Gaslighting in America
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Fellows, Hoffman and Company chandelier illustrated as no. 103 in plate 39, 1857-1859. Plate 40

If one may judge from the lithographic illustrations of the catalogue, this chandelier, shown in no. 103 on the preceding plate, is as fine in quality and elaborate in design as any made by Fellows, Hoffman and Company. The finish is dark bronze with gilded accents. The forms are decidedly Neo-Rococo, with pronounced C-scrolls on the branches. The vogue for figurines clustered about the stem persisted to the end of the 1850s. The shape of the globes is appropriate for the date of the fixture, as well as the etched arcade motif. However, it was unusual to paint the main supporting pipe white or any other color. Normally, it would have been brass pipe lacquered or iron pipe masked by a lacquered brass sleeve. This fine Fellows and Hoffman fixture now hangs in the library of Fountain Elms, an 1850 house museum administered by the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute in Utica, New York.

Courtesy of Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica, New York. (click on image for a PDF version)

Gas pendants from the 1856 Starr, Fellows and Company catalogue. Plate 41

The reading pendants on this plate illustrate that the "stands" attached to a chandelier by flexible tube were by no means the only type of reading light in use during the 1850s. It may be recalled that the lamp referred to in plate 32 was attached by rigid brass tubing like that of which most of the pendants shown here are made. The numbered "slides" were not water-sealed and had no counterweights. Instead, the seal was maintained by the use of cork.

Courtesy of Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, Massachusetts. (click on image for a PDF version)

Brackets and hall pendants from the 1856 Starr, Fellows and Company catalogue. Plate 42

The brackets shown here were designed to allow flexible positioning of the light. All would swing left or right, and several had two or three-sectioned jointed arms. No. 3 (upper middle) had a universal joint at the juncture of the two sections to allow adjustment to any angle. As noted in the discussion of plate 6, jointed branches were often used on bedroom brackets to get light close to mirrors.

The George Washington Whittemore House, formerly in Cambridge, Massachusetts, had a hall pendant of the harp type somewhat like no. 100. The shade of the Whittemore pendant was identical with ones shown on Starr, Fellows and Company bracket no. 40 (not illustrated here). However, attribution by shade design is not advisable as it is probable that the shades were supplied by the glassmakers to various manufacturers of gas fixtures rather than exclusively to one firm.

Courtesy of Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, Massachusetts. (click on image for a PDF version)

Various fixtures from Fellows, Hoffman and Company catalogue, 1857-1859. Plate 43

Fixtures nos. 1, 2, 6, and 240 were probably fixed "pillars" rather than lamps or movable "stands." They look too unstable to have served safely as lamps. The seated putto on the birdlike bracket no. 80 (upper left) and his twins on bracket no. 259 (upper middle) would not have had the approval of the critics writing in 1854, who believed that "little figures perched just above the branches . . . violate a fundamental law of decorative art, that all ornamentation should rise out of construction and belong to it." [75] The unnumbered bracket (top center) and nos. 261, 263 (lower center) all share a lily-of-the-valley motif. The hall pendant no. 147 (lower right) and the chandelier no. 100 (upper right) are designated in another place as new designs. The latter is similar to no. 103, shown on plates 39 and 40. Shades of the shape shown on nos. 80, 90, and 100 do not appear after the 1850s. It may also be noted that no fixtures in the entire gas section of the catalogue have the decorative chains that were so commonly used during the 1840s.

Courtesy of Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, Massachusetts. (click on image for a PDF version)

Brass fittings from Starr, Fellows and Company catalogue, 1856. Plate 44

It is a safe assumption that any unrestored gas fixtures having one or more of the parts shown here was made by Starr, Fellows and Company or Fellows, Hoffman and Company. The use of parts such as these was continued by most companies without change of design (but with the addition of new designs) until the end of the gas era. Although the use by each company of its own designs makes attribution easier, it is not safe to attempt the dating of a given fixture by the presence of a fitting.

