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Gorham Manufacturing Co. (American)

Art

Also known as:  Gorham Manufacturing Company

Birth Place: USA

Biography:
The Gorham Corporation, based in Providence, Rhode Island, was the most prolific and influential silver company in America from 1850-1940, at the height of the industry. Founded in 1831 as “Gorham & Webster” by master craftsmen Jabez Gorham and Henry Webster, the firm first marketed coin silver spoons and other small items, such as jewelry, thimbles, and combs. Gorham’s son, John, took over the company when his father retired in 1847 and modernized the factory, introducing machine production and growing the inventory to include, by the 1860s, novel electroplated wares (with nickel silver as the base metal). In 1865 “Gorham & Co.” officially became “Gorham Manufacturing Co.” through a charter issued by the Rhode Island government, and in 1884 the expanded firm opened a store in the Ladies’ Mile Shopping District in New York City. Gorham silver nationwide was recognizable by its distinctive trademark: a lion, an anchor, and a capital G.

Gorham employed numerous talented designers specializing in both domestic and ecclesiastical wares, such Erik Magnussen, Thomas J. Pairpoint, and William C. Codman, who created the famous Chantilly flatware pattern in 1885, so popular that matching hollowware was developed in sterling and silver plate. Commissions from the rich and powerful were equally numerous: a tea and flatware service in 1859 for Mary Todd Lincoln; a Century Vase for Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant on the occasion of the country’s centennial anniversary; a loving cup in 1899 for Admiral George Dewey; a 740-piece Victorian silver service, including the monumental “Neptune” epergne, for Colonel Henry Jewett Furber, president of Universal Life Insurance Co. in New York; and a silver service in 1907 for the battleship USS Rhode Island. Among Gorham’s important sculptural commissions were the monument of George Washington in the Capitol’s Rotunda, the statue of Theodore Roosevelt in New York City, and the “Independent Man” atop the Rhode Island State House.

During the twentieth century, Gorham variously consolidated other silver companies: Whiting, Durgin, and Kerr in 1906-07, Mt. Vernon Co. Silversmiths, Inc. in 1913, Alvin Silver Co. in 1928, Black Starr and Frost in 1929, McChesney Co. in 1931, Quaker Silver Co. in 1959, Friedman Co. in 1960, and Graff, Washbourne & Dunn in 1961. In 1967 the Gorham Corporation was sold to Textron Inc.

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