The Mystery of the Maltese Cross

A reader of this blog recently contacted me and asked if I could assist her with the identification of a Bridgeport Silver Co. mark on a piece of hollowware that she had.  This is a photo of her “nut bowl” as she called it:

Nut Bowl Item # 609

Nut Bowl Item # 609

And this is a photo of the mark on the bottom:

609 Mark

609 Mark

This is a closer view of another Bridgeport Silver Co. mark:

Bridgeport Silver Co. Mark

Bridgeport Silver Co. Mark

In addition to “Bridgeport Silver Co.” the mark includes a beehive image in the center and a Maltese Cross at the base. She mentioned that in a prior post I had included a page from the 1881-82 Boyd’s Directory of Fairfield County which listed The Bridgeport Silver Co. under the Silver Platers and Plated Wares section.  It showed James Staples as President and Samuel Larkins as Secretary and Treasurer.  It also showed their address as “Norman c RR av, Bridgeport”.  See the following:

Boyds Fairfield Co 1881-82

Boyds Fairfield Co 1881-82

Directly above the Bridgeport Silver Co. entry in this directory was Rogers & Brittin, Lake n RR, W Stratford, Bridgeport.

So from the information that I had, I surmised that Bridgeport Silver Co. was making hollowware in 1881.  The Maltese Cross at the bottom of the mark reminded me of a Rogers & Brittin post card:

Rogers & Brittin Postcard

Rogers & Brittin Postcard

The Maltese Cross image along with “UNXLD Best” in the center of the cross was featured on the card.  That Maltese Cross / UNXLD logo was trademarked by Rogers & Brittin on May 4, 1880 (see above).  Was Rogers & Brittin connected with The Bridgeport Silver Co.?  For those of you wondering what “UNXLD” stood for, I think it was “Unexcelled”.

The squirrel at the top of the nut bowl reminded me of Edwin L. Brittin, formerly of the Derby Silver Co. and now treasurer of Rogers & Brittin.  Edwin had patented a lovely design for flatware incorporating the squirrel image in 1875:

Patent 8846 12-14-1875

Patent 8846 12-14-1875

The specifications of the patent show that Edwin L. Brittin was in Derby, Connecticut when the patent was received and we know that Derby Silver Co. produced flatware with this pattern.

Patent 8846 12-14-1875 Squirrel

Patent 8846 12-14-1875 Squirrel

This is a photo of the design(s) on an actual nut pick.  The pick on the right closely resembles the illustration in the patent.  The pick on the left has some variations, such as the larger flower to the right of and below the squirrel:

1875 Brittin Squirrel comparison

1875 Brittin Squirrel comparison

 

I have seen these squirrel nut picks stamped with “PAT APL FOR”, “Pat. Dec. 14, 1875” and “Pat. Jan. 18, 1876” (the latter being the date of another Edwin Brittin patent).

Bridgeport Silver Co. made this knife rest:

 
Bridgeport Silver Co. Knife Rest

Bridgeport Silver Co. Knife Rest

Doesn’t the squirrel on the knife rest look remarkably similar to the squirrel on the top of the nut bowl as well as the squirrel in Edwin Brittin’s patent design?

In 1879 Edwin Brittin partnered with George Gill to produce the “Lyonnaise”, also known as “Eastlake”, pattern:

1879 Patent 11268 Gill&Brittin 1879 Lyonnaise

1879 Patent 11268 Gill&Brittin 1879 Lyonnaise

The patent specification below shows both Gill and Brittin in Derby, CT but does not assign this patent to anyone:

1879  Patent 11268 Gill&Brittin 1879 Lyonnaise

1879 Patent 11268 Gill&Brittin 1879 Lyonnaise

Derby Silver, however, doesn’t seem to have made this pattern although others did, including Rogers & Brittin and some marked Bridgeport Silver Co.  Following is a photo of a ladle in the Lyonnaise pattern as well as a demitasse spoon in the Leader pattern; both have  “Bridgeport Silver Co.” marks:

Two Pieces with Bridgeport Silver Co. Backstamps

Two Pieces with Bridgeport Silver Co. Backstamps

However, both the ladle and the spoon were apparently manufactured by Holmes & Edwards.

