The Gorham Manufacturing Company is one of the largest American manufacturers of sterling and silverplate and a foundry for bronze sculpture.
Gorham Silver was founded in Providence, Rhode Island, 1831 by Jabez Gorham, a master craftsman, in partnership with Henry L. Webster. The firm’s chief product was spoons of coin silver. The company also made thimbles, combs, jewelry, and other small items. In 1842, the Congress enacted a tariff which effectively blocked the importation of silverware from outside the United States, which aided the American silver industry. Jabez Gorham did not take full advantage of this opportunity, but in 1847 Jabez retired and his son, John Gorham succeeded him as head of the company. John Gorham introduced mechanized production methods, enlarged the premises in downtown Providence, improved the designs, and expanded the product line. In 1852, Gorham toured many of Europe’s silver workshops and manufacturers, speaking with individual specialists, including master craftsmen and toolmakers. He sought highly skilled foreign workmen to train his American workers and hired George Wilkinson, a premier designer and workshop manager, from England. Gorham soon gained acclaim, selected by Mary Todd Lincoln for the White House in 1859. Beginning in 1863, Gorham became a powerhouse in plated silver, and it left coin silver behind for sterling silver in 1868.
In 1865, the Rhode Island legislature granted a charter in the name of Gorham Manufacturing Company and in 1890, the company relocated to a factory on Adelaide Avenue in Providence. Currently the company is owned by Department 56 in a Lenox holdings transaction.