Wallace Silversmiths Inc.

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Wallace Silversmiths
Founder Robert Wallace
Parent Lifetime Brands

Wallace Silversmiths is a major American manufacturer of sterling silver owned by Lifetime Brands.[1]

History[edit]

Founder[edit]

The founder of Wallace Silversmiths, Robert Wallace was born in Prospect, Connecticut on November 13, 1815. He was the son of Scottish immigrant and silversmith James Wallace and his wife Irene (Williams), who had immigrated in the late 18th century. The boy had only a limited education, such as sons of the farmers of that period received.

At the age of 16, Robert Wallace became an apprentice to Captain William Mix, a renowned spoon maker for the Meriden Britannia Company A Meriden Britannia apprenticeship was highly sought after because the firm was the most successful cutlery and hollowware-producing firm in the Northeast.

Having mastered the art of silver craft, Robert Wallace left his apprenticeship, purchased a dilapidated gristmill, and began to produce his own cutlery. By 1833, Wallace’s silver shop was up and running. As Wallace was skilled in the art of spoon making, Wallace’s only product was spoons.

Innovation[edit]

One day, while shopping in New York City, Wallace happened upon a piece of cutlery made of a nickel alloy called German silver that had been produced by Dixon and Sons of Sheffield, England. Impressed by the quality and strength of the piece, Wallace bought the formula from the German chemist Dr. Louis Feuchtwanger who had a small bar of that metal from Germany for the then unheard sum of $20 and went on to build these new nickel silver spoons. Later he found a man who had brought the recipe for making the metal. Wallace purchased that too. In his factory, he then compounded the first German silver made in America and pioneered the new industry.

Production[edit]

Wallace moved his factory from Cheshire, Connecticut to a point on the Quinnipiac River in Wallingford, Connecticut. There he increased his production of spoons and cutlery. When his factory was in Cheshire, he produced three dozen spoons per day. In Wallingford, he made nine dozen daily.

Wallace realized the importance of diversifying his business and began producing a complete range of flatware using the nickel alloy formula. It is from these humble beginnings that the Wallace Silversmiths were born.

Growth[edit]

For the next five decades, Wallace did contract work, producing cutlery for a number of firms throughout the world. Wallace would sign a contract with a flatware manufacturer and produce a given piece for a set number of years. Generally, these contracts lasted about 10 years.

The industry continued to grow and eventually assumed large proportions during this period, Wallace produced cutlery for such firms as Hall, Elton & Co., Fred R. Curtiss Co., and Meriden Britannia Co. In 1855, Wallace partnered with Samuel Simpson to produce German flatware. During this period, the business was called R. Wallace and Co. and had represented an investment of $12,000.

Later, Wallace would partner with a group of managers with the Meriden Britannia Company. At this point, the company was called Wallace, Simpson, and Co., and by 1865, the business was worth $100,000. By 1871, Wallace had purchased the balance of his partner’s shares and together with two of his sons renamed the growing company R. Wallace & Sons Mfg. Co.

The factory added to its products sterling goods and high-grade nickel-silver-plated ware, both flat and hollow. Still later, by experiment, Mr. Wallace devised a new process of manufacture from steel. It made a less bulky, firmer, and lighter base for silver plating.

Also In 1871, Wallace, his sons and sons-in-law formed a new company. The new company, Wallace Brothers, produced silver-plated flatware on a base of stainless steel. (By 1879, Wallace Brothers was merged with R. Wallace and Sons Mfg. Co.)

In 1875, Wallace introduced the first three sterling patterns to feature the esteemed Wallace name - Hawthorne, The Crown, and St. Leon. These beautiful patterns were soon followed by sterling and silver-plated holloware.

Over the next century, the company continued to grow. R. Wallace and Sons Mfg. Co. invested heavily in new machinery and skilled artisans.

As American’s Gilded Age gathered steam, the firm saw continued success with additional sterling flatware designs, and began producing both plated and sterling hollowware as well. Its reputation for quality continued to grow in the early twentieth century, and more patterns were developed. Years passed and Wallace's reputation for excellence in silversmithing continued to grow.

Legacy[edit]

Robert Wallace died on June 1, 1892, and the sons and son-in-law continued the business. It grew to be the largest manufacturer of flat tableware in the world. At the start of the 20th century, about 3 tons of steel and 1.5 tons of nickel silver were used daily. The company opened selling houses in New York City and Chicago. The company’s success brought prosperity to Wallingford.

The 1930s were spent improving R. Wallace Mfg. Co.’s mass production techniques. The company released a series of cutlery patterns created by designer William S. Warren, including Rose Point (1934), Sir Christopher (1936), Stradivari (1937), Grande Baroque (1941), Grand Colonial (1942), and Romance of the Sea (1950).[2]

These patterns are called "Three Dimension" because the design of these patterns, are apparent from the front, back, or profile. Each of these patterns remains popular.

In 1947, the designer wrote a book - and it was published by Wallace Silversmiths - called "Wallace Beauty Moods in Silver" to discuss five of the six "Three Dimension" designs.[2]

It was with the introduction of the now famous Grande Baroque pattern in 1941, that Wallace truly established itself as a prominent name in the silver industry. Sales of this magnificent three-dimensional pattern exceeded even the most ambitious projections and Wallace was soon growing through acquisition at a remarkable clip.

In 1956 R. Wallace and Sons Mfg. Co. purchased the Watson Company and relocated to The Watson Company's Wallingford, Connecticut factory. After the company’s relocation, its name became Wallace Silversmiths. Shortly thereafter, in 1958, they purchased both the Tuttle Silver Company and Smith & Smith Company. As a result of this growth, the Hamilton Watch Company of Lancaster, Pennsylvania acquired Wallace Silversmiths in 1959.

Over the next three decades, the ownership of Wallace Silversmiths would change three more times. Wallace Silversmiths remained a subsidiary of the Hamilton Watch Company (Hamilton Watch sold Wallace Stainless Division[3] to Vose Associates in 1963 or 1964) until 1983 when the then 150-year-old company was sold to Katy Industries of Elgin, Illinois. In 1986, Syratech Corporation, which also owned Towle Silversmiths, acquired Wallace Silversmiths from Katy Industries. On April 1, 1987, Wallace Silversmiths' corporate headquarters were moved from Connecticut to East Boston, MA.

In 2006, Lifetime Brands acquired Syratech's assets.[1] The company continues to design sterling, silverplate, and stainless steel flatware.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Lifetime Brands to Acquire Assets of Syratech Corporation; Acquisition Furthers Lifetime's Tabletop Strategy by Significantly Expanding Its Presence in Flatware". Business Wire. March 8, 2006. Retrieved 2010-05-25.[dead link]
  2. ^ a b (April 2, 2016). "R. Wallace & Sons / Wallace Silversmiths design catalogues and historical information". artdesigncafe. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  3. ^ personal knowledge

External links[edit]