The Taunton, Massachusetts, firm of Reed & Barton began in 1824 as Babbitt & Crossman, which produced a cousin of pewter known as Britannia, or Britannia ware. Now most famous as the base metal inside the Oscar statuette, Britannia soon gave way to pewter before pewter quickly moved aside for silverplate and, later, sterling silver, which is what the flatware and hollowware manufacturer Reed & Barton is best known for today.

Reed & Barton itself dates to 1840, the same year electroplating was patented in England. By the end of the decade, the company was firmly in the plated-silverware business. In the 1850s and through the Civil War, Reed & 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 & Barton bought most of its knives, forks, and spoons from Rogers Bros., which it then plated and stamped as Reed & Barton.

During the Civil War, Reed & Barton manufactured weapons for 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.

Meanwhile, the discovery of silver in present-day Virginia City, Nevada, in 1858 stoked demand for solid silver pieces. 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.

By the end of the 19th century, Reed and Barton was struggling to compete with more mechanized manufacturers such as Gorham and an amalgamation of 16 failing firms that had joined forces as International Silver Company. Reed & Barton modernized its facilities and shifted from a manufacturing model based on hand craftsmanship to one based on mass-production techniques.

The firm also invested more in advertising and promoting its brand, following Gorham and Tiffany & Co. to New York City in 1905 when it opened a retail store on 5th Avenue. Before World War I, Reed & Barton also challenged its competitors in the prestigious trophy market, creating cups for yachtsmen, hunters, and other sportsmen. Years later, in 1996, Reed & Barton designed and produced the gold, silver, and bronze medals for the Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

Reed & Barton also received commissions from the U.S. Navy for sterling silver services in battleships. The most famous story concerns the water pitchers, coffee urns, and serving bowls created for the commanding officers of the USS Arizona. The engravings and decorations on the sides of these 87 pieces were littered with references to the nation’s 48th state, from depictions of the Casa Grande Ruins to gila monsters. The trove might have been lost when the Arizona was sunk during the bombing of Pearl Harbor at the start of World War II, but the Navy had removed the pieces prior to the ship’s tour of duty there...

Like a number of silver manufacturers, from Gorham to Whiting, Reed & Barton went through a phase when it marked pieces produced in a given year with a special icon. This practice began in 1928 with an acorn on some pieces and an eagle on others, and ended in 1957 with a symbol that looks rather like a missle.

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.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Chicago Silver

Chicago Silver

Paul Somerson's incredible reference on handwrought metalwork from the American Arts and Crafts movement of the ear… [read review or visit site]

Silver Marks Encyclopedia

Silver Marks Encyclopedia

An extensive reference guide to silver marks, hallmarks, trademarks and maker's marks found on antique and vintage … [read review or visit site]

Silver at the Victoria and Albert

Silver at the Victoria and Albert

This is a great reference site on silver, courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum. You can view silver items acc… [read review or visit site]

The Gilbert Collection

The Gilbert Collection

The late Sir Arthur Gilbert's collection of European silver, gold, enamel, and other items is now housed at the Vic… [read review or visit site]

Delight in Design: Indian Silver for the Raj

Delight in Design: Indian Silver for the Raj

“Delight in Design: Indian Silver for the Raj” was the title of a 2008 exhibition at Columbia University’s Mi… [read review or visit site]

TheStieffCompany.com

TheStieffCompany.com

Scott Perkins is an enthusiastic evangelist for The Stieff Company, a significant Baltimore silversmith and maker o… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Most watched eBay auctions    

