Unusual Victorian butter dish still valuable
04/20/2014 12:00 AM
04/17/2014 7:49 PM
Q: This butter dish was given to my grandmother over 50 years ago. It is 5 inches in diameter. The markings on the bottom part of the metal are “Rogers Smith & Co.” with “Meriden Ct, Quadruple, 7, USA.” Are you able to give us any information on this piece?
A: This is a very beautiful, and most unusual butter dish. From the very beginning, we had to ask ourselves whether or not these two pieces began life together, and judging by the way the glass lid and the quadruple silver-plated base fit together, we have come to the firm conclusion that they were originally made to go together.
It is seldom that we see a butter dish with a glass dome top and a silver-plated base because it is far more usual to find butter dishes that are either all silver plate or all glass. Finding a butter dish with a glass top and a metal base is a surprise — and a nice one at that.
The markings on the base tell us that this part of the duo was made by Rogers, Smith & Co., which was founded on Jan. 1, 1857 by William Rogers Sr. and George W. Smith. Unfortunately, the partnership soon experienced financial difficulty and they had to consolidate with the Rogers Bros. Manufacturing Co.
This lasted for a short while until the flatware division was sold to the Meriden Britannia Co. in August of 1862. Edward Mitchell tried to make a go of the hollowware portion of Rogers, Smith & Co., but on Jan. 13, 1863, Meriden gobbled up this division too.
There is a great deal of more history that goes along with this company, but the pieces marked “Meriden Ct” (for Meriden, Conn.) were made between the early 1880s and about 1918. Another reference gives the dates of Rogers, Smith & Co. being in Meriden as between 1877 and 1898, but whichever is correct, this butter dish was made no earlier than the 1880s or 1890s (the “USA” part of the mark would suggest a post-1891 date of manufacture).
There is some question in our minds as to who made the beautifully hand painted top for this piece. The glass itself is called “Rubina,” meaning that the glass shades from cranberry/red at the top to clear glass at the bottom. (Note: If it had shaded from cranberry/red at the top to green at the bottom, this is called “Rubina Verde.”)
We think there are probably three possibilities for whom the maker of the glass might have been. Our glass specialist thinks the New England Glass Co. of Cambridge, Mass., is the probable manufacturer, but we think it also could be either the Hobbs Brockunier Co. of Wheeling, W.Va., or the long shot of the trio, the Mt. Washington Glass Co. of New Bedford, Mass.
Whichever of these three was responsible, they ordered the base from the Meriden Britannia (i.e. Rogers, Smith and Co.), hand blew and then hand painted the dome, fitted the two pieces together and sold them — probably to a retailer.
We think you might want to polish the silver plate (the condition looks good enough to take a careful polishing with a nonabrasive polish) because the raised floral design around the edge might be really lovely and accentuate the floral enameling of the top.
It is a shame that this sort of glass is out of fashion with most collectors, but still, even on a depressed market, this butter dish should be valued in the $350 to $450 range.
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