Worker of the Month, Richard Long

by Judy Momirov - Issue #224 December 1991

The Cambridge Cordials' Worker of the Month is Richard Long of Cambridge, Ohio. Mr. Long worked in the Hot Metal Department, working with the pressed wares line. He began working at the Cambridge Glass plant in 1925, when he was a sophomore in high school. After school was out for the day, Richard would put in an evening shift at the factory, and on Fridays he would often be asked to work the night shift as well. At that time, according to the Child Labor Laws, only fifteen or older could work past 10 PM; and it was not unusual to be asked to work a double shift. One of the first jobs he remembers was making doorknobs with Jake Matthews. About 600 could be made in a turn and these were made constantly, year in and year out.

Working in the Head Shop as a finisher, it was common for him to work with candlesticks, bowls, vases, and large items such as the punch bowls. That department consisted of a Presser, the Glass Gatherer, and a Turnout Boy as a helper and then a Finisher and two Warm End Boys. As a finisher, it was his job to take a piece of pressed ware and reheat it in the Glory Hole to polish it or to heat it so that it would be pliable in order to change the shape. Mr. Long would take a punty or 5' pipe with a solid end and gather some red hot glass which he would then roll on marble to flatten or point the end. This would then be pressed against a portion of a pressed piece to attach it so that the piece could then be returned to the furnace. If polishing, the piece would be heated to burn off the rough edges or glaze it. Mr. Long commented that Cambridge spent extra money on finishing or polishing in order to improve the quality of their glassware. A piece of glass would also need to be reheated in order to change the appearance of the ware. Various shapes were created from one mold design; a bowl might become a plate or a flip bowl or the top edges could be fluted or curved to attain a pleasing shape. All of this work was done in the Hot Metal Department.

Another type of work done by the men in this department was the swung vase. The shape of the vase would be elongated by a worker, taking the vase and repeatedly swing it back and forth until the desired length or shape was reached. Mr. Long indicated that these were generally made from a mold such as a cracker jar but using a smaller plunger when the mold was poured to allow thicker sides so there would be adequate glass for the stretching process. This was heavy work and therefore required a man of some strength. These vases were often made at night because a great deal of space was needed to complete this process.

Strength was also required to gather enough glass for some of the large items such as punch bowls. A Swan punch bowl might require two men and as much as 15 lbs. of glass. Two or three men would be needed to push the levers down on the mold of a large punch bowl. Afterwards the finisher would set the punch bowl on a paddle which had a place to hold the head of a swan, and he would return it to the Glory Hole to polish it. Then the swan's head would be turned to the proper position.

One type of glass that Mr. Long found to be particularly interesting was the Optic ware. A blower would blow the glass in an optic mold which had iron strips down the sides of the mold. This would cause marks on the glass, and then the worker would blow it out, creating a perfect optic pattern.

He continued to work at the Glass House until June 7, 1939 when a tragic accident ended his career. He recalled that at the time first aid was merely some iodine and a bandaid or some Blackjack for burns. That day, an oil tank under a Glory Hole exploded, blowing out the end of the tank which caught Mr. Long across the hip area, throwing him some 20 feet over the head of the finisher and over some pots of molten glass. The boom was heard over five miles away. Luckily, a nurse, Mr. Hurd, was passing by and stopped to be of help. He indicated that this was no time for a bandaid and this man needed hospital care immediately. Mr. Long spent 75 days in Swan Hospital, unable to walk because of a crushed pelvis. Since he was unable to return to the work which he did previously, he decided to retrain for another career. He remembers the Glass House as a place where men took great pride in creating the quality glassware for which Cambridge glass was known.