People collect sterling and silverplate flatware for different reasons. Some people are looking for that elusive piece to complete their set. Others collect particular pieces in a variety of patterns, like sugar shells or salt spoons or whatever. There are those who are always on the lookout for aesthetic period designs or floral themes or grape motifs (the latter fondly known as grape nuts).
But recently I had an experience at my Etsy shop that reminded me of another method of collecting; collecting by designer.
And what better designs to collect than those of Henry W. Hirschfeld who designed for Rogers Brothers and was also head designer for Meriden Britannia.
Mr. Hirschfeld’s designs are classics and all these years later, they are still highly collectible and sought after.
The Crown patent was assigned to Meriden Britannia. Within the patent specifications, Henry states “The upper end of the handle is ornamented to clearly define the segment of a circle, and give to that end the appearance of a crown…”
The Laurel patent was assigned to Meriden Britannia. Henry describes “the peculiar characteristic of this design is the tapering end of the handle, terminating at the right angle”.
The Newport (also known as Chicago) patent was assigned to Rogers & Brother of Waterbury, Connecticut. Within the patent specifications, Henry describes the “Gothic-shaped tip” and ornamental “diagonal band”. Newport was also manufactured in sterling silver in addition to silver plate.
The Alpine patent was assigned to Meriden Britannia. Henry describes the pattern “the upper end on this checkered surface is a floriated vine with a bird hovering thereon…” It is interesting to note that although this pattern was obtained in 1881, the Alpine pattern was not featured in the 1886-87 Meriden Britannia catalog. Why? Alpine was also manufactured by Wallace.
The Nevada patent was assigned to Meriden Britannia. This pattern, as the above, was not included in the 1886-87 Meriden Britannia catalog. The Nevada design is a multi motif and Henry states within his patent specifications “the ornamentation of the tip above the bar may be applied to handles having a different ornamentation below….I do not limit my invention to the combination of ornamentation from end to end of the handle.”
Dundee and Assyrian were both assigned to Meriden Britannia. If you look at the illustrations above, you can see how the designs complement each other. Henry uses the phrase “parallel grooves” to describe Dundee and “diagonal convex ribs” in the Assyrian patent. I don’t know if it was the intent to have these designs work with each other, but it is evident that they do. I have a separate post “The Many Faces of Assyrian Head” that goes into this pattern in detail.
The Portland patent was assigned to Meriden Britannia. Henry described “the rococo work running up each side”.
The Romanesque patent was also assigned to Meriden Britannia. Henry describes the “shield shaped tip” and “medallions” and “scrolls” within the specifications.
Although known for his flatware designs, Henry Hirschfeld also designed statuary and hollowware. The Buffalo Hunt statuary shown below was featured as the lead listing (No. 9400) in the 1886-87 Meriden Britannia Catalog. This sculpture was 22 inches wide by 27 inches high and the listing price was $325 (and in 1886 this was a lot of money). Henry Hirschfeld’s design of this theme was an 1875 patent, No. 8332.
Of interest, there is another version of this Buffalo Hunt statuary shown in the 1886 Meriden Britannia catalog. The list is No. 9200 and the statuary varies somewhat from No. 9400. The indian’s spear is much longer, his feathers and position are slightly different and even the horse has some differences than the other version.
And he also designed tools…talk about being multi-talented!
The patent for the engravers’ tool shown above was also assigned to Meriden Britannia. Kind of looks like today’s Dremel, doesn’t it?
Henry was born December 28, 1840 and died May 28, 1914. He had three brothers, an older brother, August, and two younger brothers, Frederick and William. According to Earl Chapin in his book “Century of Silver 1847-1947”, “As an engraver for the Meriden Britannia Company of 1880 he was in good company. The brothers, Henry, August, Fred and William Hirschfeld, were expert engravers for “the largest silverware manufacturers in the United States.”
Henry fought in the Civil War (taken from “An Historic Record and Pictorial Description of the Town of Meriden” by Gillespie and Curtis) and loved roses.
The June 13, 1913 Meriden Morning Record ran an article about Henry and his rose garden. It said that he had 125 different varieties and knew each one by name. His garden was open to anyone who was interested.
In addition to tending his garden, Henry continued designing. The last patent I’ve found was a “Design for a Cup, Bowl, or Similar Article”, Patent No. 43845 issued April 15, 1913 and assigned to International Silver. Henry died the following year.
The Newport dinner forks shown above are available at my Etsy shop here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/156528301/six-rogers-bro-silver-plated-dinner
I also have some Henry Hirschfeld design nut picks in various groupings for sale at my Etsy shop:
Newport is on the far left in the photo above and Crown is to the right of center. They can be found here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/155317765/antique-nut-pick-selection-silver-plated
An Assyrian Head nut pick (female head) and a Newport nut pick are included in this listing: https://www.etsy.com/listing/164203007/four-silver-plated-nut-picks-in-various
And a Newport nut pick is included in this grouping: https://www.etsy.com/listing/164187595/antique-silver-plated-nut-pick-selection
I also have a variety of Dundee serving pieces: