Historical Meriden area design (1860-1965)

Emily Hall Tremaine Miller Company Meriden Bradley & Hubbard stand Meriden Wilcox mansion Meriden Napier Company penguin Meriden
Meriden Britannia buffalo hunt sculpture Bradley & Hubbard candlestick holders Meriden Wilcox Silver Plate Co urn Meriden Miller Co Painting toward architecture Burle-Marx Meriden
Philip Johnson facade Miller Company Meriden Wilcox Silver Plate Co tea set Meriden Miller Co Meriden Mondrian International Silver Company theater Hollywood
Do you know the following designs, associated artworks and national radio theater promotion photo shown above? Do you know how they relate to the design history of the Meriden area? If not, click the photos and be directed to sources where you can learn more.

Join us in the design discovery
So far, over 20,000 sources compiled online— and over 4000 museum and historical society objects identified and listed to date.

Design Meriden at artdesigncafe is the centralized, online disseminator of information focused on historical product design from the Meriden, CT, USA area between 1860 and 1965. Meriden area-made designs have been collected by museums nationally and internationally, and works from the area overall have been featured in over 1000 exhibitions in the USA and abroad since the 1850s. When you look more closely at the designs, you’ll understand why they have received such widespread attention and critical acclaim. Data shows that its audience is widely dispersed nationally and internationally, just like its designs and documentation today. The area’s designs were often marketed and communicated via New York City, across America, and into Canada, Australia, Europe, and Latin America.

Since 2016, Design Meriden administered by artdesigncafe has taken action to unearth this largely hidden design history, connecting notable dots, and spotlighting its unexpected impact 100+ years later.

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Through specialist academic research, professional communications and this online platform, Design Meriden has helped facilitate a new, recent wave of appreciation, enthusiasm and discovery, from globally to locally. We also actively lobby to make important, rare, historical material far more easily accessible to curators, researchers and enthusiasts— and more widely available via the internet. Join us in the design discovery.

This documentation recovery effort and dissemination initiative is led by international arts journalist and communications professional R. J. Preece. He grew up in post-industrial Meriden, later taught at design schools in Japan and Hong Kong, and settled in NW Europe in 1997. With the Meriden area work often buried under thick dust from decades of history, he only began to learn about the area’s historical design— from scratch— in c. 2015. He has since largely steered his focus from international contemporary art and design to the historical Meriden area work as a tribute.

"I never imagined anything like this was ever possible there," explains Preece. "It just didn’t seem that kind of place, and that was fine. The historical designers and entrepreneurs however proved me wrong, completely wrong. Little powerhouse, international Design Meriden. It is at times surprising, top-flight, highly competitive, very technological with hundreds of patents, almost mind-boggling— for me, it’s dream-like, inspiring— and it’s fantastic."

100 years ago Meriden was internationally known as a powerhouse of manufacturing and design, surprisingly small for its output
The 1908 article reprinted below shows the perspective and global reach.

See the article

The fame of Meriden is world wide
Articles manufactured here are to be seen in almost every country

4 July 1908, Meriden Morning Record, p. 7.

The fame of Connecticut as a manufacturing state has spread all over the world and probably no city or town in the commonwealth has done more to make the land of steady habits famous than Meriden. The Silver City is known the world over and yet its silver work is by no means the only thing which has made it famous.

Travelers in all parts of the civilized world have been surprised to find articles manufactured in this city and they have been reminded of the good old Nutmeg state and the Silver City by them. In far off Africa, Japan, China, the islands of the sea, in the harem of the Sultan of Turkey, in fact in almost every imaginable place in the world are to be found articles bearing the name and trade mark of some of the manufacturing firms of this city.

Every traveler who crosses the ocean on the great liners finds on the dining tables silverware made by the local factories of the International Silver Co. The silver services of many battleships also were made here. The Parker gun has proclaimed the fame of Meriden in the wilds of Africa and almost every [country] in the world. Palaces and hotels in every country and even the temple of Jerusalem are lighted with lamps, electric and gas fixtures made by the Bradley and Hubbard [Mfg.] Co. and E. Miller [&] Co.

