Monday, December 5, 2011

Engaging Excalibur

In case you missed the news, as I did during my trip to California a week ago, Steuben Glass closed its sole factory in Corning, NY, last Wednesday, bringing to an end 108 years of iconic American creativity and fanciful gift-giving, the latter once the retail inventory is sold off. Pieces of Steuben Glass grace the homes of high society and were a preferred gift by American presidents to visiting heads of state and royalty. Sadly, crystal masterpieces no longer reflect prevailing consumer tastes. Steuben Glass has lost money for years (

When my brother Bernie asked Annette to marry him more than 42 years ago, my sister Lee and I sought a suitable engagement gift. We sallied forth to Fifth Avenue, inside the Steuben gallery store. Though fascinated by many of the designs, they seemed a bit too stuffy for our tastes. But when we saw the Excalibur, a multi-faceted block of glass with a mock sword protruding from the top, we were enthralled. The combination paper weight and letter opener captivated us. We were sure Bernie and Annette would love it. Until, that is, we found out the Excalibur cost $750 ($4,400 in today’s dollars), way too much for our collegiate bank accounts. We settled, instead, on a carving board and knife set from the Georg Jensen store down the avenue.

We couldn’t resist, however, telling them what they missed out on receiving. So you can imagine my surprise and joy when I opened my birthday present from the betrothed couple a few months later. An Excalibur of my own, which still stands proudly on my desk. Of course, they purchased a $15 or so knockoff, but the sentiment is what counts. Right?
Don’t tell me if it isn’t.

Unsung Heroes: Bernie appreciated my swift publication of his idea for a blog on inventions that have made life simpler and easier ( But he noted I fulfilled only part of his suggestion. I failed to mention a central point of the blog should have been that the creators and inventors of those ideas for the most part failed to gain the public recognition they so deserved. They aren’t celebrated the same way Jonas Salk is lauded for his polio vaccine, or Steve Jobs achieved near sainthood for his Apple products.

Fortunately for me, Bernie didn’t ask me to research the names of the creators on my list. But they do all merit our thanks.

Thank you as well to three thoughtful readers who sent in their suggestions:

Jerry S. for the remote control;
Barbara B. for Post-its;
And Walter S. for the delete button on the computer.