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( Originally Published 1963 )
The brazier, the blacksmith, the tinsmith, and the pewterer performed inestimable services not only during Colonial days but until well along in the nineteenth century. The metal craftsman, settled or footloose, ranked only behind the farmer and the merchant in his importance to everyday living. Yet though many of them lived in one village or town all their lives, most of them are nameless. It's rarely possible to credit the brass candlesticks, copper teakettles, iron trivets, and painted tin boxes as made 150 years or so ago, however handsome these things still are. The only exception is pewter pieces, for many pewterers are almost as well known as silversmiths. Save for pewter, identification seldom extends beyond the material itself, the span of years during which an article was made, and the area or locality where it originated. As for the tinker who traveled around repairing pots, kettles, and other things made of metal, he is only a legend.
These craftsmen made everything from the pots in which food was cooked and the spoons with which it was stirred to the plates from which it was eaten. Many common items were made in more than one kind of metal. Candlesticks might be made of pewter, iron, or tin as well as brass. Teakettles were made of all these metals except the soft pewter, which would melt over heat. So indispensable were metals and so skillful the men who worked with them that the buttons that fastened a Sunday coat and the buckles that flashed from a lady's slippers might be made from almost any one of them.
Just about anything that could be made in silver could be made from one or more other metals and sold for very much less. As a result, a vast number of articles essential to everyday living, as well as luxurious things, were made of the less expensive metals. Bronze was worked with least of all metals or alloys. Pewter and britannia were more popular here than in England and were made in this country longer than they were in England. Iron is a short-lived metal because it rusts and corrodes so easily. Tin also may be rusted, unless it was painted, and may be dented. Brass was the pride of many a housewife and homeowner.
Examples of useful things made in each of the common metals and rather frivolous ones made from some of them during the nineteenth century are still to be found in all parts of the United States. However insignificant the article may seem, some collector somewhere will seize on it.