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Silver Nutmeg Graters By Gorham Mfg. Company

Jabez GorhamIn 1818, Jabez Gorham (1792~1869) began business in a one room shop as a jeweler in precious metals. In 1831, he founded what later became the famous Gorham Manufacturing Company of Providence RI. Across many decades, periodic reorganizing among partners lead to the firm's various name changes.

John Gorham (1820~1898) entered business with his father in 1841 and the firm became Jabez Gorham and Son. Jabez Gorham retired about 1847. John Gorham partnered with his cousin, Gorham Thurber (1825~1888) in 1850 as Gorham & Thurber. In 1852, the firm became Gorham & Co. when a third cousin Lewis Dexter (1829~1909) briefly joined the partnership. Between 1865 to 1961, the name Gorham Manufacturing Company was a giant in the world of silver.
                  Gorham Factory

Although Gorham maintained abundant records, documentation for any of their silver nutmeg graters is lacking. Possibly, Gorham & Thurber produced an ellipsoid (melon~shaped) nutmeg grater about 1850.

Gorham Thurber Nutmeg GraterNon-Gorham Thurber Silver Nutmeg Grater with clover shamrock markThe origin of the ellipsoid shaped (melon~shaped) nutmeg grater dates to England in the 1830s. In 1829, John Taylor & John Perry became silversmiths in Birmingham England. They produced exquisite small silver items [including but not limited to: etuis, snuff boxes, vinaigrettes, caddy spoons, wine labels, etc.] Taylor & Perry produced nutmeg graters in a variety of styles. One confirmed Taylor & Perry ellipsoid nutmeg grater is date marked 1831, and an unconfirmed internet listing claims an another example dated 1832. The creation of this ellipsoid form seems linked to the emerging technology of its time. Other silver manufacturers soon duplicated this design which evolved as a common form, seen well into the 20th century.

A possible (but unlikely) Gorham & Thurber nutmeg grater bears the mark "G & T" (Fig A2). The font closely resembles Gorham & Thurber's customary Times-New Roman lettering style (Fig A1). Located inside, the "G & T" mark was applied to the front edge of an internal rim; yet, an unidentified clover mark is applied outside on the front, top cover. According to Samuel Hough {Correspondence 2008: Samuel Hough, The Owl at the Bridge, Cranston, RI.}, "From the 1850s to about 1898, Gorham coded its hollowware with numbers;" thus, the clover mark seems a confusing enigma. Further drawing this mark into question as a Gorham item, a second example (Fig A3), bears the clover mark in combination with a maker's mark "T J", as well as a third example (not seen here) bearing a clover mark in combination with the maker's mark "JT" [sold at auction ROGO Auction 12/9/2006].  Finally, the "G & T" clover marked nutmeg grater is of a smaller scale in comparison with the later confirmed ellipsoid (melon~shaped) examples by the Gorham Manufacturing Company. Although additional study is required to confirm or refute this example (Fig A2) as being a product of Gorham & Thurber, it now appears a doubtful attribution.   [Updated ~ January 2015]

About mid-century, the Gorham Manufacturing Company introduced its three symbol mark; using a lion (indicating silver), an anchor (to represent Rhode Island as largely an area of sea ports) and a capital G (as an abbreviation for Gorham).Gorham Mark's Marks Gorham Melon Maker's Mark Pattern 5 Enlarged   When improved silver refining technology impacted the silver industry, in 1868, Gorham MFG Co. became one of the first American firms instituting the "sterling silver standard" to replace its older "coin silver standard." Also beginning 1868, this firm instituted a system of "date mark" symbols to designate each year of fabrication. [NOTE: The "date mark" symbols with their corresponding dates are shown to the right; within the "Gorham Maker's Mark" chart.]  In addition to a "date mark" (if used), products were usually marked with a Pattern Number, and the word Sterling.

Gorham cylinder nutmeg graterGorham Manufacturing Company created at least two confirmed forms of nutmeg graters.

FORM 1:
In 1895, Gorham produced their neoclassical cylinder nutmeg grater with drop~away, double hinged covers (Fig B1). The maker's marks on this (Fig B2) consist of the right~facing lion, the anchor, and the letter "G" (in an Old-English font), the pattern number "10", and the half-moon symbol represents the production period as 1895. Notice, the word "sterling" is absent. These nutmeg graters are rare, but not unique. A few are known, indicating that Gorham created them as a small batch lot.

Gorham ellipsoid nutmeg graters Gorham Melon Pattern 5 Enlarged

FORM 2 [ Style A (Fig C3) & Style B (Fig C5) ]:
For decades, Gorham Manufacturing Company produced an ellipsoid nutmeg grater in the shape of an eight-lobed melon. Based on outward appearances, all are identical and indistinguishable from each other (although the rear hinge designs sometimes vary) (Fig C1 & C2). While some examples bear specific "date marks," most do not. Regarding undated examples, differences in the design styling among Gorham maker's marks contribute as circumstantial corroboration to establish a period
of manufacture. There are two sub-types, distinguishable by the method in attachment of the internal grater.

The Inside Right~Sided Hinge Style (Fig C3):
The earliest ellipsoid nutmeg grater in this study was determined using Carpenter's index of "Gorham Marks" (Gorham Silver, page 228, Fig 12). Charles H. Carpenter writes: "Flatware and small pieces of hollow ware of the 1850-1865 period occasionally made use of a lion that appears to be standing straight up on its rear haunches" (page 227). The lion-anchor-G mark shown by Carpenter is identical to the mark on this nutmeg grater (Fig C4). However, in contradiction to Carpenter's dates, this nutmeg grater is also impressed "sterling," probably indicating a later fabrication; not earlier than circa 1868.

This Gorham nutmeg grater features the pattern number "5" and has two hinges (the covers are hinged in back and the grater plate is hinged separately on the right side). Notice that below the pattern number "5" is a "round cypher" mark (Fig C4); "cypher" marks are more typical on Gorham silver of the 1850~1860's and are absent from later sterling.

The Gorham ellipsoid nutmeg grater with pattern number "5" is very rare.

The Inside Rear Hinge Style (Fig C5):
The second configuration, usually marked using the pattern number "6", is constructed where both top and bottom covers, plus the internal grater, pivot around a single rear hinge. This study shows "date marked" examples for 1870, 1890, 1903, 1908 and 1909. [We remain interested to photograph examples with additional "date marks" from our viewers; please keep us in mind!]  According to Samuel Hough {Correspondence 2008: Samuel Hough, The Owl at the Bridge, Cranston, RI.}, "after 1898, and until 1932, Gorham used an 'A' prefix for sterling silver tableware and the 'B' prefix for non tablewares."   Examples within this study conform with "B6" marked on the nutmeg graters bearing date marks after 1898.

Most later Gorham melon shape nutmeg graters were marked using a single row "lion-anchor-G STERLING B6" (Fig C5), which probably dates their manufacture after 1909. Although none of these Gorham nutmeg graters are common, examples with the single row mark are more available for collecting.

Although the exact date when Gorham introduced or discontinued their ellipsoid form nutmeg grater remains uncertain, it's production period spans more than 30 years.

The Gorham Buildings for retail sales. Gorham Store 1884 New York City  Gorham Store New York City 1904   
                                                                                                                                                                                   [KLOPFER article © September 2013]