It’s always interesting to come across an unfamiliar backstamp on a piece of silver. At least for me it is. And when it’s on a julep strainer, it’s even more interesting as I have a fondness for these bar tools. This strainer has a star cut-out and “Wm. Holmes” marked on the back of the handle.
William Holmes, I learned, was from Baltimore and was in business from 1850 until 1876, having established the Maryland Britannia Gold and Silver Plate Works in that city. In 1876 his sons, Robert F. and John Henry, succeeded him as Holmes Brothers & Company. The following 1878 article provides a nice summary of William Holmes’ business.
I located the following ads which show that William Holmes factory was located on Holliday Street with sales rooms first at 12 Bank Lane and then later at 3 North Charles Street.
The following article from the March 25, 1872 issue of The Baltimore Sun is interesting as it states that William Holmes’ goods were in great demand in the East and North with “a heavy shipment having been made to Meriden, Conn. last week”.
From city directories, I discovered that Holmes was a popular name in the metal trades.
The first directory listing above (from 1853) is confusing for several reasons. I’ve read that at that time Holmes & Sons were the largest retailers of Britannia Ware (however they were only listed in two directories and I haven’t been able to find any additional information) and the Robert S. Holmes (not Robert F.) turns out to be a hardware company. These two don’t appear to be associated with William Holmes and his family. Obviously, this requires further research. The remainder of the directory entries are related to William Holmes and then Holmes Brothers & Company. In the last listing from 1890-91 you can see there are a number of competing companies. Following is a Holmes & Sons ad.
Holmes & Sons do not appear in any of the directories that I found after the 1853 date.
The Holmes name appeared in the Catalogue of Articles of the 1851 Annual Exhibition of the Maryland Institute. You’ll note that a 15 year old Thomas Holmes and a 13 year old Winter Holmes are listed.
The name “Holmes” was a familiar name to silverware manufacturers in the northeast: Holmes & Tuttle; Holmes, Booth & Haydens and Holmes & Edwards were all well known silver manufacturers in the north. I could find no connection between the Maryland Holmes family and these northern Holmes families.
You might be well aware that there were many individuals with the name “Rogers” involved in silver manufacturing; now we learn that “Holmes” was another name common to this business.
The March issue of the 1893 Jewelers Circular mentions that Holmes Bros. sold their business to Kann & Sons Mfg. and will be employed by that firm.
An interesting side note… that 13 year old Winter Holmes moved to Middletown, Connecticut some time after the civil war. This leads to speculation that he was involved, perhaps, with Middletown Silver Plate Co. He died in 1916 and is buried in the Pine Grove Cemetery in Middletown.
This Wm. Holmes julep strainer is available at my Etsy shop:
Following is a link to my listing: