In any great area of collecting there are the stories that become the stuff of legends. Dealers repeat them innumerable times to customers at shows and shops. Collector’s clubs depend on the subject matter. Collections are started based on the enchantment that a much-told and endearing story can generate.
In the area of elegant glass one of the most fascinating stories, or myths, depending on your point of view, surrounds the origin of one of the Cambridge Glass Companies most famous pieces. The unique history of the Statuesque Line Fruit Bowl, or Flying Lady Bowl as it is known to most collectors, is a story of a town’s infatuation with a circus performer and their way of conferring honor to her.
Produced in the late 30’s (the best guesses are about 1936-37), the Statuesque Line Fruit Bowl was another effort, in a long line of attempts, by the Cambridge Company to bridge the gap between functional glass and art glass. At 8 inches tall, the fruit bowl came in at least eleven different colors, and was the picture of the time period’s art deco trend – an oblong shell-shaped centerpiece compote bowl with a nude maiden poised on the front of the shell like an old ship’s figurehead.
The excellent detail in the female form and the original design of the Fruit Bowl have been key over the years in creating an increasingly hot market in Cambridge’s figural items, such as nude stems and flower frogs, but more important to collector’s is the conversation piece it makes. Beauty makes it collectable but the story behind its namesake makes it memorable.
As the legend goes, a circus arrived in the small town of Cambridge, Ohio just prior to Cambridge’s introduction of the Statuesque Line Fruit Bowl. And while the circus was in progress apparently a German female trapeze artist so entranced her audience with her performance and personality that the townspeople, many of whom were artisans and workers at the Cambridge factory, felt that she should be honored in some way. Consequently, the Statuesque fruit bowl, which was marketed shortly after the circus left town, was dubbed the Flying Lady Bowl after her acrobatic expertise.
Interestingly enough, many of the original glass workers who have been interviewed since the factory closed in 1954, and who remember the German trapeze artist, have also described how a certain amount of caution was necessary to display the piece in their homes. Many said that due to the somewhat risqué nature of the piece that they would hide the Fruit Bowl in their cellars when the minister made house calls – giving the item an even greater appeal because of its “daring” design.
For more information on the Flying Lady Bowl and other Cambridge items
visit the Cambridge Collectors Society on-line at www.cambridgeglass.org
and check out the following books: Colors in Cambridge Glass and Elegant
Glassware of the Depression Era. - Tim Regan
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