With the Revolutionary War won, and with teapots no longer politically fraught (see prior post), Paul Revere made at least 49 teapots from 1783 to 1797, according to his books. Then, as now, silver items were expensive.
In the early 1760s, a laborer earning 30 pounds per year might be able to afford a child’s spoon for 8 shillings or a pair of silver knee buckles for 6 shillings 8 pence but not a coffee pot, worth over 17 pounds. . . . A teapot with a wooden handle, probably much like the one Revere is holding in the portrait by John Singleton Copley, cost 10 pounds, 16 shillings and 8 pence. (The Paul Revere House)
However, items crafted from silver—silver ware—despite not being readily affordable, impacted American culture with the name if nothing else! While today we might use the term “silverware” when we mean “flatware” or “cutlery,” the term originally, of course, referred to silver or silver-plated flatware (silver plating, developed in the early 1800s, allowed companies to get silver products into many more homes).
Silver and Silver-plate Companies: Wm Rogers and Oneida
Today, the Oneida company is synonymous with flatware. However, when Oneida was founded in 1848, the company was more diverse, not focusing on silverware until around 1900. But they had a problem:
Practically all the high grade plated silver sold in America in those days carried the “Rogers” name. (Edmonds, p. 40)
Yet there was more to overcome than simply a monopoly.
People equated the Rogers name with quality, and so “the Rogers trade-mark had become solidly established in the public mind” (Edmonds, p. 40).
Indeed, the 1895 Montgomery Ward & Co. catalog featured “the celebrated Rogers Bros.” silver-plate, which was appreciably cheaper than sterling silver ware. For instance, a dozen sterling table knives ran $34 whereas a dozen triple-plated were a mere $4.24 and quadruple-plated only $6.
This price difference is exactly why silver plate became so ubiquitous—style and elegance were accessible to far more people!
To take on Rogers, Oneida needed to come up with something new.
Hence, they produced heavier silver-plated flatware, which they advertised by using life-size depictions of the flatware along with attractive female models. This approach was so successful that by the 1920s, Oneida decided they could start making lower-quality silverware in addition to their higher-quality products, but under a different—and already known—trademark.
By then, Wm A. Rogers was up for sale; Oneida acquired them in 1929 and began using the name “Rogers” for a lower-quality line, ironically.
Oneida was also producing silver-plated hollow ware (the term that referred to anything hollow, such as pots and teapots) in 1899. Therefore, my Wm Rogers Paul Revere reproduction would be hollow ware.
Perhaps because it has a simple design, this particular teapot has been reproduced by several companies (in both silver and in plate), although since my teapot is vintage and not antique, it must have been made by Oneida with the Rogers name. Interestingly, the Oneida teapot shown below differs slightly from the Wm Rogers one.
In fact, although all three of these teapots claim to be Paul Revere reproductions, they differ in stylistic details—so at least two of them aren’t entirely faithful reproductions! And I’d guess that the one made in sterling, that by Tuttle, is the most accurate although I can’t verify this since I can’t find any photos of a Paul Revere teapot in this design.
A quick Google search did prove that silver-plated reproductions are still readily available—and they are worth very little money. Reproductions made in sterling, of course, would be worth at least whatever the silver is worth.
Whether silver or plate, however, these teapots are pleasing with their graceful design and pineapple finial.
The Rogers one is well made, with a tight-fitting lid.
Holes punched in the body where it’s joined to the spout keep tea leaves in the pot.
These teapots seem to have been made in the mid-twentieth century, at a time when mid-century modern emphasized sleek and clean lines. This time period is also within the era when silver-plated items remained popular for wedding and anniversary gifts, at a time when they would be used on a table set with fine china and linens.
This teapot’s simple design is timeless, and with its claims to be a Paul Revere reproduction, it alludes to impeccable craftsmanship as well as steady patriotism. As Americans came out of WW2, maybe this teapot hit all the right notes.
–Edmonds, W. D., The First Hundred Years, 1848–1948, rev ed. (1958), digital ed. (Syracuse University Library, 1998), Oneida Ltd.
–Montgomery Ward & Co., Catalogue No. 57, 1895, unabridged facsimile, Dover Publications, New York, 1969.
–The Paul Revere House, Paul Revere Memorial Association, 2020.
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