The Cambridge Swans - Part IV

by Les Hansen
Issue 319 - November 1999

Seven sizes of Cambridge swans ranged from a mere 3 inches to a colossal 16 inches. With such a wide range of sizes, the swans also had a broad spectrum of intended uses. The advertised uses (sometimes multiple) for the swans of various sizes follows (with their mold numbers):

Size Cat. No. Cambridge Advertised Function
3 in.      1040     Individual nut or mint
    Ash tray
4 ½ in. 1041 Candy dish
6 ½ in. 1042 mayonnaise (when sold with a ladle)
    Candy dish
    Centerpiece (when sold with a 2 ¼ in. flower block)
8 ½ in. 1043 Celery holder
    Centerpiece (when sold with a 2 ¾ in. flower block)
10 in. 1044 Centerpiece (was sold with or without a 3 in. flower block)
13 in. 1046 Centerpiece (was sold with or without a 3½ in. flower block)
16 in. 1221 Punch bowl

The Cambridge swans were introduced (Type I) in catalog pages from fall 1928 (Page 52 of the 1927-29 catalog reprinted by Bill and Phyllis Smith). In that original presentation of the swans in a catalog, two supplemental pieces could be purchased that adapted two of the swans for other uses. These were a candleholder insert (mold number 1050) for the 4 ½ in. swan and a flowerpot insert (mold number 1052) for the 10 in swan. In each case, the swan itself was unaltered: however, by placing a candleholder insert inside, the 4 ½ in. swan became a candleholder. Likewise, by placing a flowerpot insert (liner) inside, the 10 in. swan became a flowerpot.

The subsequent catalog appearance of the swans is in the 1930-34 catalog reprinted by NCC on page 48, which probably dates to January 1930. The candleholder insert continued to be presented, however, the flowerpot insert was not mentioned. Therefore, the flowerpot insert must have been produced for a very short period of time, probably from the fall of 1928 until sometime in 1929. The idea of putting dirt in a flowerpot insert that in turn would be placed inside a beautiful 10 in. Type I swan is a rather revolting thought to Cambridge swan collectors today, and perhaps it wasn't a happy thought for buyers of Cambridge glass in the late 1920s either. Apparently, the flowerpot inserts didn't sell well. Personally, I have seen only one flowerpot insert during the many years that I have been collecting Cambridge swans, and that insert (Peachblo) was both stained and damaged. The flowerpot insert is very utilitarian and is in no way elegant -- it is oval, is smooth sided, has a hole in the center of its bottom and has small "feet." The feet on the insert lift the bottom of the insert above the inside base of the 10 in. swan, permitting water drainage from the soil inside the flowerpot insert into the interior bottom of the swan itself -- again, what a horrifying idea! The candleholder insert was produced in the same colors as the 4 ½ in. swan -- Crystal, Ebony, Peachblo, and Light Emerald and, although not plentiful, can be found today with some searching. The flowerpot insert should have been produced in the same colors as the candleholder insert.

The candleholder insert for the 4 ½ in swan was not in the 1940 Cambridge catalog. so this insert was probably discontinued sometime during the 1930s. However, the concept of a 4 ½ in. candleholder swan had a reincarnation during the 1950s. Clyde Ingersoll's excellent article on the evolution of the Cambridge swan molds in Issue #202 of the Crystal Ball indicated that a new plunger for the 4½ in. swan was ordered on April 4, 1952, so a 4½ in. swan candleholder could once again be produced. This time however, the candle well was part of the swan itself. Apparently, a single swan mold could be used to make the 4½ in. swan (Type III), both with and without the candle well, by simply changing plungers. The date for ordering of the plunger fits information in Cambridge price lists, because the March 18, 1952 price list didn't contain a 4½ in. swan candleholder, but the price list from January 1, 1953 did. It was produced in Crystal only at that time. For a period of time in 1954, before the initial closing of the Cambridge factory, the 4½ in. swan candleholder was also produced in Milk. The March 16, 1956 price list from the reopened period (1956-58) made no mention of a 4½ in. swan candleholder, so production was probably limited to the years of 1952 to 1954 and the colors of Crystal and Milk.

