null
Advanced Search
On view

Stand

Attibuted to: Bradley & Hubbard Manufacturing Company (active Meriden, Connecticut, 1875 - 1940)

Date: 1880-1885
Medium: Brass, earthenware
Dimensions:
Overall: 33 3/4 x 18 1/2 x 18 1/2in. (85.7 x 47 x 47cm)
Signed: Impressed on underside of ceramic cylinder: 'Longwy'
Credit Line: Museum Purchase, in part with funds from the Sarah T. Norris Fund
Object number: 96.6
Label Text
Metal furniture such as small tables, stands, and easels became increasingly popular during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The combination of color with reflective surfaces exemplifies the mode that would have been prevalent throughout the room where this stand served as an accent piece. Its stylish design and ornamentation are indicative of the owner's sense of fashionable taste and represent the premises of the Aesthetic movement. This reform movement was a reaction against poor quality, mass-produced goods. Proponents of the style emphasized the unification of the useful with the beautiful.

By the late nineteenth century Meriden, Connecticut, was the American center for mass-produced metalwares. Based on comparisons with similar objects, it can be assumed that this plant stand was made in Meriden, although a definitive maker has yet to be determined. The addition of the plant stand to the museum's collection presents the opportunity to interpret the Aesthetic movement in greater context. The stand makes an interesting comparison with other Aesthetic period pieces on view in this gallery-the upholstered chair, silver teapot, and Kimbel and Cabus desk.

ATD

During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Meriden, Connecticut, was the American center for mass-produced silver plate and base metalwares. Faddish "art brass goods," including lamps, small tables, mirrors, and pedestals-such as this example-were produced in the 1870s and 1880s.

The designer of this stand united machine-formed parts (tubular frame, sharp angles, and stamped brass) with botanical images in shiny metal and polychrome ceramics. The reform campaign under the name of the Aesthetic Movement thus elevated the status of everyday objects by fusing artful, naturalistic motifs and machine labor in the creation of an object.

ATD

Bradley & Hubbard tables commonly incorporate ceramic tiles and cylinders such as those made by the Longwy Faience Company. Longwy's glazed earthenware, characterized by vivid colors on a turquoise ground, was especially popular. The decorative motifs, including meandering vines and flowers, were derived from Japanese designs, which were freely mixed with Chinese, Persian, and Moorish elements. Other companies also supplied the ceramics that were mounted in brass, including Gien (no. 13), another French faience manufacturer founded in 1821, as well as Minton and Company located in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England.

Text Entries

Bradley & Hubbard Manufacturing Company is one of the best-known names for late nineteenth-century

lighting and household metal goods. Numerous company catalogues survive, but these and other primary documents do not illustrate the firm’s considerable line of art brass. Piecing together advertisements, labeled and attributed objects, and patent drawings presents a comprehensive depiction of the firm’s art brass production. Nathaniel L. Bradley’s (1829–1915) first job outside of family farming was in a clock-making company in Southington, Connecticut, where his success led to the position of head salesman. In 1852 Bradley left Southington for Meriden where, in partnership with his brother William, his brother-in-law Walter Hubbard (1828–1911), and Orson and Chitten Hatch, he began Bradley, Hatch & Company, which made clocks.7 Two years later the Hatch brothers sold their interests in the firm, and the business became known as Bradley & Hubbard.8

 

The company began in a small two-story building in West Meriden. By 1870 about 170 workers were employed. In 1875 the firm was incorporated as Bradley & Hubbard Manufacturing Company.9 According to the 1880 United States Federal Census, the business employed 650 workers. 10 One year later a credit rating notes, “Their factories are now nearly as l[ar]g[e] as Meriden Britannia & they employ about 1000 men.” Despite the discrepancy in figures, it is apparent that the firm was exceptionally successful. In 1886 the business was noted as “one of the most extensive and prosperous manufacturing operations in Connecticut. They do an immense bus[iness] & have sufficient money and resources to do it easily.”11 Located between two Charles Parker Company plants (the clock factory and the gun shops) and adjacent to the railroad, the Bradley & Hubbard works were vast and eventually occupied an area of more than six acres. Multistoried structures included a large foundry; a building with rolling, buffing, hammering, and plating floors; buildings with bronzing and lacquering areas and lamp, vase, and chandelier polishing shops; and supplementary operations and storage.12 The firm had opened a salesroom in New York City by 1871 and followed with retail operations in Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia.13

