1997 National Cambridge Collectors is "Cambridge and the 1950s Revisited." During the coming months, lines unique to the 1950s will be revisited. The only completely new line introduced in the 1950s by the original Cambridge Glass Co., prior to its demise in 1954, was Cambridge Square. Heirloom, also introduced before 1954, was simply an extension of the older pattern known as Martha Washington.

It was 45 years ago last December that Cambridge advertisements with the following text appeared in China, Glass and Decorative Accessories and Crockery and Glass Journal:

"....Cambridge will present at the Pittsburgh China & Glass Show one of the most distinctive new crystal shapes ever created by American Glassmakers. It is a pattern aloof from the conventional, an ultrasmart, imaginative design brilliant with the beauty of flawless crystal and astir with the mood of the times.

"You are cordially invited to see this exciting new pattern at rooms 101-103 in the William Penn Hotel. On the square ... we believe you'll like it!"

This was how the pattern called Cambridge Square was introduced to the world of wholesale glass buyers in December 1951. While no mention of the pattern's precise name is made, the words "on the square" certainly hint at it. Square made its official debut at the January 1952 Pittsburgh China & Glass Show and was probably available at the retail level within a month or two.

Cambridge Square is like the Pristine line in that the basis of its attractiveness is its clean and simple lines. Unlike Pristine, Cambridge Square has a very distinctive design feature that consists of the square base found on most of the items unique to the line. Neither the tea cup nor the coffee cup has the square base. The square base is a true square in that all sides are of equal length and the indented center of each base is also a square.

"Modern" in its design, Square was a radical departure from the traditional shapes used by Cambridge and other glass manufacturers. Life styles were becoming simpler and the designs and lines of most, if not all household items, were being adapted to the times.

Square 8 in. Oval Tray The Square line, designated No. 3797 by Cambridge, consists of at least 60 individual items of which three are not unique to the pattern. The Nos. 492, 493 and 495 candleholders were not a new shape, having been a part of the Pristine line for a number of years. Seven of the items in the line make up a "stemless" stemware line. Given traditional drinking vessel names such as goblet, wine, and cocktail, the line was made of bowls placed directly onto the square foot or base.

Square 3 pc. Sugar & Cream Set (Individual)The No. 3797 Square stemware appears to have preceded the balance of the line by several months. The molds for this stemware were ordered during June 1951. The August 1951 issue of China, Glass and Decorative Accessories included this commentary on the Cambridge showroom at the Chicago Merchandise Mart:

"Several new items spark the Cambridge Glass Company's current display, 1547 in the Mart. A dual purpose line of stemware in simple, modern shapes includes five sizes: goblet or ice tea, the sherbet or finger bowl, a manhattan that doubles as a juice, a martini that can also be used for shrimp cocktail and a cordial. The line comes in clear crystal with two styles of bases, a square base pattern celled 'Cambridge Square' and a round base pattern called 'Horizon."' (Authors Note: Horizon later became known as Cambridge Circle.)

There is a second line of Cambridge Square stemware, this one designated No. 3798, and it conforms to the traditional concept of stemware. That is to say it is made up of a bowl, stem and foot. The bowl and foot are of traditional shapes while the stem incorporates a cube of glass. There are seven items in the No. 3798 line and these are goblet, sherbet (or champagne), cocktail, wine, cordial, 5 ounce juice and 12 ounce ice tea.

The complete Square line consisted of some 77 catalog items, including the two stemware lines and sets such as wine and cordial sets, mayonnaise sets, sugar and cream sets. etc. During 1952 a total of eight catalog pages (page 52, 53, 55, 57, 58, 59) showing the Square line were issued; apparently seven were issued during the spring and one in the fall.

This last page illustrated, among other items, the tea and coffee cups. This page, unlike the others showing Square had an additional caption that read "Designed for Present Day Living."

