Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Book Review: Victorian Silverplated Holloware 1857, 1887, 1883

Victorian Silverplated Holloware:  
Tea Services, caster sets, ice water pitchers, card receivers, napkin rings, knife rest, toilet sets, goblets, cups, trays and waiters, epergnes, butter dishes, pickle casters, salts, tureens, communion services
Rogers Brothers Mfg. Co., 1857
Meriden Britannia Co., 1867
Derby Silver Co., 1883

Wallace-Homestead Book Co.
Des Moines, Iowa

ISBN #0-87069-154-6

This is a fantastic book with a ridiculously long title and no clear single author. It consist of catalouge material (those found in the title) provided by the Historical Library of the International Silver Company (INSILCO) and assisted by the resident historian E. P. Hogan.  The introduction (pages 1-15) provide a brief overview of silver history and silver plate manufacturing in the United States. The authors then provide a brief reading list.


The first of three chapters covers the Rogers Brothers Mfg. Co.. Pages 17-18 are a short history of the company. Pages 19-38 are a reproduction of their catalogue from 1857. If you are attempting to learn period styles this is a very useful resource. If you are attempting to identify pieces, it might be possible to find your piece here, however, it would be pure luck if you came across it.

Rogers Brothers Mfg. Co. officially formed in 1853 from its beginnings as the William Rogers and Company. William Rogers being the oldest of the brothers. In 1847 William Rogers and Company first advertised that they could supply plated flatware on German silver. The catalogue reproduced here was created by Sarony, Major, and Knapp and was printed in two colours. It is essentialy line drawings of the line of wares avaliable. In 1862 the Rogers and Brothers Mfg. Co. was adsorbed into the Meriden Britannia Company.

Chapter 2

Chapter two is a paragraph covering the Meriden Britannia Company then the partial reproduction of their 1867 (138 page) catalouge Heavily Electro Plated Nickel Silver and White Metal Goods. This catalouge appears to be their first and started a trend of production that would lead to the massive 1886 catalogue of over 400 pages.  If you wish to see Victorian silverplate in its varied and interesting forms then this chapter is crucial to expanding your understanding. The variety of the goods and the clarity of the woodcuts are fascinating.

Chapter 3

Chapter three reprints part of the Derby Silver Company catalogue of 1883. Both Derby and Meriden would be founding members of the International Silver Company in 1898. The authors make the argument that comparison of the Derby and Meriden Britannia catalogue shows that Derby's designers "lacked something of the suavity and sophistication of those employed at Meriden" (page, 105) But they fail to realize that the catalogues are sixteen years apart and the market, styles and economics had changed for silverplate in that time. They do mention that this catalogue showed a shift towards oriental themes being popular in silver. I own several pieces of Derby, and find it to be rather pleasing. Furthermore, as a less popular maker it helps to make Victorian and post Victorian silverplate affordable for a collector in my price range.  In fact I have my eye on a couple of Derby art nouveau candlesticks downtown.

Of all three catalogues published here the Derby catalogue has the most interesting and  greatest variety of goods.

This book provides a minimum of original historical research, but as a text containing examples in a format that allows a longitudinal historical comparison it is fantastic. This is a text that lends itself to original research.  This fills an important niche in silver research. The price of original catalogues is astronomical,  further most catalogues held by libraries are only viewable if you happen to visit. Books like this one fill an important area for the silver enthusiast. this book itself is becoming a bit rarer. I had to borrow my copy from the Iowa State University Library. But it is available from time to time at the usual online book retailers.

The Derby Factory



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