 

In the early years of the business, clocks were the mainstay of company production, with call bells and sewing machines added in the 1850s. Flags and hoopskirts expanded merchandise offerings during the Civil War era.14 Ultimately Bradley & Hubbard concentrated production on an extensive line of domestic “artistic metal goods” or “art bronze goods” that included tables, candlesticks, fine clocks, mirrors, pitchers, vases, fenders, andirons, pen racks, inkstands, spring measuring tapes, match safes, sewing birds, call bells, and lamps, its best-known product.

 

Of all the art brass manufacturers, Bradley & Hubbard was one of the most consistent in submitting design patents, including those for lamp brackets, inkstand holders, andirons, and sconces. Between 1870 and 1879 the company was granted at least eighty-six patents. Another seventynine patents were obtained between 1880 and 1889, a high percentage of which were for technological innovations or improvements in lighting.15

 

With the emerging importance of kerosene lighting in the 1860s, Bradley & Hubbard emphasized oil-lamp production, as is evident in the firm’s numerous patents and extant lamp advertisements and catalogues.16 An 1885 catalogue illustrates the variety of lamps available to consumers, ranging from cylindrical lamps with pierced ornamentation of Japanese-inspired fauna to lamps with ceramic bodies and to ones with ovoid metal bodies, hammered surfaces, and applied three-dimensional vines. Model number 5723 in the 1885 catalogue (2002.22.a-c) sold for thirty dollars and was listed as “Hammered,” although its surface pattern was machine-generated.17 A three-dimensional patinated and silvered cast metal floral swag rings the body of the lamp, which in turn rests on claw-and-ball feet. This lamp appears to have retained its original finish and shellac coating.18

 

The lamp’s oversized blossoms and claw-and-ball feet illustrate the naturalism that predominates in lighting fixtures in the 1885 catalogue. The floral swag might have been influenced by the realistic depictions of plant life found in French design periodicals.19 The motif might also be viewed as an extension of Japonisme—that is, a moving away from adaptations of Japanese motifs to a more generic naturalism. Whatever the influence, Bradley & Hubbard’s lighting range had something for everyone, varying from three dimensional applied ornaments of daisies to acorns and oak leaves to salamanders. Some models stood on webbed feet. Bradley & Hubbard also offered more conventional lighting fixtures in the 1880s. In 1885, for example, it published a catalogue of adjustable, hanging extension library lamps with Anglo-Japanesque detailing.

 

German-born designer Albert Patitz (b. ca. 1841) designed three patented mirrored sconces for Bradley & Hubbard. The first, dated August 28, 1883, was for a rectangular metal sconce frame comprising parallel bars with “floriated tracery representing daisies” in the space between the bars and accented on the outer rim by a scalloped edge. A September 1883 sconce frame patent was for a narrow, vertical reworking of the August design.20

 

These frames relate to a brass table that incorporates cast panels at the apron identical in ornamentation to the earliest Bradley & Hubbard sconce patent. The framework surrounding the recessed panel of the tabletop is a variation of the motif on the sconce frames. Silver plating, perhaps once accented by gold or bronze details, highlighted the design on the tabletop and shelf below, creating a dazzling effect of polychromed, polished, and textured surfaces. The imagery on the tabletop is typical of American adaptations of Japanese motifs. Here a machine-produced, honeycomb patterned ground is reminiscent of artisan-created, handhammered metal surfaces. A band visually bifurcates the decorative panel. Asymmetrically arranged naturalistic Japanesque motifs include a stem with leaves and flowers, a hovering butterfly, a swooping bird, and arches with abstracted rays or petals.

 

The table stretchers include a double-paneled motif with meandering flowers, branches, and buds. The pattern is also found on the stretcher of an elaborate brass table, the slender legs of which invoke bamboo and terminate in cloven hooves. The reticulated, circular top border is another characteristic linking this table to Bradley & Hubbard designs, as it closely resembles the earliest patented frame. Again, a hammered, polychrome, recessed panel top—here with restored silver and copper plating—adds richness and visual relief to the overall design. The scalloped rim is pierced to hold a skirt of prisms, a detail that imparts elegance to an object made of well-conceived but industrially produced parts.

