Road Trip series
10:35 am
Sun September 9, 2012

New Ohio Guide: Art and Utility

From the outside the National Museum of Cambridge Glass doesn’t look out of the ordinary. It’s in an old 1960s era building that could have been a bank. But once you get inside, the museum sparkles.

Sharon Miller and Lindy Thaxton volunteer at the Museum in Cambridge, Ohio. They filled me in on the history as they gave me a tour.

"What I think is really neat about the Cambridge Glass Company and their colors is that as history evolves, as people change, the colors change," says Miller.

The roaring 20s had produced opaque colors such as helio, jade, primrose, azurite and ebony

"The opaques go away and now we have the depression colors of the thirties," says Miller. "So you see, they're marketing again. They were making what people wanted, they were competing with the depression pressed glass and making it elegant"

The Cambridge Glass Company operated here from 1902 to 1958 and the glass they made is breathtaking.

Ebony pieces on display at the Cambridge Glass Museum
Credit Sandra Sleight-Brennan

"Many of their original workers came from other glass factories. Particularly from up around Findley where their natural resources were going down. So they have to find new jobs. And when you think about moving from Findley to Cambridge back in the early 1900s. That would be a big move for those folks. I think it was around 200 plus workers move from that area down here to get the start with knowledgeable workers here. Because you haven’t had this kind of an industry and Cambridge at that time," says Lindy Thaxton.

The company was recruited by enterprising citizens in Cambridge who formed the Cambridge Improvement Company. They provided a 10-acre site and $30,000 for a manufacturing company to come to town. The National Glass Company of Pittsburg did. When they built the plant, a new company came into being- the Cambridge Glass Company.

The factory also had its own coalmines that employed even more workers. Cambridge Glass salesmen travelled all over the US and abroad to market the many, many glass designs.

"Cambridge Glass was considered a very good employer," says Thaxton. "They did a lot for their employees. In addition to being inventive with their glass making, they could buy reduced price:, because the company had its own coalmines. Starting in world war one. They’ve dug up behind the factory and let people put gardens in there. My understanding is that this continued back through the depression."

"They did not lay off people," says Miller. "It’s my understanding that the hours were cut but they did not put people. They tried to work everybody in, so everybody had a job to go to."

"…so they some money coming in during the depression. Because my aunt was working then and she said, yes she’d have a few hours every week, and with the rest of the family all contributing that’s what got them through the depression," says Thaxton.

The factory operated until 1958. Lindy Thaxton’s aunt, Working those reduced hours, staying loyal to a company that was loyal to her, paid off for Lindy Thaxton’s aunt -- she retired as the last president of Cambridge Glass.

The Cambridge Glass Museum has an impressive collection of over six thousand pieces of glassware. You can watch a demonstration of how glass was made and create your own rubbings from original etching plates.

You can download this audio tour explore it on your own. It’s tour number three: Art and Utility – Ohio Glass and Pottery. Just visit SeeOhioFirst.org and click on The New Ohio Guide. Just visit SeeOhioFirst.org and click on The New Ohio Guide. The New Ohio Guide is produced by the Ohio Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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