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
And this is a photo of the mark on the bottom:
This is a closer view of another 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
However, both the ladle and the spoon were apparently manufactured by Holmes & Edwards.
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
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 Bridgeport Silver Co. Pattern Nos. 214 & 904
The images below reflect elements of George Gill’s designs for Reed & Barton.
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
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 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.
Patent 16766 F.W.Brittin 1886
This is an example of one of his patents:
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 Maltese Cross / Keystone Backstamp
And that’s the mystery of the Maltese Cross.