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

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Francis I Pattern Sterling Silver Set For 10 By Reed & Barton #1 NrLarge Sterling Silver Reed Barton Francis 1 Flatware Set Heavy Old Marks ServersReed & Barton Benson 108-piece Stainless Steel Flatware SetFine Set Of 10 Reed & Barton Sterling Silver Double Handle Ramekin Bowl HoldersReed & Barton Whitley 108-piece Set 18/10 Stainless Steel, Service For 12Sterling Silver Reed & Barton Francis Flatware/serving 18 Pieces - 1470 GramsAntique Reed And Barton Silverplate/glass Figural Storks Console Centerpiece Victorian Aesthetic Silver Plate Mermod Jaccard Footed Punch Bowl Reed & Barton75 Pc. Reed & Barton Tiger Lily Silverplated Flatware Set W/ Box Antique 1901Reed & Barton Francis I Salad Serving Spoon 1907Nos! Reed & Barton Silver Plate French Lace Pattern 81 Pc Service For 12 & ChestAntique Reed &barton Silver Flatware Set For 6 W Box & Serving Utensils Nr YqzReed & Barton Flat Flatware 18/10, Palmer 65 Pc Set, Service For 12 - 0321r(l2) 8 Francis I Pattern Sterling Silver Soup Spoons W/old Mark #2 NrU.p.r.r. Silver Soldered Mustard Pot 0146-h Union Pacific Railroad Reed & BartonReed & Barton Flatware, Cole 65 Pc Set, Service For 12 - 0322m (l2)Nos! Reed & Barton Silver Plate Wisteria Pattern 94 Piece Service For 12 & ChestOutstanding Reed & Barton Hampton Court Shield 663 Sterling Silver Water PitcherSuperb Vintage Reed & Barton Silver Plated/silver Soldered Coffee Chocolate Pot Antique Reed & Barton Sterling Silver Windsor Pattern Nut Candy Dish TrayLot Of (5) Mixed Brands And Patterns Sterling Silver Demitasse Spoons NrReed & Barton Burgundy 10 Sterling Silver Flat Butter KnivesVintage "reed & Barton" Francis 1 Sterling Silver 4 Piece Dinner Setting NrReed & Barton Hotel Statler Footed Silver Soldered Plate Toast Letter RackRare Large Reed And Barton Silver Plate Water PitcherSterling Silver Reed & Barton Salad Forks Set (12) Francis 1 6 Francis I Pattern Sterling Silver 7 1/4 In Forks W/old Mark #3 Nr 2 Francis I Pattern Sterling Silver Large Serving Spoons W/old Mark #7 NrSterling Silver Reed & Barton Francis 1 Long Iced Beverage Spoons (6) Nos! Reed & Barton Silver Plate Wisteria Pattern 81 Piece Service For 12 & ChestIllinois Central Railroad, Miniature Spoon Or Ladle, Reed & Barton, EngravedVintage Lg.lot Reed & Barton Rebacraft Stainless Flatware,royal Bamboo,setVintage Reed & Barton Green Enamel Triangular Silver Candy Dish/bowl 6" (#283)Reed & Barton Silver Soldered 9" Tray Marked 'davenport' Hotel, Spokane Wa (579)Reed & Barton Marlbough Sterling Silver Tongs Sugar ,ice 1901 4 Francis I Pattern Sterling Silver 9 Inch Knives #10 Nr 2 Francis I Pattern Sterling Silver 9 Inch Knives #11 NrReed & Barton Stainless Colonial Shell Glossy Flat Ware Placesetting + Etra Tsp.8 Reed & Barton Sterling Silver Dinner Knives In "classic Rose" (1954)Lot Of 2 Antique Reed & Barton Bowls: Les Cinq Fleurs (nut) & Francis 1 (8 In)Athena Mahogany Jewelry Box Chest By Reed And Barton 664mr $280Reed & Barton Adams Flatware Chest, Black Leather With Cherry Trim - 0321r(l2)Reed And Barton Francis I Sterling Salad ForkRare Reed & Barton Footed Soldered Silver Plate Toast Letter RackNos! Reed & Barton Silver Plate English Crown Pat 56 Piece Service For 8 & ChestExcellent Reed Barton Set Of 4 Sterling Silver Burgundy Dinner Knives79 Piece Set Vintage Reed & Barton Dancing Flowers Sterling Silver FlatwareReed & Barton "francis I" - 8 Sterling Dinner Forks, 7-1/4"6x Sterling Silver Reed & Barton French Renaissance Salad Forks 221.7g 6 1/8"6-reed & Barton Dorado Stainless Teaspoons Korea Hammered Glossy 18/8 UnusedReed & Barton Hepplewhite Big Pierced Cake Server Rare 9 1/4" No Reserve 76g'sReed & Barton French Renaissance Set 12 Iced Tea Spoons Stainless No MonogramReed And Barton Sterling Silver Baby Spoon / Fork And Infant Spoon Lot Of 3Reed And Barton Francis I Sterling Salad ForkVintage Reed & Barton Silver Plate Table Crumb Tray / Dust PanReed & Barton Classic Rose Sterling Silver 55 Piece Flatware Table Set Serving 6 Francis I Pattern Sterling Silver Salad Forks W/old Mark #4 NrReed And Barton 925 Solid Sterling Silver Bowl X438 Weight 194 Grams 2018-2Reed & Barton Burgundy Sterling Silver Cold Meat Fork 7 7/8"-no MonoMiller Rogaska Reed Barton Crystal Soho Ice Bucket Decanter Old Fashion Glasses