Most glassware lines contained only a single cup intended for use for both coffee and tea and, in some instances, a separate punch cup. In the Square line there are two sizes of cups. One is designated as the tea cup or No. 3797/15. The other is larger and called a coffee cup or No.3797/17. After the line's introduction, a punch bowl was added and the tea or No. 15 cup also served as the punch cup. Both cups when finished were seamless and were easily stacked. In addition, the open handles permitted hanging in the china cabinet or dish cupboard as well as on the edge of the punch bowl.

Another later addition to the Square line was the No. 3797/69 2 lite candlestick. Sold by itself, the piece was also combined with a small flower block and promoted as an epergnette. The latter was seen in a photograph published in the February 1954 issue of China, Glass and Decorative Accessories that was captioned:

"CAMBRIDGE GLASS: Two piece candleholder or epergnette from the popular Cambridge Square line; consists of epergnette and flower block permitting many uses. Priced to retail for $6.95 a pair."

A Cambridge Square advertisement in the June 1952 issue of China, Glass and Decorative Accessories had this caption:

"the ONE new outstanding glassware design of the year! CAMBRIDGE SQUARE. At Pittsburgh and Chicano -- yes at all leading shows -- buyers, decorators, editors were unanimous in their praise of smart, modern "Cambridge Square," the exciting new square base crystal. It's a design that dares to be different --"special occasion" crystal that every hostess is a prospect for, and will want to possess. At moderate prices, you'll sell "Cambridge Square" in volume. Nationally advertised. Check your Cambridge representative, or write."

"The popular Cambridge Square Accessory line which Cambridge Glass Co., Cambridge, Ohio, introduced at the Pittsburgh show will appear again in July in many new serving and decorative items. The accessory line had been coordinated originally with the successful shape of Cambridge Square stemware. Its sleek modern lines, featuring the handmade look, have made it such a hit that it is only natural that Cambridge designers would plan more items in this line. Among the many new things this firm will show is a new Cambridge Square cigarette set packaged in a beautiful white take-home gift box. Consisting of a handsome cigarette urn and two ashtrays, the set will be an approximately $2 retailer." Crockery and Glass Journal July 1952

The line received critical acclaim and was selected by the Museum of Modern Art for permanent display in Gold Design Showroom, Merchandise Mart, Chicago. Whether or not this display still exists is not known to this author.

Square VaseThe Cambridge Square line was primarily produced in Crystal. Some pieces will be found in Ebon, which is a matte finished Ebony, and Carmen. Approximately 20 blanks from the Square line were used for the Ebon line when it was brought out in January 1954. These will be found plain or with stylized gold decorations representing birds, fish and stars. Ebon was in production for only a short period and Ebon Square pieces are not common.

Very few pieces of Square in Carmen were made by Cambridge, four to be precise. They are the 3797/81 10 inch shallow bowl, the 3797/26 11 1/2 inch cake plate, a 10 inch round bowl and the 3797/78 vase. The latter had a crystal base or foot. Carmen Cambridge Square is seldom found today. A few pieces were also make in Smoke and the No. 3797 stemware was produced, in very limited amounts, in Crackle.

After Imperial Glass Company acquired the Cambridge molds they made a few pieces of Square in red. According to Gwen Shumpert writing in the September 1977 issue of the Crystal Ball, Imperial Glass Company produced red Square during 1969. In the same article Mrs. Shumpert reported Imperial had made the candy box and cover the 11 and 6 1/2 inch salad bowls, 10 inch oval bowl, 6 1/2 inch tray and the cupped candlestick. All of these pieces would have originally had the Cambridge by Imperial sticker.

Very little Square was decorated. You will occasionally find pieces with the Triumph decoration. This decoration consists of a Platinum band with hairline. The full range of items decorated in this manner is shown in the NCC Inc.'s reprint of the 1956-1958 Cambridge catalog.

Several of the Square blanks were used to fill special orders for the Vanadium Corporation of America. These pieces were used for commemorative or advertising purposes and were etched with the Vanadium name.