Saturday, February 20, 2016
Winter Speaker Series
"Reflections on an American Innovator" Elizabeth Williams
2 pm Newport Art Museum (76 Bellevue Avenue)
Describing silver produced by the Gorham Manufacturing Company as “superbly elegant, perfect in design and execution,” the Providence Journal boldly claimed in 1850 that the “wealth of our city will see that it need not go abroad for the most luxurious ornaments for the table.” What was founded as a small shop by Jabez Gorham in 1831 in Providence, Rhode Island, rapidly expanded to become one of the nation’s leading producers of silver in the late 19th century. At the height of Gorham’s powers, its designs were celebrated nationally and internationally at world’s fairs. The company was commissioned to create everything from public presentation pieces and military awards to one-of-a-kind showstoppers for use in the private dining rooms of America’s elite. The resulting works reveal both an arc of uniquely American design and the aspirations of a youthful nation and its magnates. Acquired by the Rhode Island School of Design Museum in 1909, an appropriately-themed diminutive silver spoon with a chased handle in the shape of a harpoon and bowl formed as a whale swimming in waves became the first of 4,525 Gorham works now owned by the RISD Museum, including design drawings, bronzes, medals, jewelry, furniture and the largest single collection of Gorham silver.