Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Reed & Barton Britannia Works 1868

This is a description of the Reed & Barton works as well as some strange nonsense about regional personalities. The short history of Reed & Barton int eh beginning is interesting as well as the description of the factories and the various metals that Reed & Barton worked with. It is from teh book: A history of American manufactures from 1608 to 1860...: comprising annals of the industry of the United States in machinery, manufactures and useful arts, with a notice of the important inventions, tariffs, and the results of each decennial census. Published in 1868. The volume in its complete form can be viewed below. 

Reed & Barton's Works,
For the manufacture of Britannia, Albata, Nickel, Silver, and SilverPlated Wares, at Taunton, Massachusetts, are the oldest, and one of the largest in the United States. About 1824, Mr. Isaac Babbitt, the inventor of what is known as the Babbitt Metal, commenced the manufacture of Britannia ware at this place, and may be called the founder of the business. Subsequently, the business established by him passed through the hands of Babbitt & Grossman, West & Leonard, the Taunton Britannia Manufacturing Company, none of whom found it profitable, until, finally, Henry G. Reed and Charles E. Barton, who were apprentice boys to some of the other firms, associated with another, became proprietors, and by industry and perseverance succeeded in building up one of the largest manufacturing concerns in the country.

The principal buildings have an aggregate length of about one thousand feet, and are divided into departments for special purposes, such as the machine room and rolling rooms, the burnishing rooms, plating rooms, press rooms, buffing rooms, polish rooms, and others. In their press room they have a number of presses of immense power—one screw press weighing about seven tons, for stamping designs and figures upon the different articles of their manufacture; and their stock of dies is most complete. Their show room presents a brilliant array of specimens of their workmanship that would attract attention and extort admiration even in an exhibition of Solid Silver Ware.

Within the last five years, this firm have made important additions to their list of manufactures, and now produce, besides Britannia and Silver-plated wares, all kinds of Electro-plated Nickel Silver Table Ware, and Albata Spoons and Forks, that can only be surpassed by solid silver. They have increased the number of their hands to nearly five hundred, and have added so largely to their facilities for manufacturiug that it may be said every tool or machine that can be used advantageously in the business will be found in their workshops.

Within the same period also, this firm have made great improvements in the patterns and styles of their wares. It is one of the advantages of electro-plating that all ornaments, however elaborate, or designs, however complicated, that can be produced in silver, are equally obtainable by this process, and one of the benefits that such firms as Reed & Barton confer upon the country, is that they familiarize the American people with forms of beauty and elevate the standard of public taste. An American artisan can now command exact copies of the choicest plate in the repertory of kings. The Anglo American, said the London Art Journal, some years ago, seems ,the only nation in whom the love of ornament is not inherent. " The Yankee whittles a stick, but his cuttings never take a decorative form ; his activity vents itself in destroying, not in ornamenting; he is a utilitarian, not a decorator ; he can invent an elegant sewing machine, but not a Jacquard loom ; an electric telegraph, but not an embroidering machine." 

This reproach, if ever true, is rapidly losing its force. Even American artisans, while properly maintaining that ornament should be subordinate to utility, are yet beginning to understand that " a thing of beauty is a joy forever," and in schools like those of Reed & Barton, where chaste designs are multiplied and wares rivalling those of the jeweller and silversmith are made and sold at prices accessible by all, the American people are being educated in taste and love of the beautiful, which is said to be the finest ornament and purest luxury of a land.

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