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    

Reed & Barton 18/10 Premiere S/s 106-pc Service For 12 Flatware SetVintage # 166 Reed & Barton Candelabra 5 Light And Epergne, Silverplated Reed & Barton Francis I Sterling Silver Bread Tray, 11 3/4", 0.925, 14 Ozt, NiceAntique 19thc Victorian Reed & Barton Old Silver P. Samovar Beverage DispenserFrancis 1st Sterling Silver Flatware 10 Cocktail Forks Reed & BartonSet Of 6 Reed & Barton Francis I Melon Spoons Sterling Silver Reed & Barton Rose Pattern Sterling Silver Sugar Scoop Spoon Server J BiReed & Barton Francis I Pierced Tomato Server Spoon Sterling SilverMarlborough Reed & Barton Heritage Mint 18/10 Flatware 84 PiecesGillette Atra Razor W/ Sterling Silver Handle By Reed & BartonReed & Barton Francis I Old Style Pickle Fork Sterling SilverReed And Barton Francis I 2 Piece Salad Set Solid Sterling Silver 9 1/2 InchesReed & Barton Francis 1st All Sterling Silver Lemon Cheese Server New In BagVintage Reed & Barton Mark Hopkins Hotel Silver Soldered Coffee/hot Water Pot3 Piece Sterling Francis 1st Carving Set Reed & BartonReed & Barton Sterling Silver Set Of 12 Marlborough Ice Tea SpoonsVintage Reed & Barton Sterling Silver 1974 Christmas Cross OrnamentReed & Barton Francis I Lemon Fork Sterling SilverReed & Barton 1972 Sterling Silver Christmas Cross Ornament - 2nd Edition Rare Vintage Silver Plated Loving Cup Trophy - Reed & Barton Usa 1928 DecoAntique Reed & Barton Copper H.r.g.a. At Orange County Golf Club TrophyAntique Reed & Barton Renaissance Pattern Pat 1884 Demon Devil Silverplate ForksSterling Silver Tea Strainer Reed And Barton Francis I PatternTwo Reed & Barton Francis Sterling Dinner ForksReed & Barton Francis 1st Sterling Silver Hh Hooded Asparagus ServerVintage New York Central Railroad Nyc Sugar Tongs Reed & BartonSterling Silver - Reed & Barton Scroll Spoon Cuff 18.8g - Bracelet (6.5") Br0612Sterling Silver - Reed & Barton (set Of 2) 13.1g - Salt & Pepper Shaker An5282Reed & Barton Francis 1st All Sterling Silver Jelly Cake Server In BagVintage Pairpoint Silverplate Castor/cruet Serving Set Etched Glass #1034,caddyReed & Barton Silver Chest Espresso Finish Anti Tarnish Silverware Storage BoxSterling Silver Antique Lucky Whistle Reed BartonReed&barton Francis I Sterling Silver Salad Fork#15 Reed & Barton Sterling Silver 1971 Cross Christmas Ornament#5 Reed & Barton Sterling Silver 1997 Cross Christmas OrnamentReed & Barton C. 1940 Silverplate Hand Chased Regent 5600c2 Tea Pot & Sugar BowlReed&barton Marlborough Sterling Silver Salad ForkSterling Silver - Reed & Barton Rose Flower Spoon 11.3g - Ring (3) Bu4212Vintage Bunny Rabbit - Baby Fork & Spoon By Reed & Barton - Childrens FlatwareVintage Reed & Barton Gryphon Handle Sterling Silver Christening Cup,excellentOrnate Vintage Silver Plate Candelabra, Reed & Barton, 5 Light, Snuffer Reed & Barton Dresden Rose Mirrorstele Silverware - 12 Each Piece, Serving Francis1 First Reed & Barton Sugar Spoon 6 1/8" Sterling Silver No MonogramReed & Barton 925 Sterling Silver "damaged" Bowl Holloware (86.4g) - 999-004Butterfly Napkin Ring/reed & Barton/silver Tone/2001/1824 Collection(#400)Reed & Barton Silver Tone Cat Napkin Ring/1999/1824 Collection/(#402)Francis I Sterling Serving Spoons, Set Of 2, 8 1/2" Old MarkReed & Barton Silver Plate 44 Pc. Flatware Set Dresden Rose 1953Reed & Barton Sterling Silver Francis 1st Sugar Spoon 41.4 GramsReed & Barton Sterling Silver Francis 1st Meat Fork 71.6 GramsSet Of 5 Vintage Reed & Barton French Renaissance Sterling Silver Forks 194gAmerican Export Lines Coffee Syrup Silver Soldered Plate Reed Barton 57 PintReed & Barton Silver Soldered Tea Pot From The Alexander Young Hotel Honolulu Reed & Barton Floral Pattern Sterling Silver Cocktail Fork 5-1/4" | J I#4 Reed & Barton Sterling Silver 1976 Cross Christmas OrnamentVintage Reed & Barton Sterling Silver Bar Shot Glass Jigger Marked X8Vtg Reed & Barton Old New Stock Solid Sterling Silver Stork Birth Spoon 35 GramsSterling Silver - Reed & Barton (set Of 2) 13.3g - Salt & Pepper Shaker An5292Vintage Reed & Barton Silver Plated Urn Samovar 2760, 2765 ? Nice ShapeFrancis 1 Reed And Barton Sterling Silver Fork 7 1/8 Francis 1st