Gorham Manufacturing Company's Works.

Canal, Steeple, and North Main Streets, Providence

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History

Silversmith Jabez Gorham founded his company in 1831. There he learned to make coin-silver flatware (lightweight eating utensils made from lightweight, rolled silver) which formed the mainstay of his business in the early years. In 1848 Gorham's son John took over as the head of the company. He was determined to grow the company and Gorham Manufacturing Company 1886 and Henry L. Webster. Gorham had apprenticed with Nehemiah Dodge, one of Providence's most respected traveled to England to purchase the first steam-powered drop press that was used in the United States to produce silver flatware. They were so successful Tiffany & Co. outsourced all its silverware production to Gorham. Between the years of 1879 and 1893 Gorham had displays at every International Fair where they won both public accolades and prizes. At the Columbian Exposition alone Gorham won 47 prizes for excellence. Since 1860 Gorham had tried to expand into other metals as well but customers refused to pay a Gorham premium for flatware produced in baser metals. Yet the expertise gained in these attempts was not totally lost and its bronze foundry operations were becoming very popular with sculptors. By 1890 Gorham had built the world's largest bronze-casting foundry and by 1920 the company employed almost 2,000 workers. Its art foundry produced many sculptures for the great American sculptors of the day. More than 700 Gorham sculptures are listed in the Smithsonian inventory alone. During the Great Depression, the company had to lay off many workers Gorham initiated an effort to produce hundreds of examples of 19th century hollowware from the original dies. Artisans painstakingly reproduced the samples from the original designs and dies and the pieces created then are now often the only surviving examples of certain patterns. In 1967 Textron purchased the Gorham Manufacturing Company and it stopped operating as an independent business. The new owners started reducing the quality of Gorham's traditionally high-end products in an attempt to regain marketshare. The former Gorham, now a division, was resold to Dansk International Designs in 1989, to the Brown-Foreman Corporation in 1991, and to Department 56 in 2005. Source - Metallic Collector.com NOTE: All the buildings at this site were razed sometime after Gorham moved to a new location in 1890. The Steeple St. block was filled in 1949 with a new building for the Providence Washington Insurance Company. Today that building is the Administration Building for the Rhode Island School of Design.