Cambridge Square

by Phyllis Smith
Glass Review - December 1983

The Cambridge Glass Company took a full page advertisement in several of the trade papers in order to introduce their newest pattern, CAMBRIDGE SQUARE, in late 1951.

Catalog page The December, 1951 issues of China, Glass and Decorative Accessories and Crockery and Glass Journal both carried their advertisement. These ads glowingly announced the following:

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

With this description the new CAMBRIDGE SQUARE line was launched into a world that quite possibly was not ready for anything so completely modern in design. But, ready or not, this line was put into production and continued until the factory was closed for the final time in late 1958.

The 1949-53 Cambridge Glass Company Catalog, that has been reprinted by the National Cambridge Collectors, Inc. contains eight pages which illustrate this lovely pattern, in approximately 70 different pieces. Available research information indicates that this pattern was produced in crystal exclusively, until the introduction of the color Ebon in late 1953 or very early 1954.

The Ebon color has been described as:

"a black glass with a finish totally unlike any which has been on the market before. To describe this finish is difficult - to say it has a mat finish is incorrect, it really is a rough mat finish to which has been added a luster - a dull sheen which gives it a soft beauty. Borrowing, and changing a little, a phrase from a certain cigarette advertisement, Ebon is both a Treat and a Treatment."

It is my opinion that Ebon was only produced for a short period of time - possibly two years or less. The 1949-53 Catalog reprint contains two pages that picture 18 different pieces of the CAMBRIDGE SQUARE in this Ebon color. It is possible that other pieces were produced but these are the only pieces we know of at this time.

Ebon was decorated quite frequently with birds and stars in gold. These decorated pieces seem to be more desirable than the plain ones and therefore demand a higher price.

In the September, 1977 issue of the Cambridge Crystal Ball, monthly newsletter of National Cambridge Collectors, Inc., Gwen Shumpert wrote an article telling about the pieces of Carmen CAMBRIDGE SQUARE she had found - with a sticker on each piece that read "Cambridge by Imperial". Yes, the Imperial Glass Company did produce several pieces of this pattern in their Ruby color. According to Gwen, these items were produced in 1969 in the following pieces: 7" candy box and cover, 11" and 6½" salad bowls, 13½" plate, 10" oval bowl, 6½" ashtray and cupped candlesticks. They also produced the 7" candy box and cover in crystal (it is next to impossible to tell a difference in this crystal candy box by Cambridge or Imperial).

Very few pieces were produced in this pattern by the Cambridge Glass Company in their famous Carmen color. In fact, we can find references to only four items, and they were: a 10" shallow bowl, 10" round bowl, 11½" cake plate and the 9½" vase with crystal foot.

Cambridge Square pieces can be found with both gold and platinum line decorations. The Cambridge Glass Company gave the name "Triumph" to pieces with the platinum decoration.

"Modern beyond its time" were words often used to describe this very modern, very plain, and yet, very lovely pattern. Its design is what made it so unique for its time. The square base was most unusual. You should take note of the shape of this base. A similar pattern by another company has sometimes been confused for CAMBRIDGE SQUARE, but a quick look at the bottom will show the difference - the center is round, not square on this look-alike.

Another feature of this pattern, that the company seemed to be quite proud of, was their new cup which was available in two sizes - tea (or punch) and coffee. These cups have been described as "the only seamless cup made that stacks perfectly, open handle also permits hanging." We own several of the coffee cups and the way this handle is made makes it the most comfortable cup to hold and drink from that we have ever encountered.

"Modern beyond its time" - perhaps, but just right for present day use and collecting!

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