 

A circa 1885 trade card features two table variants produced by Bradley & Hubbard. Judging from the number of surviving examples, they were among the manufacturer’s most lucrative models. The unpretentious table depicted on the left half of the promotion incorporates pierced brackets with trefoils, a Modern Gothic detail. A footed, pierced box, presumably a flowerpot, crowns the top of the table. The table in the image on the right side of the trade card supports a statue and is nearly identical to catalogue numbers 6 and 12. Bradley & Hubbard designers modified the flowerpot seen on the table in catalogue 6, substituting patinated copper panels for the pierced brass, to fashion a lamp base.

 

In each of these examples, individual elements—spun and cast brass, machine-stamped parts formed from brass sheets, and a tubular brass framework—are screwed or welded together to create the structure. Sundry ornamentation of textured details, light-diffusing surfaces, and floral enhancements in colorful ceramics or polychrome metals counterbalance sharp angles and the mass-produced characteristics of the objects. Interchangeable parts and easily adapted motifs made the production of a countless variety of tables affordable.

 

The multiple decorative enhancements in the metal and ceramic ornamentation of these objects speak to the international influences ubiquitously represented in art brass. Modern Gothic, Anglo-Japanesque, French, and Moorish influences are all present, and the refinement and quality of these fashionable home furnishings were well suited for the artistic interiors of the upper class. Yet Bradley & Hubbard’s success was directly correlated to the fact that the company made goods that appealed to a broad range of tastes and levels of material comfort.

 

Bradley & Hubbard offered progressive forms as well. In spite of its proto-modern, even eccentric, pattern, one sconce was probably made in the late 1880s. The red patinated copper frame, a finish referred to as “enameled copper” in company catalogues, has a crenulated edge; scallops alternate with elongated tabs that fold in on themselves into an S shape. Ovoid silver coils are set at even intervals around the frame. At the bottom, two downward angled arms of silver-plated strips bent into organic forms support patinated candleholders. The deliberateness of the design includes silver mounts that mask seams on the frame corners and the use of silver screws that are functional and decorative.

 

Another example of adventuresome goods is the set of labeled candlesticks. Their curious and playful combination of a patinated copper surface with silver-plated accents and colored-glass cabochons are beyond the bounds of any traditional decorative arts style. Instead, the candlesticks, like the sconces and tables, demonstrate that easily modified materials, processes, and compatible parts allowed firms such as Bradley & Hubbard to experiment and offer novel creations—at minimal financial risk—to an interested clientele.

 

These whimsical sun andirons are among the numerous forms F. Robert Seidensticker (b.1838) designed for Bradley & Hubbard.21 The patent describes this andiron form as comprising semicircular legs from which rises a serpentine upright, “terminating in the face, with the representation of rays radiating therefrom.”22 Extant examples suggest that the form could be purchased with cast-iron heads or with the polished brass heads seen here.

 

This clock presents traits—a traditional form executed in metals and ornamented by a pastiche of motifs popularized by the Aesthetic movement—that typify art brass production. Compartmentalized floral enhancements and pilasters decorate the front of this architectural timepiece. The object displays boldness, however, in the crowning, Moorishinspired dome. The luminescence of the silver plate helps to emphasize the asymmetrical brass floral motifs on the dome and side panels. This ornamentation relates to the type of Japanesque decoration found on Bradley & Hubbardmade tables. It is, perhaps, the sort of “fancies and caprices” in metallurgic art one 1884 Decorator and Furnisher article on clocks described. The article details clocks that “appear simply as the centers of metallic shrines or dome-like temples intended to display arabesque work in rich patterns. Panels are introduced into some of these fanciful erections . . . boldly chased in gold and silver, silver supplying the strong lights.”23

 

Bradley & Hubbard made clocks throughout the company’s years of operation. In the 1880s it carried a line of mantel clocks with “enameled imitation marble cases and eight-day strike movements.” A host of cultures inspired the decoration of the objects, as clock names in the company’s catalogue demonstrate—La France, Egypt, Nero, Spain, Nile, and Pompeii.24

 

