Road Trip: The National Museum Of Cambridge Glass

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The National Museum of Cambridge Glass is housed in the former home of the Cambridge Glass Company.(Photo: Sandra Sleight-Brennan)
The National Museum of Cambridge Glass is housed in the former home of the Cambridge Glass Company.(Photo: Sandra Sleight-Brennan)

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.

 Lincoln Park, a former housing project on the far south side of Columbus.

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.

“And then of course but I think is really neat about the Cambridge Glass Company and their colors is that as history evolve, as people change, the colors change,” Miller says.

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

“The opaque’s go away and now we have the depression colors of the thirties,” Miller says.

Reporter: “This green is really familiar.”

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.

 Lincoln Park, a former housing project on the far south side of Columbus.

“Many of their original workers came from other glass factories,” Thaxton says, “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 Findlay 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.

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 U.S. and abroad to market the many, many glass designs.

“Cambridge Glass was considered a very good employer. 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 coal mines. 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,” Miller says.

They did not lay off people. 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,” Thaxton says.

“So they had 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,” Miller says.

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.

Comments
  • Pete

    Interesting article. Although the correct spelling for the city in northwest ohio is findlay not findley.

    • Nick Houser

      Pete, thank you for bringing this to our attention. The spelling of Findlay has been updated. Thanks again.