Lately I’ve been intrigued by the process of manufacturing table flat ware from design to production. Why, you ask, would anyone be intrigued by flatware manufacturing? Well let me tell you….
I’ve been researching two different flatware manufacturers and patterns for quite a while now. The first manufacturer used the mark “Conn. S. P. Co.” I would assume that this stood for Connecticut Silver Plate Company but could find only limited, vague references to such a company. The pattern is an intricate, aesthetic collage pattern which I would date to the early 1880’s. This flatware is on steel…the spoons are silverplated but the forks appear to be plated with tin. These are available at my Etsy shop here:
The other flatware is marked “Nevada Gold Metal” and these pieces are golden in color. Please see my other blog post on David H. McConnell regarding this mystery alloy. The pattern was a rococo design. After spending hours at the patent office, scouring the tiny print for any relevant entries, I could find neither this design nor the aesthetic Conn. S. P. Co. design. I have a listings for both Nevada Gold Metal teaspoons and a master butter knife / sugar shell combination for sale at my Etsy shop here:
But I did find some totally unrelated patents that interested me. They show a transition in design tastes, as well as the concepts and methods involved in patent presentation. Some patterns are familiar, others not so.
Following is an 1870 patent by Bernard D. Beiderhase in the “Osiris” pattern produced by John R. Wendt & Co. The original design is not always linked to a particular company on the patent form. This “Osiris” pattern shows a design similar to many of this period and earlier. Beiderhase immigrated from Germany. Did designs for John R. Wendt. Also associated with Robert Copeland for a time.
The next patent was obtained by Edward C. Moore in 1871. Moore did a considerable amount of work for Tiffany & Co. The name of this design is “Audubon” which has an assymetrical layout and has early aesthetic styling. This pattern comes in variations. The terminology in this application is interesting as it refers to “…leaves, buds and flowers of a peculiar kind”. I think, perhaps, Mr. Moore meant “particular” not “peculiar”…but may be not.
The design below is a 1876 patent for a fish knife. The designers are Edwin L. Brittin of Derby, CT and Edwin Schott of Brooklyn, NY. This knife has an unusual shape and fish design on this fish knife….sounds fishy to me. As described in the application, there are “…a bunch of fish and a water lily” on the front of the handle with an “ear of corn” on the back (what does an ear of corn have to do with a fish knife???) The blade has a “figure of a nereid, a sea-horse and a dolphin, whereby a very handsome and distinguishing appearance is imparted.” Okay. I have to admit that I had no clue as to what a “nereid” was. The dictionary states “any of the sea nymphs fathered by the sea-god Nereus according to Greek myth.” Well, I certainly don’t know how I’ve lived this long without that tidbit of information!
The next design moves us along to 1878. The designer is Charles F. Richers who assigned this patent to Wood & Hughes. This design was manufactured under the name “Cashmere”. The detail of this interlocking paisley collage is as beautiful as it is intricate.
We move along to 1879 with the following George Gill and Edwin L. Brittin (both of Derby, CT) design. This pattern was manufactured by Rogers & Brittin, as well as others, under the name “Lyonnaise” and also “Eastlake”. Note the reference to “Eastlake ribbons” within the description. A bird and flowers are featured within this aesthetic design.
Following along with the bird theme (“crane on bulrushes” so says the patent) is this 1881 design by LeRoy S. White. Mr. White assigned this patent to Brown & Bros. of Waterbury, CT who manufactured this lovely design under the uninspired name “Two”. White was well known in the industry, for instance he received a patent for cutting out blanks in 1876 #180403 “Improvement in Spoons and Forks” . Note that this patent, as well as the previous Gill & Brittin patent show the lithographer, “N. Peters, Photo-Lithographer, Washington, D.C.”
A second 1881 patent, and my personal favorite of all those listed in this post, is Hiram W. Hayden’s “India” design. This patent was assigned to Holmes, Booth & Haydens and manufactured by them under the “India” name. It is rare to see an actual name assigned to a design within the patent application such as this. This gorgeous aesthetic collage design is as beautiful on the back of the handle as it is on the front.
Zipping along to 1896 now, we have the following Warren Wilkinson design assigned to Gorham Manufacturing Co., both of Providence, RI. This leaf and shell – rosette design was manufactured under the name “St. Cloud”. Wilkinson featured prominantly in Gorham’s history. What is interesting is the use of “photographic illustrations” in order to represent the design image.
Moving along to 1888, I’m getting “Mix” into the mix….Garry I. Mix of Yalesville, CT to be exact. G. I. Mix was best known for various methods of handling iron spoons for example an 1866 patent #2249 “Design for a Spoon Shank”. Whether this lovely aesthetic design was ever actually manufactured is unknown.
Lastly, we move to an 1889 design by William Rogers of Hartford, CT. This is one of the earlier examples of the rococo revival in the United States. I have not been able to identify this pattern or connect it with any of the many Rogers companies in Connecticut.
Obsessed or what? If I’m invited to dinner at a friend’s house, I can’t help but examine their silver or silverplate. I’ve noticed that these dinners have inexplicably taken Asian themes lately complete with chopsticks in place of flatware. Is someone trying to tell me something? Chopsticks have now become my latest subject of research. Ah so…..