Bradley & Hubbard tables commonly incorporate ceramic tiles and cylinders such as those made by the Longwy Faience Company. Longwy’s enameled-glazed earthenware, characterized by vivid colors on a turquoise ground, was especially popular. The decorative motifs, including meandering vines and flowers, were derived from Japanese designs, which were freely mixed with Chinese, Persian, and Moorish elements. Other companies also supplied the ceramics that were mounted in brass, including Gien, another French faience manufacturer founded in 1821, as well as Minton and Company located in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England.25

 

NG

 

7. The development of the brass industry in Connecticut is well documented. For more indepth information, see William G. Lathrop, The Brass Industry in the United States: A Study of the Origin and the Development of

the Brass Industry in the Naugatuck Valley and Its Subsequent Extension over the Nation (Mount Carmel, Conn.: William G. Lathrop, 1926) and Michael John Everett, “External Economies and Inertia: The Rise and Decline of the Naugatuck Valley Brass Industry,” (Ph.D. diss., University of Connecticut, 1997).

 

8. U.S. Census Office, Census Bulletin, Statistics of Manufactures: 1890. City of Waterbury, Connecticut (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Interior, November 1892), 3.

 

9. U.S. Census Office, Census Bulletin, Statistics of Manufactures: 1890. City of Meriden,

Connecticut (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Interior, March 1893), 3.

 

10. Expansion of the brass industry in the early decades of the nineteenth century made the use of copper scrap impractical. The raw materials were then both imported from England.

 

11. Lead, tin, or antimony is sometimes added to the mixture to produce brass “of a quality suited to peculiar work.” Horace Greeley et al., The Great Industries of the United States, Being an Historical Summary of the Origin, Growth and Perfection of the Chief Industrial Arts of This Country (Hartford, Conn.: J. B. Burr and Hyde, 1872), 1052. The manufacture of brass consists or two major steps. Raw materials— zinc and copper—are smelted and then rolled to form sheet brass or cast in a mold.

 

12. Lathrop, Brass Industry, 40, 86, 104.

 

13. Ibid., 48.

 

14. For a further discussion of the development of localized economies in Connecticut, see Everett, “External Economies.”

 

15. Lathrop, Brass Industry, 13, 86–87.

 

16. Ibid., 91.

 

17. Ibid., 71.

 

18. Everett, “External Economies,” 176

 

19. Gerald Studley, Connecticut the Industrial Incubator (New York: The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, History and Heritage Committee, Hartford Section, 1981), 41.

 

20. The American Brass Association, formed in 1853 by ten Connecticut brass firms, was one of the earliest organizations of its kind. “The first agreement attempted to reduce competition by setting uniform prices and production quotas for the member firms.” Cecelia Bucki et al., Metal, Minds and Machines: Waterbury at Work (Waterbury, Conn.: Mattatuck Historical Society, 1980), 22.

 

21. Lathrop, Brass Industry, 74.

 

22. “A Century of Brass Making,” The Metal Industry with which Are Incorporated the Aluminum World: Copper and Brass: The Brass Founder and Finishers: Electro-Platers

Review (August 1922; reprint, Waterbury, Conn.: American Brass Company, n.d.).

 

23. “Ad valorem” is defined as a duty placed on goods based on a certain percentage rate of their value, as opposed to a sum charged based on a specific quantity of goods.

 

24. “Peck’s Patent Improved Machines for Manufacturing Tin, Sheet Iron, Brass and Copperwares” (Broadside), 1846, collection of the Connecticut Historical Society.

During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Meriden, Connecticut, was a center for mass-produced silverplated and base metalwares. Faddish "an brass goods," including lamps, mirrors, small tables, stands, easels, umbrella stands, trays, jewel caskets, and handkerchief boxes, were produced by companies such as Bradley & Hubbard Manufacturing Company, Charles Parker Company, Meriden Britannia Company, and Matthews & Willard Company, all located in or near Meriden.(1) Surviving company catalogues illustrate furniture forms ranging from elaborate tables constructed of tubular brass with "gold and steel finish"-offered with a combination of porcelain tops, hammered metal surfaces, and cast and applied ornaments-to under­ stated stands with unadorned tubular leg supports and marble tops enclosed by simple brass frames.(2)