Huge Damascene Lot Brooch Pin Earrings Bracelet Necklace Spain Reed Barton Ee13Magnificent Reed & Barton 4 Piece Sterling Silver Tea Set Better Than Francis 1Antique Victorian Silverplate Pickle Castor With Fork Blue Rib Points Jar Vintage Rare Chicago Great Western Railroad Silver Plate Creamer Reed & BartonLovely Art Nouveau Reed & Barton Sterling Silver Bud Floral Flower Trumpet VaseSouthern Pacific Rr Lines Silverplate Railroad China Tip Tray Dish Reed & Barton77pc Reed Barton Marlbrorough Sterling Silver Service12 6servers Flatware Set Rare 1932 Reed & Barton Sterling Compote In The Francis I Pattern No MonogramsRare 1936 Reed & Barton Sterling Compote In The Francis I Pattern No Monograms Francis I Reed And Barton X569 Repousse Sterling Plate / Dish 557.8 Grams Reed & Barton English Chippendale Sterling Silver 4 Pc Place Setting UnusedSet Of Reed & Barton Dresden Rose Tea Spoon Silverplate Flatware 90 Piece(r)Reed & Barton Tara Sterling Silver 6 Piece Serving Set3 Reed & Barton Francis I Sterling Serving/table Spoons Old Mark No ReserveLove Disarmed Sterling Silver Dinner Fork 7 7/8"Love Disarmed Sterling Silver Indivdual Asparagus Tongs-ornate/rare Reed/bartonReed Barton English Provincial 4 Pc Sterling Silver Place Setting Reed & Barton Francis I Sterling Silver Large Open Pierced Serving SpoonNew Reed & Barton 18/10 S/s 108-piece Service For 12 Flatware Silverware Set Reed & Barton Francis I Sterling Silver Tomato Server No Mono Reed & Barton 1824 Collection Silver Plate Rabbit Cabbage Leaves Napkin RingVtg 1901 Reed And Barton Silver Plated Over Copper Tea Kettle SamovarReed & Barton Francis 1st First Edition Cross Sterling Ornament #7078Love Disarmed By Reed And Barton Sterling Silver Sugar Spoon Kansas City 07 Reed & Barton Francis I Sterling Silver Large Serving Tablespoon No Mono Sterling Silver Reed & Barton Teaspoon - Love Disarmed - #m08494 Reed & Barton Francis I Sterling Silver Cold Meat ForkReed & Barton Sterling Silver Owl Whistle Pendant W/ Ring For Hanging7 Reed & Barton Francis I Sterling Teaspoons No ReserveMixed Lot Of 165 Pieces Of SilverplateReed Barton Silverplate Tea & Coffee PotsReed & Barton Sterling Silver "good Luck" 4-leaf Clover Whistle PendantAntique Reed & Barton Francis I Sterling Silver Salt & Pepper Shakers W/ostopper Reed & Barton Francis I Sterling Silver Oval Soup SpoonSterling Silver Serving Spoon In French Renaissance By Reed & BartonSterling Silver Reed Barton Francis 1 Flatware Set Servers Heavy Old Marks GreatReed & Barton Sterling Silver Francis 1st Nativity Ornament #7428Sterling Silver Owl Whistle Reed & Barton Necklace 22.8gVintage Reed & Barton Good Luck Whistle/pendant SterlingReed & Barton 2001 Sterling Silver Francis 1st Nativity Ornament #7427Reed & Barton Steel Flatware Silverware 85 Piece Set ServingVery Rare Vintage Reed And Barton Music Box-cat In PumpkinReed & Barton Stainless Flatware "arlington" Pattern Set Of 6 Dinner Knives Nip Reed & Barton Francis I Sterling Silver Sugar TongsVintage 1979 Reed & Barton Sterling Silver Christmas Star Ornament /pendant Vintage 1986 Reed & Barton Sterling Silver Christmas Cross Pendant Ornament Reed & Barton Francis I Sterling Silver Gravy LadleVintage Reed & Barton Sterling Silver Heart Shaped Small BowlBracelet, Reed Barton Damascene Egyptian Revival From The 60'sU S Navy Reed And Barton Sugar Bowl Silver SolderedReed & Barton Silver-plated Elephant Music Box - Silverplate, PlateReed + Barton Sterling Silver Christmas Cross 1976 Limited Edition Flannel BagVintage Reed & Barton Sterling Silver 1976 Christmas Ornament Reed & Barton Francis I Sterling Silver Jelly Server2 Reed & Barton Sterling Francis I Slotted Serving Spoons Old Mark No ReserveReed & Barton 1972 Sterling Silver 925 Christmas Cross Ornament VintageReed & Barton Sterling Silver Christmas Cross Ornament 1972Vtg 1973 Reed & Barton Christmas Cross Sterling Silver Pendant Necklace OrnamentAntique Sterling Silver Lg Spoon Flatware Reed & Barton Vintage 1930 Scrap 33 GrReed & Barton Sterling Silver Set Of 6 Dinner Knives