Frederick Elkington, Salver, 1879-80. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
By the late nineteenth century, silver, and its imitations, became accessible to everyday Americans.
HistorianJennifer Carlquist discusses the Victorian Era's proliferation of silver articles, and the technologies and discoveries behind them.
The lecture, Setting the Table with Science: Victorian Silver and its Technologies will be held on December 11, 2013.
The presentation begins at 11:00 A.M. at the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum, located at 295 West Avenue in Norwalk.
To reserve a seat, please contact the Mansion at (203) 838-9799, ext. 4 or [email protected].
For centuries, silver has connoted elegance, wealth, and power. Nineteenth-century makers and manufacturers capitalized on its value, by inventing new technologies to manufacture and imitate silver. In 1840, the British firm of Frederic Elkington pioneered the use of electricity to cover base metals with a thin coating of silver. For the first time, a growing middle class could dine, decorate, and entertain with silver-plated fancies.
Tiffany & Co., Lap-over-edge flatware, 1880. Collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Electricity also helped promote interest in antique silver. The 1840s process of electrotyping allowed exact copies to be made of Ancient, Mannerist and Baroque silver and gold. Museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art collected electrotypes, giving Americans access to Europe's finest museums and royal treasuries in their own hometowns. Designed in part to improve the taste of American consumers and designers, electrotype displays helped spread the taste for Revival styles.
The 1859 discovery of the Comstock Lode in Nevada dramatically impacted the silver market, producing more than $300 million in silver until the 1880s. The discovery drove down the price of solid silver, and helped build many of the Gilded Age's most famous fortunes. The period's emerging wealthy class demanded solid silver furnishings. Firms such as Tiffany & Co. employed modern machinery to produce their luxuries, from flatware and candelabrum to desk sets and dressing tables.
Jennifer Carlquist is an adjunct professor at SUNY New Paltz and Administrator of the Victorian Society in America Summer Schools. Ms. Carlquist is a former Winterthur Research Fellow and a graduate of the M.A. Program in the History of Decorative Arts and Design at the Cooper-Hewitt.
The lecture is part of a series at the Museum on "Technologies and Discoveries of the Victorian Era." Lectures are $25 for members, $30 for non-members. The price includes lecture, lunch and a mansion tour. Lunch is courtesy of Michael Gilmartin's Outdoor Cookers. The chair of the Lecture Committee is Mimi Findlay of New Canaan.
The Museum's 2013 cultural and educational programs are made possible by generous funding from LMMM's Distinguished Benefactors: The Xerox Foundation,Klaff's, Mrs. Cynthia C. Brown and The Maurice Goodman Foundation.
The Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum is a National Historic Landmark. Tours for the museum and exhibit are offered Wednesdays through Sundays, at noon, 1 P.M., 2 P.M., and 3 P.M. Admittance is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $6 for children. Children under 8 are admitted free. For more information, visit our website
us, or call (203) 838-9799.