The cut glass and decorated ware of Meriden [see the Meriden Cut Glass Co. listed below in section D and various companies in section E] may be found on the tables and in the homes of the wealthy and powerful the world over. In the music rooms of the great transatlantic steamers, the palaces of royalty in many countries, and in thousands of the homes of the wealthy and middle class of the people will be found the [Angelus] pianos and the Symphony Pianola and Pianola pianos made by Wilcox & White Co. as well as the orchestral organs manufactured by the Aeolian Co. of this city.

Millions of people are awakened each morning by the silvery call to business of the alarm clocks manufactured by the Charles Parker Co., and thousands of men every day stand at benches where their work is held in vises manufactured by the same company.

The table knives made by the Meriden Cutlery Co. have gone in all parts of the earth and the pocket cutlery manufactured by the Miller Brothers Cutlery Co. are known wherever a pocket knife is used while countless business men and accountants use the pens made in the factory of this company.

Try as one may in travelling the world over to forget Meriden and it is impossible. At every place one stops there will be found some article made here. [Certainly] Meriden is a "little city" but its manufactures have made it like "a city that is set upon a hill", where all may behold and know of it.

100+ years later, we see the impact of Meriden, with its products dispersed in national and global collections, and its documentation dispersed internationally as well. (See the 1908 article as it appeared in the newspaper at Google News.)

Become a part of the design recovery
There are many ways to contribute to the Meriden area product design and technology legacies

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> If you are from the Meriden area and any notable information is new, spread the word to a few friends / colleagues. Due to communications challenges for many decades and the specialist nature of design and technology, too many people are unaware of these important legacies!

> Alert artdesigncafe if you have any original documentation (pamphlets, etc.) of the companies; we will ask for scans and, if of interest, help you find a national-level institution to protect the documentation and enable the fastest access for future researchers. Sometimes you can be eligible for a tax deduction and you as a donor can be recorded, or the documentation can be donated in memory of a loved one.

> Many different designs, even individual silver plate items, are of interest to museums across the USA and beyond. For many designs, consider donating them to a museum. (First, you should check auction values; many are listed on the company objects pages below.) Sometimes you can be eligible for a tax deduction and you as a donor can be recorded, or the object can be donated in memory of a loved one. At some museums, it can be arranged that your donated design will be photographed and visible online as part of their museum collection.

> Volunteer time to assist in documentation recovery. This can be done from anywhere. Sometimes university students can receive college credit for an internship. For on-site documentation recovery, we are especially looking for assistance in Meriden and Hartford, CT; Santa Barbara, CA; New York City; Washington, DC; Paris, France; and Sydney, Australia. Near fluency in French, German, Portuguese, or Spanish adds new value here.

> For companies and foundations, we offer sponsorship and funding opportunities. Contact artdesigncafe and we will provide more information on how your organization can contribute to the design discovery. In certain ways, artdesigncafe is eligible for American foundation funding.

For more information, please contact artdesigncafe.com via the services page linked above.

Jump to section:

A. Museum exhibitions

From New York to Los Angeles, from London to Lisbon, from Paris to Tokyo to Rio de Janeiro and Melbourne, Australia, historical Meriden area design has been spotlighted in over 1000 museum and exposition shows since at least 1851.

9 SEP 17 - 22 JUL 18
Passion for the exotic: Japonism at Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York. (Meriden Silver Plate Co.; Simpson, Hall, Miller & Co.)

17 FEB - 13 MAY 2018
The New Art: A milestone collection fifty years later at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. [Exhibiting Ilya Bolotowsky's Perpendiculars and diagonals, (1945). (Formerly in Miller Company Collection of Abstract Art, 1947-52.)]

