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AMERICAN BRITANNIA WARE
Britannia was first made in America in about 1810, but we cannot be sure of its first American maker. Ashbil Griswold of Meriden, Connecticut, (1807-1835), was one pewterer who made early Britannia, according to a letter in the Diary of William Bentley D.D., now in the Essex Institute. Isreal Trask and Eben Smith of Beverley, Massachusetts, were making Britannia in 1814. But even as late as 1824, when Babbitt & Crossman of Taunton, Massachusetts, began the manufacture of pewter and Britannia, the business was on a very limited scale. Roswell Gleason of Dorchester, Massachusetts, may have made Britannia this early, but he did not make many pieces before 1830, when he became one of the largest manufacturers of Britannia in America. Gleason made lamps, candlesticks, pitchers, tea and coffeepots, and communion plate.
H. Yale made Britannia from 1824 to 1835, while William Calder made Britannia lamps as early as 1826. Among the items listed in William Calder's daybook from 1826 to 1838 appear "Britannia best and no 2 tumblers; tea spoons and tablespoons of both pewter and Britannia; handled Britannia church and molasses cups; plain nurse and Britannia lamps." The term "Britannia" was used sparingly until 1828, but after 1830 distinctions between pewter and Britannia were seldom made, for the entire product of the shop was then probably Britannia. The Calder name-in-rectangle mark was used after 1825, and the "Providence" mark is found on late forms. Although both of these marks indicate Britannia, they may also have been used on pewter.
George Richardson ( 1818-1848) made teapots, sugar bowls, pitchers, washbowls, ewers, tumblers, and lamps, but he is famed for his fine sugar bowls.
Early pieces of Britannia made by Babbitt & Crossman include inkstands, shaving boxes, cups, and looking-glass frames. Britannia tea ware was not made until 1827, when a set was exhibited in the factory show window. Wm. W. Porter, foreman and overseer of the factory, stated that the next batch which was made consisted of eighteen teapots and that they were the first American Britannia teapots ever on the market. At any rate the design for these teapots was excellent. It copied the English fluted style, was footed, and had a decorative gadroon border and black wooden handle and finial. Urns, coffeepots, and teapots are also mentioned among the first products, but by 1829 Babbitt & Crossman were making door plates, latches, and mountings for harness as well as cream and sugar sets, lamps in pairs, lather boxes, tumblers, slop bowls, goblets, and pitchers. Babbitt & Crossman later became the present firm of Reed & Barton. In the 1829 fair of the American Institute, Crossman, West & Leonard, as the firm was then called, was awarded a discretionary premium for "superior Brittany Ware." At the same fair the following year the company also received a prize "for an assortment of very handsome Britannia Ware."
In regard to the Britannia industry in Meriden, Connecticut, in 1833 Leander Bishop in A History oF American Manufacturers, volume 2, makes the following statement:
"One company employed two hundred and fifty hands in the manufacture of Britannia Ware such as coffee pots and mills, spoons, waffle irons, signal lanterns, etc. to the value of $200,000 per annum and another made to the amount Of $25,000."
One of the best-known names among makers of American Britannia was Boardman. As early as 1821 Timothy Boardman was advertising in the New York Connnrercial Advertiser. A review of the advertisements of this firm from this date through 1850 gives the best picture possible of the Britannia industry in America. The notices are full and give detailed lists of the articles made and even descriptions and sizes of several of them. The first advertisement appeared June 11, 1821:
"Block Tin & Pewter Ware Mfg-178 Water St. 2 doors west of Burling Slip. Timothy Boardman & Co. have on hand and are constantly manufacturing Teapots, Cups, Porringers, Basins, plates, Platters of various sizes, Bed & close stool pans; sucking bottles, Ladles, Spoons, Tumblers-Block Tin Flaggons, Tankards, Goblets, Baptismal Founts, etc. which will be sold at reasonable prices at wholesale and retail. Orders in the above line thankfully received and faithfully executed."
This advertisement ran daily throughout the month of June. The same advertisement, with a few additions - "Music plates, syringes, etc." - appeared in July, 1823, together with an illustration showing a flagon and two styles of teapots. Laughlin records that the firm's name changed to Boardman & Co. in 1825 after the death of Timothy Boardman. The next notice does not appear until March, 1827, when Britannia is mentioned for the first time. It reads as follows:
"Boardnaan & Co., Manufacturers of Britannia Metal, Block Tin and Pewter Ware. 78 Water St., have on hand and are manufacturing a large assortment of the above ware consisting in part Flaggons, Goblets, Tankards, Pottery, Plates & Baptismal bowls for churches, Coffee urns, tea and coffee pots, Porter cups, liquor measurers, Bed and chair pans, Nursery bottles, tumblers, ladles, spoons, syringes, inkstands, basins, plates, porringers, etc. which are sold on lowest terms wholesale & retail."
Besides the record of the change of the firm name to Boardman & Co. we also have an indication of the importance of Britannia ware in the output of the company, since it is listed first from this date on.
By May, 1828, the firm name had been changed to Boardman & Hart, and an advertisement states they "continue to manufacture and keep constantly on hand" not only the usual stocks of articles but a few additional items such as "sugars, creams, slop bowls and Church Furniture." A similar advertisement ran from then on throughout the year 1828. In addition, several small advertisements stated "Britannia Teapots carefully repaired"; "An apprentice wanted at the manufactory of Britannia, Block Tin and Pewter 'Ware-None need apply without best recommendation." In June the advertisement carried an illustration of a coffee urn and read, "Coffee Urns, Boardman & Hart, 178 Water St., manufacture and keep on hand a good supply of Britannia Tea and Coffee Urns suitable for steamboats, hotels, and boarding houses; also Tea and Coffee Pots, etc. etc., together with a general assortment of articles of Britannia, Block Tin and Pewter Ware, wholesale and retail."