Another innovation for the swans was a cover for the 6½ in. swan. Once again, in this series of articles on Cambridge swans, we refer to Circular Letters #31 and #41 of the Cambridge Glass Company that were distributed in 1937 and were reprinted in Issue #192 of the Crystal Ball. In CL #31, Cambridge officials announced that the design of the 8½ in. swan was changed, which would be from Type I to Type II, as has been previously discussed. However, the company also indicated that a cover had been made for the 8½ in. swan to create a covered candy box or bonbon. In CL #41, the 8½ in. swan was offered in either Crystal or Moonlight, with or without a cover. interestingly, according to this CL #41, all of the other sizes of swans (Type I, except for 3 in.) were available in Crystal only in 1937. The Type II swans in the 8½ in. size were likely made during the period from 1937-39, and very few of them have surfaced in either Crystal or Moonlight, with or without a cover. The cover has a glass-petaled rose as a handle that was attached (while the glass was still hot) to a smooth raised area in the middle of the top of the cover.

Although CL #31 suggested that the cover for the 8½ in. swan was new in 1937 for the Type II swan, the cover was actually produced earlier for Type I swans. We know this because of at least two Light Emerald 8½ in. Type I swans with Light Emerald covers that are known to exist. These Light Emerald covers are identical in shape to the Crystal and Moonlight covers found on 8½ in. Type II swans; however, they differ in two ways other than color. First, the Light Emerald covers don't have the rose handle. Second, the feathers of the Light Emerald covers have feather detail just like the Type 1 swans that they cover. Therefore, the cover for the 8½ in. swan was first designed and produced prior to 1937. Whether the cover with feather detail, but without the rose handle, was a regular production item is unknown, and whether it was produced in colors other than Light Emerald is also unknown.

Yet another twist on the history of covers for 8½ in. swans appeared in a photograph in issue #248 of the Crystal Ball -- a pair of covered swan lamps. Although the photograph is dark, the 8½ in. covered swans appear to be Type III Crystal swans, with covers that lack both feather detail and the rose handle. An enterprising company probably purchased the swans with covers from Cambridge and manufactured the remainder of the lamp fittings. The swan covers for these lamps, however, suggest that there might be three versions of the cover for 8½ in. swans. In his article on Cambridge swan molds, Clyde Ingersoll indicated that the mold for the cover was junked in the early 1940s as part of the WW II scrap drive.

To this point. we haven't discussed the glass items that complemented the 16 in. swan punch bowl. This includes a base, a ladle, and swan punch cups. The swan punch bowl was produced in Crystal (both Type II and Type III), Crystal Satin, Milk, and Carmen; however, as far as I know, the punch bowl base was made in Crystal only. The punch bowl base is actually quite small (it fits inside the bottom rim of the swan) and is fairly light in weight to hold such a heavy piece of glass, especially when it is full of punch. This could help explain why so many Crystal swan punch bowls lack a base -- the bases might have been easily damaged or they might have gone unused and were consequently discarded. A ladle could be purchased with the swan punch bowls, but it was a generic ladle made of either glass or chrome. Punch cups, however, were designed specifically to match the swan punch bowl. The handle of the punch cup is the neck of a swan, and the lower half of the cup contains the body of the swan. The swan punch cups are quite easy to find today in Crystal because the swan punch bowl and cups were introduced in 1937 and were produced in Crystal for 21 years until the final closing of the plant in 1958. Milk swan punch bowls and punch cups were made only during 1954. I'm not aware of Carmen swan punch cups being reported to date.

In summary, other then the 4½ in. swan candleholder produced in the 1950s in Crystal and Milk, the swans discussed in this article are not different in themselves but rather they hove supplemental pieces added to them to alter or facilitate their use. These include inserts (for the early 4½ in. candleholder and for the 10 in. flowerpot), a cover (for the 8½ in. swan), a base (for the punch bowl), or an accompanying cup (for the punch bowl). If you have additional information regarding Cambridge swans in general, or decorated swans in particular, feel free to contact me.