The Cumberland Glass Works was organized in 1883, and in 1884, began production. The factory was located at the north end of Mechanic St. and Centre St. in the Narrows. The company made excellent quality blown ware for hotel, tavern, restaurant, and home use. They made tumblers and stemware of lead glass, and they decorated by acid etching, copper wheel engraving and fine stone cutting. They featured safe fire polished edges on their wares. Their ads indicated “the only factory in the United States making a specialty of this class of goods”. There is an indication of the type of goods made at “The Cumberland” in the one page catalog shown. It indicates that the items can be ordered in plain glass or in optic design. The optic is vertical mold lines in the bowl section. This is obtained by pushing the hot glass in a ribbed dip mold before blowing the bowl. The ribbing imprint then stays with the glass as it is being blown into a bowl. All of the products were hand blown at “The Cumberland”. The Cumberland Glass Works was known in both the industry and locally as “The Cumberland”.
The main decoration method was done by cutting with a stone wheel. One of the main designs was the laurel type design, which is a continuous line of alternating leaves which are cut somewhat deep. The later decorating companies did the surface cutting to get their designs, but “The Cumberland” would cut a little deeper. One of the most talented design cutters at “The Cumberland” was Gottlieb Burkhard(t). Through family attribution, many deeper cut items have been identified as coming from his hands and thus attributed to “The Cumberland”.
“The Cumberland” made some of the famous gold rim stemware attributed to Cumberland Maryland. But much of their gold rim designs were cut by stone instead of being done by acid etch, as the later companies (Potomac and Maryland) in Cumberland would use. The designs might be the laurel, or a series of punties (cut dots) connected with cut lines. Of course, this labor intense method of cutting the design by hand was adequate before 1900 because labor was much cheaper in those days. As labor costs rose, a less expensive method of applying the design to the rim was developed using acid etching. This rim design was then coated with gold.
Some of the product line at “The Cumberland” was decorated with only the gold on the rim. This is probably how the gold rim type decoration got started in Cumberland, MD. When the plain gold rim seemed somewhat popular, it was then enhanced with a design under the gold. This gold rim type of stemware and tumblers was a product of Cumberland Maryland for about 55 years. This is why so much can be found in the homes of the area.
Another labor intense type of decoration provided by “The Cumberland” was engraving. Engraving takes much longer than cutting, but the end result is much nicer, more exquisite, and much more defined than stone cutting. All you have to do is look at engraving and you can understand its value. There are two items shown that are engraved; the finger bowl and the tumbler with 1900 on the side. The finger bowl has a flower design cut four times around the bowl. The bowl is made of lead glass. This can be determined by setting the bowl on the open palm of your left hand, and flicking your right index finger against the rim of the bowl. If it rings, it is lead glass. If it does not ring, it is lime glass. Lime glass is less expensive to make. When cost becomes an issue, a glass company will change from lead glass to lime glass. But, lime glass does not have quite the value of lead glass. So it really depends on the target market. Common barware should not be made with lead glass. The tavern has a high rate of breakage, and there is no advantage serving whiskey in a lead glass shot glass or serving a beer in a lead glass tumbler. On the other hand, a sophisticated hotel may very well want lead glass. This indicates they want only the best for their customers.
The Cumberland Glass Works developed financial problems by the late 1890’s, and the company was sold to the National Glass Co. in 1899. The National Glass Co. was a conglomerate of about 18 glass factories, formed to be competitive with the U.S. Glass Co. which had over 20 glass factory sites. The U.S. Glass Co. was taking over a very large share of the glass business, which left the individual companies unable to be competitive in the market place. When the National Glass Co. bought the Cumberland Glass Works, the name remained unchanged and the products were mostly the same. The National Glass Co. never attained the strength that the U.S. Glass Co. enjoyed, and by 1905, production decreased at “The Cumberland” until it finally ceased. The factory was idle for a while until it was restarted as the Wellington Glass Co. in 1909.
Examples of the type of wares made at The Cumberland Glass Works.
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