Children's plates and cups of Britannia metal were advertised as New Year's presents in 1829, and the firm continued to advertise extensively throughout that year and 1830, when coffee pots and teapots "of various sizes and patterns" were listed.
In the New York Comercial Advertiser, May 2, 1831, the change of address is announced as follows: "Boardman & Hart have removed their manufactory of Britannia, Block Tin & Pewter Ware to No. 6 Burlingslip between Pearl & Water Sts. Near their former stand."
According to the advertisements between 1831 and 1834 business increased and orders were solicited "from the city and country," and to the long list of articles, oyster plates, Britannia casters, and "spittoons suitable for parlors" were added. In 1835 Britannia tumblers and pewter syringes for druggists appeared. The revolving casters in 1835 were supplied "with neat bottles, a new article." But the most interesting new articles were "lamps and candlesticks," which appeared for the first time on September 29, 1835, and "uniform companies furnished to order with a new pattern. Canteen & cups for target excursions."
On November 2, 1835, the following advertisement appeared, listing several interesting items: "Britannia Ware-Britannia metal urns, coffee pots & tea pots, pitchers, castor frames, lamps & candlesticks, water plates, venison dishes, cups, tumblers, spittoons, etc. Boardman & Hart-6 Burlingslip."
Just when it seems that pewter has dropped from the list, an advertisement such as the following appears October co, 1835: "Pewter candlemoulds-Manufactured of good metal. Boardman & Hart." By June, 1836, the demand for lamps had increased and we find the following: "Britannia Lamps. A fine assortment of Britannia metal lamps of various patterns, just received from the manufactory, for sale at our warehouse-Boardman & Hart." Again, in August, 1836, there is "Britannia Metal lamps and candlesticks-new patterns" and in September this interesting advertisement appears: "Britannia Metal Ware. Urns, Coffee & Tea pots, Pitchers, lamps, candlesticks, etc. A few specimens of which are exhibited at the Fair in Castle Garden."
The advertisements in 1837 give us the following detailed information: July 3-"Covered Pitchers-A new supply of 3 qt. Britannia pitchers with covers." August11-"Britannia Bowls-Quart & pt. Britannia bowls very neat pattern." August 4.-"Oval Tea Pots-A few sets of oval Britannia Tea pots, sugar & cream cups." August 7-"Lamps-Britannia metal lamps, a great variety of patterns and sizes. . . . Britannia Lamps & Candlesticks by pair, doz. or gross." September 9-"We have just finished a lot of beautiful Britannia lamps equal to any ever before offered in the market. . . . Bacon's Suspending Lamps." March 18-"Acorn Pattern Lamps." Block tin and pewter ware continued to be made in 1837 and 1838. November 22, 1837: "Pewter Plates-Pewter plates for the Southern and Western markets." May 4, 1838: "Block Tin Urns-Just finished a supply of Block Tin Urns of various sizes with lamps attached. Also a good assortment of Britannia & Bronze urns with iron heaters." March 28, 1838: "Pewter Plates-A supply of pewter plates & basins."
Not only did Boardman & Hart sell their own goods but they also sold tea sets made by James Dixon and Sons, Sheffield plate, and even German silver goods. In addition to selling wholesale to the army, steam ship companies, hotels, druggists, and "inkwells for counting houses," they furnished undertakers with "coffin plates of assorted sizes" and made pewter and block-tin faucets for plumbers.
After a fire in the locality of their shop Boardman & Hart took the opportunity to advertise on October 9,1838: "Britannia Ware. The subscribers having escaped the conflagration are prepared to furnish orders to patrons on short notice-Boardman & Hart."
The year 1840 brought forth advertisements of several new products as well as a call for pewter: "Old Pewter Wanted-Wanted a few thousand pounds of old pewter." The next month we find: "Pewter Plates-An assortment of pewter plates warranted to be not the latest fashion" and "Old fashioned pewter plates" and on August i, 1840: "Bells for academies, factories, steamboats & locomotives." Lamps and candlesticks continued to be advertised along with other articles, including teapots, pitchers, and revolving casters. The next few years brought interesting advertisements regarding lamps:
November 23, 1844: "Britannia Lamps-A fine assortment of Britannia Lamps with both flat & round tubes for burning, oil, gas, or lard. Britannia Lard Lamps-Neal's patent lard lamps, a very superior invention." May 6, 1845: "Pewter Measurers."
In 1846 Boardman & Hart still manufactured the following articles of Britannia: caster frames-all sizes, coffin plates, a variety of patterns, Britannia pitchers, coffee urns, nursing bottles, teapots, communion furniture, lamps and candlesticks, a great variety of patterns, Hall's patented spoons, as well as pewter plates-"Old fashioned pewter plates, dishes, & basins." The firm continued as Boardman & Hart through January, 1847, but on February 1st there appeared in the New York Commercial Advertiser:
"Dissolution-The co-partnership hither to existing between the subscribers under the firm of Boardman & Hart is this day dissolved by mutual consent. The business of the late firm will be settled and all claims paid by Lucius Hart. Thomas D. Boardman Sherman Boardman Lucius Hart. The undersigned having purchased the entire stock of the late firm Boardman & Hart will continue the business as manufactory & importer of Britannia Ware & Dealer in metals at the old stand.-Lucius Hart."