Bridgeport Silver Co. Marks

Bridgeport Silver Co. Marks

The ladle has “XIV” after “Bridgeport Silver Co.” and the demitasse spoon as “A1” after “Bridgeport Sil. Co.”  “XIV” and “B.S. Co. A1” were both used by Holmes & Edwards after acquiring Rogers & Brittin in 1882 and upon Edwin Brittin’s untimely death at the age of 33.  Later, Holmes & Edwards also trademarked a Maltese Cross symbol in 1888.

1893 Digest of Trade Marks 1893 pg34

1893 Digest of Trade Marks 1893 pg34

I believe that Bridgeport Silver Co. was associated with Rogers & Brittin. And that prior to Holmes & Edwards acquisition of Rogers & Brittin the Bridgeport Silver Co. mark, the one shown on our subject “nut bowl”, appeared only on hollowware.  An assumption could easily be made that “Bridgeport Silver Co.” was a mark of “Rogers & Brittin”, who produced flatware with the “Rogers & Brittin” mark.  The hollowware with that Bridgeport Silver Co. beehive and Maltese Cross could have been actually produced by some other company, a company like Derby Silver for Rogers & Brittin.

Holmes & Edwards produced very few hollowware items.  And from what I have seen, those items were manufactured after the formation of International Silver in 1898.  I feel confident in my belief that our nut bowl with the Bridgeport Silver Co. mark was not produced by Holmes & Edwards but by and under the control of Rogers & Brittin.  When Holmes & Edwards acquired Rogers & Brittin, they also acquired that Bridgeport Silver Co. mark.

I mention Derby Silver Co. as possibly manufacturing the hollowware with the Bridgeport Silver Co. mark because there seems to be a connection.  If you remember in the Boyd’s Directory, Derby Silver is listed along with Rogers & Brittin and Bridgeport Silver.  Now if we look at Edwin Brittin’s squirrel patent, he was living in Derby.  And if we look at the Eastlake or Lyonnaise patent we notice that both George Gill and Edwin Brittin are also residing in Derby. 

The style and design motifs represented on the Bridgeport Silver Co. pieces I’ve seen are very similar to those designed by George Gill and produced by Reed & Barton (George Gill was a designer for Reed & Barton circa 1870 – 1873).  Below are two examples of details from Bridgeport Silver Co. pieces:

Gill Like Pattern Nos. 214 & 904

Gill Like Bridgeport Silver Co. Pattern Nos. 214 & 904

The images below reflect elements of George Gill’s designs for Reed & Barton. 

Gill 1871 4696 & 4813

Gill 1871 4696 & 4813

I haven’t found any patents supporting this belief (yet) but I am making the assumption that George Gill was the designer behind Bridgeport Silver Co.; that is, except for our squirrel nut bowl which might have been another Brittin & Gill collaboration.

George Gill, although fairly prolific with his design patents, is rather an elusive character.  I’ve pieced together the following information from census records:

George Gill Census Listings

George Gill Census Listings

From what I can gather, George was born around 1842 in Sheffield, Yorkshire, UK and was employed as a die sinker and designer.  In 1870 there is a George Gill in Taunton, Massachusetts and this is the time when George was working for Reed & Barton.  The 1880 census lists him in Stratford, CT.  The 1891 census shows him back in the UK.  The last patent I see for him is the 1882 “Boston” pattern. 

As far as the officers of the Bridgeport Silver Co. go, the President was James Staples (1824-1903) who started out in lumber, and failed.  Then he went on to real estate and then banking and was extremely successful.  He was a member of the Bridgeport Board of Trade and aided in the establishment of various manufacturing enterprises.  I believe The Bridgeport Silver Co. was one of those enterprises and he was President in name only. 

Samuel Larkin (1823-1889) worked at the Wheeler & Wilson sewing machine factory and patented several designs concerning sewing machine attachments and improvements.  He was noted for being a machinist but also apparently had experience in silver plating.

Going back to Rogers & Brittin, the original four officers, as stated in the “1881 History of Fairfield County” were F. D. Rogers, President; F. W. Brittin, Vice President; S. T. Rogers, Secretary and E L. Brittin, Treasurer.

1881 History of Fairfield County pg770

1881 History of Fairfield County pg 770

F.D. Rogers is actually T.D. Rogers or Theodore Dwight Rogers (1822-1905).  The Rogers & Brittin postcard toward the beginning of this post lists his initials correctly. He was a lawyer.

