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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:597 1830-1931

Reed & Barton additional records

Overview

The Reed & Barton Additional Records document the history of the Taunton, Massachusetts, silversmith company from the 1850s to 2008.

Dates

  • 1795-2008 and undated

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials stored offsite; access requires advance notice. Please contact specialcollectionsref@hbs.edu for more information on access procedures and reproduction services.

Extent

336 linear feet (163 volumes, 151 cartons, 29 boxes)
81.9 Gigabytes (1 digitized video file)

The Reed & Barton Additional Records document the history of the Taunton, Massachusetts, silversmith company from the 1850s to 2008. The collection includes an extensive series of administrative records: account books (financial and production,) 1851-1996; board of directors records, 1902-2007; operational records documenting the company’s business activities, circa 1860-2007; financial statements, 1978-2007; sales team records, 1940-1991; and records of several Reed & Barton subsidiaries, circa 1880s-1956. Another series contains The Silver Lining, Reed & Barton’s employee newsletter, and the photographs and other materials used to produce it, 1942-2001. An extensive set of Reed & Barton trades catalogs and other publications documents the company’s marketing and advertising efforts, 1877-2008. The product information files series, 1873-2007, also contains extensive information about the evolution of Reed & Barton’s product line over its many years in business. Also included are series containing audiovisual materials produced by Reed & Barton, and photographs of Reed & Barton products, facilities, and operations.

Biographical / Historical

Founded in Taunton, Massachusetts, in 1824, Reed & Barton was a silver manufacturer that produced silverware, flatware, and other silver goods and giftware. The firm was known as Babbitt and Crossman before apprentices Henry G. Reed and Charles E. Barton took over in 1840. Descendants of Henry G. Reed remained a key part of the ownership and leadership of Reed & Barton until it ceased operations in 2015.

The firm began as a manufacturer of Britannia ware, a form of pewter popular during the early 1800s century, before shifting to silver plate by mid-century. As the price of silver declined in the late 19th century and sterling silver became more widely affordable, Reed & Barton began manufacturing product in sterling in addition to silver plate.

Reed & Barton developed a reputation for manufacturing high quality, elegantly designed products, winning numerous awards in the late 19th century. Under the direction of Henry G. Reed’s son in law, William B. H. Dowse, who became president in 1901, Reed & Barton expanded its product line and modernized it manufacturing facilities in Taunton. In 1905, the company opened its first retail store on Fifth Avenue in New York City.

In addition to its high-end sterling silver service and trophies, Reed & Barton’s early 20th product lines included hotel ware and a growing consumer line. Dowse’s son in law, Sinclair Weeks Sr., became president in 1923 and led the company for the next fifty years.

During World War II, Reed & Barton shifted its manufacturing focus to products required for the war effort. It manufactured silver holloware for the U. S. Navy, as well as stainless steel flatware for the Army and Navy. The company also developed a Surgical Instruments Division, which produced medical instruments for military use.

The immediate post war era saw an expansion in Reed & Barton’s sterling silverware and giftware business. During the 1950s and 1960s, sales were boosted by the growing economy, the weddings and births so common in the Baby Boom era, and the popularity of formal entertaining.

In 1971, Weeks was succeeded as president by his son, Sinclair Weeks, Jr. Though Reed & Barton’s business remained strong in the 1970s and 1980s, fluctuations in the price of silver, the practice of deep discounting in the retail market, and changing consumer tastes all had an impact. As the sale of silver tableware declined, Reed & Barton began to diversify, adding housewares and more extensive giftware lines.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Reed & Barton began to shift its business focus from manufacturing to product development and distribution. Albert D. Krebel succeeded Sinclair Weeks, Jr., as Reed & Barton’s president in 1987. Beginning with stainless steel products in the 1990s, the company began to cease its manufacturing operations in Taunton, outsourcing to manufacturing vendors in Asia. During the 1990s Reed & Barton undertook licensing agreements with other companies, such as Waterford and Royal Doulton, in which it distributed china and crystal products in the United States.

The company continued to produce its high-end sterling silver products, and maintained a reputation for quality. A high point came in 1996 when it was selected to manufacture the medals awarded to athletes at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. However, the decline in the company’s fortunes continued during the early 21st century. Manufacturing operations ended in the Taunton factory. In 2015, Reed & Barton declared bankruptcy, and its assets were liquidated after 191 years in business.

Arrangement

The collection is organized into six series: Series I: Administrative records; Series II: The Silver Lining newsletter and supporting materials; Series III: Trade catalogs and other publications ;Series IV: Product information files; Series V: Audiovisual materials; and Series VI: Photographs.

Physical Location

MANU

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Reed & Barton Bankruptcy Trustee, 2016

Related Materials

The Reed & Barton Additional Records are directly related to Baker Library’s original Reed & Barton collection, received as a donation from the company in 1940 and 1943. The original collection dates from 1828 to 1931. The 1940s donation includes daybooks, journals, ledgers, cashbooks, accounts, trial balances, notes and bills receivable, inventories, time books, payrolls, 12 boxes of unbound papers, including a brief typewritten history of the company, and inventories of the New York, San Francisco and Chicago offices, 1902-1918. In addition there are some 200 illustrated catalogs and 17 scrapbooks.

Processing Information

Processed: November 2019 By: Timothy Mahoney

Processing Information

Optical disc 15368754310_OD_0001 was reviewed and deaccessioned from the collection in 2022.

Creator

Author
Baker Library
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
eng
EAD ID
bak00871

Repository Details

Part of the Baker Library Special Collections and Archives, Harvard Business School Repository

Baker Library Special Collections and Archives holds unique resources that focus on the evolution of business and industry, as well as the records of the Harvard Business School, documenting the institution's development over the last century. These rich and varied collections support research in a diverse range of fields such as business, economic, social and cultural history as well as the history of science and technology.

Contact:
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