Pioneering in Quality Glassware at Cambridge

by Mark A. Nye
Issue 305 - September 1998

Courage, Fundamental Factor In Progress of 25 Years at Cambridge
is Not Lacking Where New and Quality Wares Are Concerned.
Arthur J. Bennett's Inspiring Leadership Has prevailed through Stress and Tumult.
Improved Factory Equipment and New Fuel Supply To Help Better Wares.

Just what factor stands out in carrying a glassware factory through nearly 25 years of growth, helping it overcome great difficulties and enabling it to improve steadily its product, in short, what makes it successful, perhaps often has aroused interest and speculation.

That factor is courage when The Cambridge Glass Co. is considered.

Twenty-five years ago The Cambridge Glass Co. was founded in a period of overgrowth in the glassware industry. Its first operation was imperiled by failure of its natural gas supply. Today it's again using its own gas, but with sufficient quantity apparent assured.

It took courage to overcome those first difficulties as it did to live through and carry on in the financial troubles which came later. Also it took courage a few years ago to discontinue lines which meant $100,000 worth of orders a year to the factory and substitute better wares for a different market.

Looking into the progress of The Cambridge Glass Co. in the years of struggle as well as in recent 12 months, we find the guiding and inspiring figure of Arthur J. Bennett. His boys, Bennett's Boys, he says, helped him and are his reliance today. But the boys who have been associated with Mr. Bennett in the valley and on the hilltop declare it was his leadership.

To the fundamental quality of courage in the history of The Cambridge Glass Co. must be added the grace of cooperation between leader and lieutenants. The leader gave of his best and his utmost inspired his associates.

Today, The Cambridge Glass Co. is preparing to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its first piece of glassware. A quarter of a century has Arthur J. Bennett guided his factory at Cambridge in Guernsey County, Ohio. It has grown steadily, its products have a worldwide market and yet the ideal of the best quality in glass still holds sway. Recent improvements in equipment are counted upon to still further facilitate the manufacture of glassware of ever increasing quality.

Early in the month of May, 1902, The Cambridge Glass Co. made its first piece of glassware. That jug or pitcher is still in existence ... It was the forerunner of a great production in gold-encrusted glassware in the present day.

And yet the man who has guided The Cambridge Glass Co. over the last 25 years was not a manufacturer by training or experience. He who had been a buyer and importer of china and glass proved his ability in the field of production and there are few in any industrial endeavor in these United States who have carried on to a greater vision than Arthur J. Bennett.

Some there are in the glassware trade of today who will recall the activities of the National Glass Co., planned as a countrywide and all embracing combine of glassware factories. The only factory erected by the National Glass Co. was that at Cambridge, Ohio. in the latter part of 1901, The Cambridge Glass Co. was incorporated under the laws of Ohio as the operating company for the factory at Cambridge. Arthur J. Bennett was called from New York to take charge.

It was planned to have three melting furnaces of 14 pots each in the Cambridge factory but only one was completed when the first piece of glassware was made in May 1902. The first product was common pressed ware. The moulds available were those gathered from other factories of the National Glass Co.

One of the reasons for the location of the factory in Cambridge was that there was reported to be a good supply of natural gas. It is true there were gas wells but they were shallow. However, when the first fires were lighted and operations began, it was found the supply of gas was not sufficient. There was not enough gas to supply furnace, lehrs and equipment. A real problem for the new factory manager, but a few months before an importer of china and glass.

We have stressed the fundamental factor of courage. Determined not to be overwhelmed by this unsuspected development, Mr. Bennett obtained a supply of gas from a commercial company. As soon as the new source of supply was assured, a gang of men was rushed into the field to make the necessary connections and before few realized what had happened, the Cambridge factory was launched insofar as a supply of fuel was concerned.

Came the panic year of 1907 and financial difficulties for the National Glass Co. resulting in its bankruptcy. For three years the position and future of the Cambridge factory was uncertain.

Courageously, Mr Bennett continued operations. Conditions were adverse, the future of the plant in doubt but the operating company, represented in Mr. Bennett, carried on. In the scrambled financial troubles of the National Glass Co., it appeared at one time that The Cambridge Glass Co. would lose its factory. Mr. Bennett went to Byesville, three miles from Cambridge, and with the assistance of the townspeople got control of a small plant there. It was smaller than the plant at Cambridge, but it was a factory where Mr. Bennett was safe from the financial alarms surrounding the closing days of the National Class Co. debacle.

After a long drawnout fight with the receivers and bond holders of the National Glass Co., an arrangement was finally effected whereby Mr. Bennett purchased the factory with all the machinery and personal properly of The Cambridge Glass Co. This was a real burden to assume for any one individual, the total amount being well under $400,000, of which $50,000 was paid in cash and the balance carried about 50% in notes and mortgage bonds, maturing over a period of 10 to 15 years. This was an individual transaction on the part of Mr. Bennett and as accepted by the bankers, who had confidence in him, without any outside endorsement.

In reply to an inquiry as to why Mr. Bennett carried this proposition through as an individual and never attempted to sell stock, he stated he had a well defined idea of what he wanted to do and the policy outlined might not be satisfactory to outside stockholders and capitalists. Therefore, he preferred to take the entire risk and if it was a success, the profits accrued would help retire the obligations that much sooner. His prediction on this was sound for all of the obligations, including the mortgage bonds, were retired several years ahead of the time limit. And when all of these burdens were removed, then came the opportunity for a complete rearrangement of the capital structure, and the putting into effect the plans for the perpetuation of the business.

To be continued ...

NOTE: The preceding, written by J.M. Hammer, was originally published in the December 27, 1926, issue of China, Glass & Lamps. It was first reprinted in the Crystal Ball during 1975 and 1976. It is reprinted here as part of the National Cambridge Collectors, Inc. 25th Anniversary Celebration as it was orginally written in celebration of the Cambridgo Glass Co.'s first 25 years.