Li’l Glass Houses for All to See
Excerpt from a past edition of OhioTraveler
Cambridge, Ohio, is filled with little towns known to be the capital of this and that. Bucyrus is the bratwurst capital; in Zanesville, its pottery and in Cambridge – elegant glass.
Over the years, sub-cultures and traditions have been built along with whatever the factories are spitting out. So it’s no wonder Cambridge has a heart of glass.
We’re not talking Wal-Mart glass. We’re talking three-inch collectibles that fetch up to a thousand dollars on eBay. But to revel in the craftsmanship of a wide variety of signature period pieces, you’d have to visit one of the Cambridge glass museums. Some may argue these glass museums are art museums or historical museums, but the truth is they’re all three.
Original glass is still produced in Cambridge. You can witness it up close and personal. And what a treat it is to see molten globs of liquid glass hammered and shaped into delightful pieces that will be displayed with pride by its eventual owner.
Cambridge glass has been the toast of the town for more than 100 years.
Glassmaking dates back thousands of years and is one of America’s earliest industries. Manufacturing glass in the tri-state region of Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania became a hotbed for the industry about 100 years ago.
Cambridge Glass Company in Cambridge, Ohio, was chartered in 1873, and National Glass Company out of Pennsylvania organized it a few years later, providing land and a building. The Cambridge Glass Company grew and thrived, peaking around the 1930s. It had become one of the most revered glass companies in the world. After WWII, demand for fine handmade glassware waned, and foreign machine-made competition grabbed much of the market share. In 1954, the Cambridge plant closed, ending a very prosperous run. In an unsuccessful attempt to reopen and stay open, the company finally melted down in 1958, selling many of its molds and equipment to Imperial Glass Company in Bellaire, Ohio.
With the heart of the community shattered, National Cambridge Collectors was created in order to preserve the area’s glass heritage. They recovered many of the molds and equipment previously sold off.
No sooner did Cambridge Glass Company die than new life was breathed into four off-shoots that would continue the legacy of Cambridge glass. These four cornerstones of today’s Cambridge are Mosser Glass, Boyd’s Crystal Art Glass, Degenhart Glass Museum, and National Museum of Cambridge Glass. All are open for business and tours.
Mosser Glass started as soon as Cambridge Glass Company closed, and Thomas Mosser turned his job loss into a start-up business of his own. By 1959 he had scraped enough resources together to open shop …in an abandoned chicken coop! Within two years, he flew the coop and moved onward and upward, building a successful glass manufacturing business which was eventually named Mosser Glass in 1971, with his production of signature products blending new designs with classics.
When you visit Mosser Glass today, you enter through the front door of a little red farmhouse. But the modesty ends there, for as you continue deeper into the building, a major manufacturing plant is revealed with gifted and proud glassworkers pounding out a living. Visitors can take a glassmaking tour of the factory Mosser Glass is located at 9279 Cadiz Road in Cambridge, Ohio. Phone 866-439-1827 or visit www.mosserglass.com for more information.
Boyd’s Crystal Art Glass, Inc. opened in October 1978 by the father and son team of Bernard C. and Bernard F. Boyd. They represent the second and third generation of Boyd glassmakers. Bernard C. Boyd’s father, Zack Boyd, began working for Cambridge Glass in 1901 at the age of 13. He honed his skills and style working for 26 different factories. His knowledge has since passed to his son, his son’s son, and his son’s – son’s son. In their modest shop, you find a man and mold handcrafting collectible glass pieces. In another room, there’s a lady hand painting pieces; in the third room, there’s plenty of glass art to browse or buy.
Boyd’s Crystal Art Glass is located at 1203 Morton Avenue in Cambridge, Ohio. Phone 740-439-2077 or visit www.boydglass.com.
Degenhart Glass Museum unveils the history of the Crystal Art Glass Company, founded by John and Elizabeth Degenhart. John started in the business when he was just nine years old. He retired from Cambridge Glass Company in 1947 and started making his signature glass paperweights, window weights, rose weights, personalized plate weights, and other novelties like glass slippers. The husband and wife team often hawked their wares at fairs and festivals near and far before they were added to the dealers’ and collectors’ product lines. When John passed in 1964, Elizabeth continued manufacturing glass introducing her own molds and colors before her passing in 1978.
The National Museum of Cambridge Glass is a fairly new museum and probably the crowned jewel of offerings in Cambridge’s glass heritage. It is owned and operated by the National Cambridge Collectors, Inc. and seeks to encourage and support the collecting and study of Cambridge Glass. Its collection, displays, and programs are superior. It features thousands of stunning Cambridge Glass pieces radiantly displayed in towering crystal clear glass cases, showcasing the collection’s many colors and designs.
This museum offers much more than the opportunity to see a myriad of fascinating glass pieces produced for over a century. It has authentic-looking recreations of life-size glass workers exhibited. Some are blowing glass, stoking the furnace, or performing a number of important and interesting functions depicting the history of the glass industry in Cambridge. Hands-on learning opportunities are offered in workshops, presentations are delivered in the auditorium, and research is conducted in the library. This glass house encompasses it all. It even displays rotating exhibits from major private collections and a gift shop offering genuine Cambridge Glass and limited-edition reproductions.
The National Museum of Cambridge Glass is located at 136 South 9thStreet in Cambridge, Ohio. Call 740-432-4245 or visit www.cambridgeglass.org for more information.
If the four corners of Cambridge glass leave your heart yearning for more, there’s a Glass Pass that will continue your journey of elegant artistry and glass history to other places in Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky. To learn more about the Glass Pass, call 800-933-5480 or visit https://visitguernseycounty.com/.