The stand in the MWPI collection is featured on the back cover of Bradley & Hubbard Manufacturing Company's circa 1880 catalogue.(3) Bradley & Hubbard, established in 1854 in West Meriden, marketed its goods in catalogues and in New York, Boston, and Chicago retail outlets.(4) The company's display at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia communicated the scope of its production-"gas and lamp chandeliersbronze and other styles of jewel-cases, inkstands, match-safes ...jardinieres, stand with painted vases, and cardtables in gold, silver, and other bronzes.(5)

The MWPI stand well represents the character of decorative furniture produced by art metal companies in the 1870s and 1880s. Most of these wares incorporated the

design motifs associated with the aesthetic movement , a reform campaign that sought to elevate the status of everyday objects by fusing art and labor in the creation of utilitarian wares.(6) Advocates of the movement promoted various artistic expressions such as modern Gothic (see cat. nos. 43, 44) and Anglo-Japanesque (see cat. no. 49). Most aesthetic-style furniture, however, shares basic characteristics-simple, architectural, often angular out­ lines and two-dimensional naturalistic ornamentation.

Expressive of an owner's sense of fashionable taste, this stand- with a combination of stylish design and ornamentation, color and reflective surfaces- served as an accent piece, adding richness to a high-style interior. The MWPI stand is a typical mass-produced American interpretation of aesthetic principles. In an attempt to make a utilitarian item a work of art, it parades sundry ornamentation. Individual  elements-machine-stamped parts  formed  from  brass  sheets  and a  tubular  brass framework-screw  together  to create the stand. Sharp angles are counterbalanced by polychromatic ceramics, textured details, and light-diffusing surfaces. The geometric reductions of plant life to two dimensions parallel the rigid structure of the stand, while the botanical motifs contrast with the reductionist characteristics of mass production.

The floral enhancements illustrate the influence of naturalistic design popularized by English ornamentalist Christopher Dresser (1834-1904). Floral images, impressed into brass, decorate the frame around the tile top, the cylindrical and semispherical sections of the body, and the feet. The smooth, raised floral depictions are set against a stippled, matte ground to capitalize on the illuminating character of brass. A four-paneled pierced basket supports the pedestal top; four free­ standing brass flowers branch out just below the top. The naturalistic motifs, appropriate for a plant stand, are echoed in the stylized design on the polychromatic ceramic elements.

The obscured mark on the base of the cylindrical ceramic element indicates it was made by the Longwy Faience Company (active 1798 to present) in Longwy, France, and imported into the United States. Other examples of this type of stand utilize a variety of ceramics from various makers.(7)




1. The Matthews & Willard Co., Price List of Art Brass Goods (Waterbury, Conn.: The Matthews & Willard Co., 1886), Printed Books and Periodical Collection, Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, Winterthur, Del.

 

2. The Meriden Britannia Co., The Meriden Britannia Silver-plate Treasury Meriden, Conn.: Meriden Britannia, 1886-87), collection of the Meriden Historical Society, Meriden, Conn.

 

3. This illustration was discovered by Hyman Myers. I would like to thank Ulysses Dietz of the Newark Museum for alerting me to it.

 

4. In 1854 Nathaniel L. Bradley (b. 1829) and Walter Hubbard (b. 1828) founded the business. Bradley and  Hubbard  Mfg.  Co. was organized in 1875 and operated until 1940, when it was purchased by   the Charles Parker Co. C. Bancroft Gillespie, A Century of Meriden, "The Silver City" (Meriden, Conn.: Journal Publishing Co., 1906), p. 65. I wish to acknowledge Allen Weathers, curator of the Meriden Historical Society, for his assistance.

 

5. Souvenir of the Centennial Exhibition: or, Connecticut's Representation at Philadelphia, 1876 (Hartford, Conn.: Ceo. D. Curt is, 1877), p. 106.

 

6. For an in-depth discussion of the aesthetic movement, see Doreen Bolger Burke, Jonathan Freedman, Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen et al., In Pursuit of Beauty Americans and the Aesthetic Movement (New York: Rizzoli and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1986).

 

7. Similar stands are in the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, N.Y.; the Newark Museum, Newark, NJ; and the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Conn. Although the tiles on the Newark example were made by Minton and Company, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England, they were probably retailed by Meriden Flint Glass Company. See Burke et al., In Pursuit of Beauty, p. 281.