Antique Reed and Barton Silver
Antique Reed and Barton silver is sterling silver flatware and hollowware manufactured by Reed and Barton, nee Babbitt & Crossman, who started producing metal goods in 1824.
Reed & Barton began in 1824 in Taunton, MA, as Babbitt & Crossman, which produced a cousin of pewter known as Britannia, or Britannia ware. Britannia is most famously known as the metal found inside Oscar statuettes, however it soon gave way to pewter before pewter, then silverplate and, later, sterling silver, which is what the flatware and hollowware manufacturer Reed & Barton is best known for today.
Reed and Barton itself dates to 1840, the same year electroplating was patented in England. By the decade's close, the company was a major player in the plated-silverware business. During the 1850s and throughout the Civil War, Reed and Barton sold many of its unplated pitchers, bowls, and trays to Rogers Bros. of Hartford, Connecticut, which put its hallmark on these plated pieces. Curiously, Reed and Barton bought most of its knives, forks, and spoons from Rogers Bros., which it then plated and stamped as Reed & Barton. This can create confusion among collectors of both brands.
Reed and Barton was a large manufacturer of weapons throughout the American Civil War, most of these going to the Union troops.
After the war and through the end of the century, Reed & Barton was one of the most prolific producers of silverplated figural napkin rings, which were typically positioned next to depictions of dogs, cats, horses, sheep, deer, rabbits, squirrels, doves, parrots, and peacocks, among other animals.
By the 1870s, sterling was competitive in price with high-end plated pieces, and by 1889, Reed & Barton had launched its first line of sterling silver trays, pitchers, bowls, goblets, flatware, and serving pieces.
However, by the turn of the century, Reed and Barton was failing to compete with other manufacturers of similar goods. Subsequently, it modernized its facilities and shifted from a manufacturing model based on hand craftsmanship to one based on mass-production techniques.
Early flatware patterns by Reed & Barton range from the plain Pointed Antique (1895, based on a pattern by Paul Revere) to the full-figured and even voluptuous design called Love Disarmed (1899). While most of its 20th-century patterns were rather traditional (Francis First, French Renaissance, Georgian Rose Guildhall), sometimes the company dabbled in Mid-century Modernism, like when it hired Italian architect Gio Ponti to design the asymmetrical Diamond pattern in 1958.
As with any collectible, age, condition and rarity are key concerns.
199 piece Reed and Barton sterling silver set sold for $9,750 at Ken's Antiques and Auction in May 2005.
A Reed and Barton Art Nouveau sterling silver punch bowl sold for $9,500 at Freeman's in July 2006.
A five piece Reed and Barton sterling silver serving set (pictured) sold at Bruhn's Auction Gallery in March 2010.
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