This plate of fittings is accompanied in the catalogue by a pedantic text:

Brass Gas Fittings. This designation is usually understood to include all the parts and pieces, which go to 'make up' a Gas Fixture; though in reality, it applies only to such joints and connections as are used to hold the pieces together; as Stiff Joints, Double Cocks, Bracket Cocks, Elbow Cocks, Straight Cocks, Pillar Cocks, Swivel Cocks, Top Swings, Centre Swings, Nipples, Connection Balls, Bushings, &c. The word Fittings should apply only to such Joints, &c. as are tapped with iron thread; and a few samples of these, and other kinds, are given on the following page [i.e., this plate]. The Top Swings, it will be seen, are made with iron thread at both ends, or iron at one, and brass thread at the other, as they are used respectively for iron or brass pipe. Gas Fittings, proper, are all tapped with iron thread; and all Joints, Swings, &c., with brass thread, belong to the Fixture department; but it is difficult to keep up the distinction, in the absence of any arbitrary rule to regulate the trade. Nor indeed is it necessary. . . .

Courtesy of Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, Massachusetts. (click on image for a PDF version)

Brackets from the Archer, Warner, Miskey and Company catalogue, 1857-1859. Plate 45

Another early major manufacturing firm was Archer and Warner, whose history is far more complex than that of the Starr, Fellows—Fellows, Hoffman firm. Founded in Philadelphia, the company had opened a New York branch by 1854. The branch's subsequent history diverged from that of the parent partnership on November 27, 1856, when the original partnership was joined by William F. Miskey to form Archer, Warner, Miskey and Company, a name and style retained until February 27, 1859. In that year, Ellis S. Archer left the company and went to New York. The Philadelphia firm became Warner, Miskey and Merrill, with Redwood F. Warner, William F. Miskey, and William O. B. Merrill as the partners. In 1866 Warner left the firm and Benjamin Thackera joined it to form Miskey, Merrill, and Thackera, a partnership that lasted until 1871. In 1872 Miskey and Merrill were no longer listed in the business section of the Philadelphia directories, and Benjamin Thackera was head of a new partnership. Some of Thackera's work will be discussed later. [76] In the New York City 1854 directory the firm was listed as Archer, Warner and Company. In 1858 the firm name was the same, but James B. Peck was listed as a partner. From 1859 until 1863 the firm was Warner Peck and Company with Miskey, and Merrill as partners. From 1863 through part of 1866, however, the firm operated under the name and style of Warner, Miskey and Merrill; by 1867 no New York listing appeared.

In the meantime, Archer had left Philadelphia and had formed in New York in 1859 or 1860 his own firm: Archer, Pancoast and Company. The original partners were Ellis S. Archer, George Pancoast, Norman L. Archer, and Anson Archer. In 1861 the partners were listed as Ellis S. and Norman L. Archer, Pancoast (New York), and William C. Ellison (Philadelphia) with Joseph J. Hull as a special partner of limited term. Archer, Pancoast and Company was styled the Archer and Pancoast Manufacturing Company in 1870 and was listed until 1901. [77] Between 1857 and 1859 Archer, Warner, Miskey, and Company commissioned the Philadelphia lithographer Peter S. Duval to execute over 40 handsome color plates illustrating their wares. Although the title of the resulting catalogue is Warner, Miskey and Merrill Patterns, the ornamental border of each plate carries the older firm name of "Archer, Warner, Miskey and Company."

All of the fixtures illustrated here (in plate 2 of Patterns) are elaborate, and all except the Gothic bracket are mid-century versions of the Rococo style. The colors represented are bronze (light and dark brownish-green in the original tint) and gilt (yellow and rust). Unfortunately, the prices pencilled throughout the catalogue no longer apply. At least one example, no. 698, may have been in stock for a number of years. As shown in the following plate, the pattern of its Gothic branches may have been designed as early as 1845.

Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Elisha Whittlesey Fund, 1958. (click on image for a PDF version)

Archer and Warner Gothic chandelier. Plate 46

This Gothic chandelier was originally in the John J. Brown House, built in 1845 in Portland, Maine. [78] Its branches are identical with those of the bracket no. 698 on the preceding plate, confirming the attribution of this chandelier, now in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, to Archer and Warner. Very few Gothic fixtures of the 1840s and 1850s appear to have been made in America. This surviving example is indeed a rarity. Note that the electrification of this fixture has been unfortunately accomplished by running the wire outside the branches instead of through them. It is admittedly more difficult to run wire through the rather constricted interior of a cast two-mold branch, but the result is worth the effort. Wire of small diameter can be chased through the curving and constricted path by the use of ball chain. Only an experienced electrician of demonstrated ability should be entrusted with this skilled task.

Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, 1967, Rogers Fund. (click on image for a PDF version)

Brackets from the Archer, Warner, Miskey and Company catalogue, 1857-1859. Plate 47

The colors of this lithograph of three Archer, Warner and Miskey brackets are two shades of brownish-green with highlights of yellow with shadings in brown. Clearly, these represent bronze finish with gilt accents. The brackets range from the lavish grape pattern one at the top, priced at $32, to the modestly scaled and comparatively simple example at the bottom, priced at $12 (cf., plates nos. 21, 22 and 23 of this report).

Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Elisha Whittlesey Fund, 1958. (click on image for a PDF version)

Rod-suspended chandeliers from the Archer, Warner, Miskey and Company catalogue, 1857-1859. Plate 48

Archer, Warner, Miskey and Company was, like Starr, Fellows and Company and other firms, engaged in producing fixtures of the rod-suspended type so popular during the 1850s, as shown here and in the catalogue page shown in plate 23. The rod-supported chandeliers of this period seem invariably to have had figurines above their bowls. Curiously, the three-light rod-suspended chandelier at the left (no. 4440) was more expensive ($25) than the four-light one (no. 4334, $18). Perhaps the difference represented the higher value of the heavy bronze branches of no. 4440 in comparison with the more ornate gilt branches on no. 4334, possibly made of cast-iron or perhaps white metal. Note that the putto on the right hand fixture holds an extra burner. The metal tassel high above his head adds verisimilitude to the rope motif of the stem and rods.

Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Elisha Whittlesey Fund, 1958. (click on image for a PDF version)

Elaborate chandelier from the Archer, Warner, Miskey and Company catalogue, 1857-1859. Plate 49

The style of this chandelier and of the previous rod-supported fixtures represent an eclectic blend of Neo-Renaissance, Neo-Baroque, and Neo-Rococo elements. This six-light example cost the then not inconsiderable sum of $75 and is as elaborate in design, though not as large, as any of the 1850s chandeliers made for domestic use. The finish was green-bronze and gilt. In quality of materials and workmanship, Archer and Warner and their rivals Cornelius and Baker led the field.

. . . in 1848 Mr. Archer became associated in partnership with Mr. Redwood F. Warner. Determining to place their house on a level at least with the best in the United States, they saw that this could be effected by merit alone; hence, their first effort was to present in their department of Art, novelty of design combined with superiority of finish and excellence of materials. Sensibly foreseeing that the growing taste in this country required to be fed, they obtained designers and modelers of the highest talents, to whom they paid liberal salaries, and encouraged them in every way to produce graceful and effective designs, for Lamps, Chandeliers, and Gas-fittings. No amount of money was considered by them extravagant, if it secured a valuable result. The consequence of this judiciously liberal expenditure soon became manifest. From an ordinary firm, with a limited capital, doing a moderate business, they sprang to a strong position among the first houses, in their trade, in the United States. Their work is admitted by all to be equal to that of any competitor [79] . . . the manufacture of Bronzes . . . I find has assumed, in Philadelphia, more imposing proportions, and a higher artistic character, than it possesses anywhere else in the country. Everybody . . . knows, of course, that the chandeliers, argands, and general gas-fittings of Cornelius & Baker and Archer & Warner are the only American articles of the kind which can sustain a comparison with the goods imported from Paris. [80]

The standing of the firm founded by Ellis S. Archer is attested by the fact that, although Cornelius and Baker were commissioned to light the new Senate and House wings of the U.S. Capitol, Archer, Warner and Miskey received the order to produce the 160-foot-long railings of the two Senate and two House private staircases. These bronze 3-foot-high railings are composed of lavish rinceaux, entwining figures of putti, deer, eagles, pigeons, and serpents executed in full relief from designs by Constantino Brumidi (1805-1880), the Capitol muralist. [81] The brass hemispheres capping the newel posts of three of the four stairways are inscribed "Warner, Miskey and Merrill/ Baudin, Artist/ Phil. 1859." The fourth is date 1858. Edmond Baudin was obviously a skillful sculptor, for whose services no amount of money was considered by them extravagant.

Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Elisha Whittlesey Fund, 1958. (click on image for a PDF version)

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Last Updated: 30-Nov-2007