Gorham 1880-1920: The Glory Years

 Copper and Silver Coffee Pot
Copper and Silver Coffee Pot, 1882
Gorham Manufacturing Company
Metal work
Lent by the Don Norris Collection
The ways in which economic and social influences can become tangible are on display in the latest David Owsley Museum of Art exhibition, Gorham 1880-1910: The Glory Years. This decorative arts collection of silver flatware and ollowware was assembled by Don and Lois Norris.

Gorham was founded in 1831 in Providence, Rhode Island, and by the late nineteenth century dominated American silver manufacturing.

“The dates correspond with the blossoming of a robust, post-Civil War American domesticity,” says Director Peter Blume.

Americans purchased increasing amounts of silverware during the late nineteenth century, and while economic conditions making silver more affordable were partially behind this increase in consumption, social influences played as great a role in the purchase of silver serving pieces as did any increase in buying power.

“The arts came to occupy a more important place in American life at the turn of the century,” says Blume. “There is a correspondence to the best American paintings at this time reflected in this silver, and Gorham was probably the best,
most innovative manufacturer of the era.”

The positive artistic and moral associations given to silver encouraged Americans to buy it, furnish their dining rooms with it, and bring the arts into their homes. This was the era of the Cult of Domesticity, a time when the man’s world of commerce and trade was left at the threshold, allowing the home to became a haven of culture and education. Amid this,
the dining room became a social arena, the site of social interaction for the family and a place to display one’s refinement and good manners.

Exhibition Date: September 16, 2011 - November 27, 2011