F. W. Brittin (1853-1916) is Frederick, Edwin’s brother.  Later in 1885-86 he was issued patents assigned to the Silver Plate Cutlery Co. of Birmingham, CT.  Then around 1890 he was associated with William Watrous as superintendent of Norwich Cutlery, receiving a patent for them as well.

16766 F.W.Brittin 1886

Patent 16766 F.W.Brittin 1886

This is an example of one of his patents:

16766a F.W.Brittin 1886

Patent 16766 F.W.Brittin 1886

Edwin L. Brittin (1848-1881) was Treasurer; I’ve done an extensive blog post on Edwin…see “Edwin Brittin’s Squirrel”.  He and George Gill patented at least six designs for Rogers & Brittin.

And finally, Samuel Towner Rogers (1820-1913) was Secretary. He was an educator.

I know this might have been hard to follow.  In summary, what I believe is that Bridgeport Silver Co. was the hollowware arm of Rogers & Brittin.  When Edwin Brittin died and Holmes & Edwards acquired the company, they acquired Bridgeport Silver Co.  They used Bridgeport Silver Co., Bridgeport Sil. Co. and B.S. Co. as backstamps for their flatware.  Hollowware with the Bridgeport Silver Co. mark was no longer made.  And apparently Holmes & Edwards liked that Maltese Cross, as they obtained their own trademark for it.

So what’s with Wm. A. Rogers? They used the Maltese Cross as well!

Wm. A. Rogers Backstamp

Wm. A. Rogers Maltese Cross / Keystone Backstamp

And that’s the mystery of the Maltese Cross.

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6 Responses to The Mystery of the Maltese Cross

  1. KerryCan says:

    The world of silver-plate strikes me as very incestuous! They all seem to know each other and poach each others ideas and designs. You must have a photographic memory to go along with your encyclopedic knowledge!

  2. seemomster says:

    I recognize that nut-pick! Best martini garnish holder EVER. 🙂 Love the way you log your detective work. 🙂

  3. Tom Forsell says:

    Hi, I have written to you here before. Your work on these posts is extraordinary! I am not sure how to contact you, other than to post here. I thought with your vast knowledge in this area, you may know the answer to my question. I have mentioned before that I have been collecting Harvard II silverplate (1883)(mostly by Derby). My question is this, all of the reference books/sites state that this pattern can be found with the back stamps of Derby and E. G. Webster. I have collected a large set, but still have to find a couple of the serving pieces. Of the hundreds of pieces I have found, none is backstamped E. G. Webster. I even have a search on Ebay for this pattern made by Webster. None has ever materialized. Have you ever seen a piece of Harvard II with a backstamp of E. G. Webster? Or, perhaps this was a mistake in the original Teri Hagan book, that has been perpetuated. I have pieces marked Rogers, Hard White Metal, and Derby. I even think I saw some forks marked International Silver, but never E. G. Webster. Would there be any reason that E. G. Webster would have made this pattern? I realize that both companies were absorbed into International silver. So, that could explain why someone found a piece backstamped E. G. Webster???? Thanks, so much, in advance for reading my post. I have been collecting this pattern since approx 2008.

    • queenofsienna says:

      Hi, Tom. You always ask such interesting questions! In addition to Teri Hagen, Noel Turner in his 1972 book “American Silver Flatware 1837-1910” also identified this Harvard pattern as being manufactured by E. G. Webster. Turner lists an 1879 E. G. Webster & Bro. catalog in his bibliography and this is apparently where he obtained the pattern image he used in his book. Note this is an 1879 catalog, so it appears your Harvard pattern is even older than the 1883 date that others have assigned to it. Turner dates it as circa 1879.

      I have also found E. G. Webster items offered as premiums in “The Pansy”, Vol. 14, Number 4, Nov. 27, 1886. In it they state “The well-known house of E. G. Webster & Bro., of New York, supply is with the beautiful articles of silverware offered in this list. All goods are warrented equal in every respect to the best.” The “list” includes both hollowware and flatware…and your Harvard pattern is one of the four illustrated patterns available. It is also named “Harvard” therein.

      So keep on searching, Tom! My email address is queenofsienna@gmail.com

      • Tom Forsell says:

        Thank you, so much, for taking the time to research my pattern question. It is fascinating information. I had wondered if the pattern might be older than what is listed. It makes a lot of sense that it would be older than the patent date, as it takes time to get a patent. I see many antiques that are marked “patent applied for.”

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