The Reed & Barton Company, New York (R&B)

  • Reed & Barton 1911 catalog, featuring shades from Chapman, Rand and Sibley & Pitman

Introduction

The reader should be aware that the information presented here, dramatic as it is, remains a work in progress. What continues to become even more clear however, is the surprising significance of previously little known firms. There are a half dozen East Coast firms alone that we know next to nothing about. Ditto for those in the Midwest. Designers were sought after and perhaps engaged on an as-needed basis, as was common with certain of Tiffany's window designers. Designers are engaged, they design, they move on to other opportunities!

Waldo Chapman was one such individual. Up to this point, Chapman has been regarded as a Boston lamp maker of limited recognition. In 2018, strong hints of engagements with Richard Chandler and John Morgan were revealed among his personal sketches and photos found in the Chapman trove. To this, we must now include his lamp designs for Reed & Barton, and involvement with two new firms, Amboy Works in New Jersey, and their sales agents, Sibley & Pitman in New York. Now we see him not only in the role of designer, but one who could create a manufacturing facility from scratch.

Acknowledgements Great thanks are due to the Baker Library, Harvard Business School as custodians of the Reed & Barton Archive images. We give special thanks to Peter Lyons for sharing these very important images with us and helping us make sense of what they convey.

Citation Large illustrated catalogue, lamps and shades. Reed & Barton records, Volume D-20, Baker Library, Harvard Business School. Photographs courtesy of Peter Lyons.

The Archive

Much new information has come to light thanks to Peter Lyons’s recent visit to the Baker Library at Harvard Business School during which he uncovered a photographic archive of Reed & Barton lamps and their likely dealings with independent shade makers. Peter recalls that the archive was very dusty, bound with a chord and most likely had never been opened in 100 years! Absolute treasure.

More famously known for their silver and silver plate flatware and accessories, this well established company was started back in Taunton, Massachusetts in 1825 and after a long run was met with bankruptcy in 2015. After bankruptcy, the surviving company records were sent to the Baker Library. Today, the company is owned by The Lenox Company and operates a factory store at the plant site, an outlet store at Wrentham Premium Outlets in Wrentham, Massachusetts, and an online store as well.

The Reed & Barton archive consists of approximately 100 images of completed lamps on their bases and in some cases just the shades themselves. Written on many of the photos is the maker's model number. The shade is then given unique R&B shade numbers along with the R&B base number. The base numbers line up with numbers impressed on the bottom of known R&B bases that have shown up in the marketplace. In other cases, the maker name does not appear in some photos. The archive now confirms the long held opinion that Reed & Barton did indeed rely on outside shade manufacturers to provide their leaded shades.

A few photos in the archive show some involvement with Morgan, Whaley and Bent Glass Novelty. One, speculative extent of these relationships could be where R&B is simply a base supplier to them. R&B may have supplied these firms in the event they needed bronze base options for some of their shades. Another possibility is that these makers also produced shades for R&B, to be offered for sale as R&B products. It is possible that among the extensive R&B records in the Harvard Library, additional lighting catalogs will prove one of these possibilities to be correct. Some observations about these photos follows:

  • Assumed to be catalog cuts from a yet to be discovered catalog.
John Morgan & Sons. From the number of Morgan shades that have appeared on R&B bases, we know there was a supplier relationship. The archive shows images of just 2 Morgan lamps, known models. It is encouraging that these images in the R&B archive were cut from a catalog that has yet to surface. J.A. Whaley. More of a surprise was the inclusion of several catalog photos of overlay shades by Whaley. Details of some of the bases were either obscured or open to interpretation, but as with Morgan, this suggests a supplier relationship. Bent Glass Novelty. Another surprise was the inclusion of a couple of shades by BGN along with a short BGN supplement to their 1908 catalogue. To what extent R&B supplied BGN, if at all, is unclear but this is proof once more that R&B were openly engaged in finding outlets for their beautiful bases.
Benjamin Priest. We suspect that Reed and Barton first engaged with outside firms to make stained glass shades around 1905. There is evidence in the Reed & Barton archives that the first shade maker that they engaged was Benjamin Priest. In 1905, Benjamin Priest took over the assets and the name of Chandler Specialty Co. from Richard Chandler. Appearing on one of the R&B photographs is a leaded shade sporting a Reed & Barton base. Written on the photograph are Benjamin Priest's name and the remark that they were 'out of business'. Press announcement of Priest's failure appeared in December of 1905, so we can say with some level of confidence that R&B was preparing products at least by the demise of Priest’s Company.

Given that the relationship with Priest was very short, it is entirely possible that Richard Chandler was their supplier before Priest took over, and Waldo Chapman was certainly with Chandler at the time.

  • R&B catalog from 1911, Chapman Shade
  • Harvard Graduate Magazine March 1907

So far, little evidence has appeared that Reed & Barton did much to promote their line of leaded lamps. A few exceptions do exist however including: A single advertisement placed in the Harvard Graduate Magazine in March of 1907. Four pages from a 1910 catalog appeared at an online auction. And finally, 2 pages from a 1911 R&B catalog held by the Rakow library.

As if almost an afterthought, these 2 pages of just 6 lamps were squeezed in amongst their more traditional lines of business including silverware, smoking and desk accessories and cut glass cologne bottles. So R&B’s embrace of the leaded lamp market seemed tentative at best.

The R&B archive shows the majority of the shades that became R&B products were furnished by just two companies. They used manufacturer’s representative Sibley and Pitman in New York and lamp manufacturer Amboy Works in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

As the reader will see from other pages dedicated to these firms, Amboy Works and Sibley & Pitman were not only providers for Reed & Barton, but were closely aligned through ownership. They produced numerous leaded lamps, many of which had prior attributions to Gorham. While this doesn’t mean all Gorham attributed lamps are from Amboy Works, a very large number certainly are and in those cases, examples on this site have been re-attributed. This still leaves the door open for any evidence to the contrary.

The last known appearance of Reed & Barton’s leaded lamp range was in the aforementioned company catalog from 1911.


Selected Images From The Reed & Barton Archive

Image citation: Large illustrated catalogue, lamps and shades. Reed & Barton records, Volume D-20, Baker Library, Harvard Business School. Photographs courtesy of Peter Lyons. For detailed photos, click on the thumbnails below, scroll through the images using the arrows or space bar.

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