Sometime in 1974, it was decided Avon would offer a dinnerware line. Since all of the employees involved with this line are now gone from the company, it can only be assumed that Avon was trying to capture a part of the market held by Princess House and Tiara at that time period. Both of these home party lines each offered an attractive glass dinnerware set. Princess House had the Fantasia and Heritage sets. Tiara was producing a Sandwich line.
It was only natural that Avon would turn to Wheaton Glass to make this new dinnerware, since they were already making decorative decanters for them. As stated by Avon, this pattern was based on an early Sandwich design and inspired by the lacy delicacy of the classic Roman Rosette pattern. Not only does it recall the beauty of this quality glass, but its name commemorates both the spirit of the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial, which celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and the area where Sandwich glass originated. As a result Avon choose to call their new dinnerware, the 1876 Cape Cod Collection.
A special dense red glass formula was developed exclusively for the 1876 Cape Cod Collection. The specifications from Avon required the glass to be a dark red color upon reheating with no hint of yellow color in the glass. It was extremely hard to maintain this dark red color, since the glass needs to be reheated to an exact temperature. There could only be slight differences to the red color between the batches. Avon had a color range of what was acceptable to them. This red color was later used on some of the Avon decanters.
Avon designed the original concepts and these were sent over to Wheaton to be evaluated for actual production. Wheaton’s design department developed their own drawings with corrections and additions to these original sketches based on size and weight of each proposed glass item. Several people were assigned the checker task to go over these drawings to make sure they were all correct before production of the actual item began. The modified mould drawings were then sent back to Avon for final approval.
Wheaton developed and made the moulds for this new pattern in their own mould shop. Approximately 20 moulds were made for each item in actual production with four to six moulds held in reserve, in case one needed any repairs. The quantity of the production order dictated how many moulds were made. For quality control purposes each mould or cavity was assigned a number. If there was a problem in one of the sections, it could easily be traced by looking at the number on the glass item.
Upon completion of each mould, the items were normally first sampled in flint glass. The definition of flint glass is a clear or crystal glass that contains some lead. The samples were then sent over to Avon for approval before production actually began. Everett Chance, one of Wheaton’s designers, related to me that if they had red in production, the sample could also have been made in that color too. In cases of transition from one color to the next, samples could have also been produced in odd colors. A few sample blue pieces have been reported to us.
There were two different ways of making the glass items at Wheaton. Out of the 37 pieces produced, five were made on equipment called Emhart Individual Section Glass Forming Machines or IS Machines. This is a combination of five or six smaller machines or sections each running independently of the others. They utilize a common delivery system for the molten glass and conveying system for the finished product. For the 1876 Cape Cod Collection they would have been running a single gob or one piece per cycle from each section. This was due to Avon’s own quality requirements and complexity of the designs. The pieces made by this process include: tall candlesticks, decanter, napkin rings, pitcher, and shakers.
The majority of the items were made on a 16 mould rotary press machine and have an AP designation in front of the mould number. This machine resembles a carousel with a large circular looking table with the moulds affixed at the edge in equal intervals. As the table moves, the molten glass is poured into the moulds and then pressed into the shape of the mould. The finished product is then put on a common conveyor belt to move it into the annealing or cooling kiln. The pieces made by this method are: bell, all the bowls, trinket box, butter dish, cake plate, gravy boat, hurricane candle holder, short candlestick, candy dish, creamer, cup & saucer, all goblets, mug, ornament, all plates, platter and all tumblers.
The 1876 Cape Cod Collection was introduced in 1975. The first two pieces were the tall candlesticks and cruet. Avon continued to add new pieces to the collection each year while some items were discontinued at the same time. The last year of production was 1993 with the cup & saucer, bread & butter plate and pie plate, being the new items that were made. During the next couple of years, orders still could be placed for any item still in stock but no new pieces were made. Gradually the inventory was depleted and 1876 Cape Cod Collection was officially discontinued in 1995. Once production of the 1876 Cape Cod ceased, the moulds were stored back in the Wheaton mould shop.
Initially, the dessert server was scheduled to be made with a glass handle. The metal blade had been contracted with Regent Sheffield of England. A glass handle was suppose to be attached to the metal part. After numerous unforeseen problems, the knife was sent over to the Wheaton plastic division to have the handle made there. This was the only major item from the collection to be made in plastic. The shaker lids and liner to the decanter stopper were also made in red plastic that matched the glass. The plastic liners for the tall candlestick and cruet were made in a clear plastic.
The packaging was all designed at Avon. The actual making of the packaging was contracted out to local paper companies, resulting in three different styles of boxes. The glass was bulk packaged in partitioned cartons at Wheaton and then sent over to whatever location Avon directed. Other times the items that needed to be filled with a cologne or bubble bath, were sent to another location and then packaged there.
Please refer to our book, Avon’s 1876 Cape Cod Dinnerware, for more information about this beautiful glass.