The jazz age: American style in the 1920s at Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York (7 April - 20 August 2017); and Cleveland Museum of Art (30 September 2017 - 14 January 2018). (Meriden Silver Plate Co.; Napier Company; R. Wallace & Sons; Wilcox Silver Plate Co. / International Silver Company)

2016 - 1 JAN 18
Stuart Davis: In full swing at Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (10 June - 25 September 2016); National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (20 November 2016 - 5 March 2017); de Young Museum, San Francisco (1 April - 6 August 2017); Crystal Bridge Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas (16 September 2017 - 1 January 2018). [Exhibiting Stuart Davis's For internal use only, (1944-45). (Formerly in Miller Company Collection of Abstract Art, 1947-52.)]

12 JUN 17 - 1 OCT 17
Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the archive at Museum of Modern Art, New York [Exhibited "Project for Meteor Crater (unbuilt)], (1948), part of the Miller Company Collection of Abstract Art (1947-52), associated design project.]

3 JUN 17 - 24 SEP 17
The discovery of Mondrian at the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, The Netherlands (3 June - 24 September 2017). [Exhibited Victory Boogie Woogie (1943-44), part of the Miller Company Collection of Abstract Art (1947-52).]

Roberto Burle Marx: Brazilian Modernist at Jewish Museum, New York (6 May - 18 September 2016); Deutsche Bank KunstHalle, Berlin, Germany (7 July - 3 October 2017). [Exhibiting 3 "Tremaine House"-related works, c. 1948, associated with the Miller Company Collection of Abstract Art (1947-52)]

MAY 17 - ongoing
Style and status in sterling: American silver at the Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey (International Silver Company, Wallace Silversmiths, Wilcox Silver Plate Co.)

18 NOV 16 - 12 NOV 17
Shaken, stirred, styled: The art of the cocktail at Dallas Museum of Art (Charter Company; Derby Silver Company; International Silver Company; Napier Company; R. Wallace & Sons; Wilcox & Evertsen Fine Arts)

> See the historical Meriden design exhibition list

B. At auction

Some historical objects related to the Meriden area do rather well at auction. Check out some of the auction results below.

C-G. Historical Meriden area company compilations (designs, catalogues, etc.)

Documentation recovery initiative: Over 20,000 sources compiled online to date. Over 4000 museum objects found and listed.

C. Miller Co. - D. ISC & predecessors - E. Other featured companies - F. Also, folk art - G. Featured early silversmiths - H. Other makers

D. ISC, predecessors & divisions

E. Other featured companies manufacturing designs - brassware, cutlery, ironware, furnishings, glassware, household products, jewelry, lamps, and silver goods

F. Folk art

  • F.1. William R. Brinley miniature circus designs, Wallingford / Meriden / Bridgeport (1930s - 2010s)
    > designs, exhibitions | historical information

  • G. Featured early pewter / britannia / silver makers

  • G.1. Clement Beecher (1778-1869)
    > designs and historical information
  • G.2. Ashbil Griswold (1784-1853)
    > designs, exhibitions and historical information
  • G.3. Isaac C. Lewis
    > designs, exhibitions and historical information
  • G.4. W. W. Lyman (1821-1880?)
    > designs, exhibitions and historical information
  • G.5. Hiram Yale, Wallingford (1799-1831)
    > designs, exhibitions and historical information

  • H. Other historical Connecticut area companies to explore

    Brass articles

  • > W. H. Chapman Co. (brass articles)
  • > Peerless Mfg. Company (brass articles)
  • Ceramics

  • > Metallic Potters Co. (unknown output)
  • Currency issued by Meriden bank (c. 1865)

    Industrial design - various


    Lamp shades and leather cases

    Music industry

    Printing sector

    Other pewter / britannia / silver makers

    I. Meriden-area historical maps and history books online

    Note to researchers:
    Non-profit organizations that, since January 2018, have unfortunately not honored repeated requests for listings of their holdings include: The Meriden Historical Society (design collection and rare, non-ISC documentation), Museum of Connecticut History (designs in collection) and the Wallingford Historic Preservation Trust (WHPT) (designs in collection and rare historical documentation). We encourage these important local, non-profit organizations to take timely steps to make their holdings public and accessible to international researchers. Their declarations will undoubtably contribute significantly to the developing international discourses concerning historical Meriden area design, a unique treasure from the area. Design Meriden is more than welcome to assist.