Explore a diverse collection of nearly 700 objects created by The Gorham Manufacturing Company, the Rhode Island-based firm that was once the world’s largest maker of silver, in special exhibition Gorham Silver: Designing Brilliance, 1850–1970 on view at the Cincinnati Art Museum March 13–June 7, 2020. 

This exhibition explores works created during the company’s heyday (1850–1970), along with original tools, design drawings and several Gorham pieces from the Cincinnati Art Museum’s permanent collection, including a monumental centerpiece with mermaids made for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and a space-age-inspired1960s coffee and tea service. 

This dazzling presentation of exceptional silver and mixed-metal wares casts new light on the legacy of Gorham and reflects the industry, artistry, innovation and technological advances of the manufactory for 120 years. Among the showstoppers from the exhibition: a 1903 art nouveau Martelé writing table and chair that incorporates 50 pounds of silver with exotic woods and took over 10,000 hours to complete.

Established in 1831, Gorham rose from a small firm to become the largest silver company in the world, placing uniquely American design on the international stage. Creating everything from commissioned presentation pieces to masterpieces for the dining room, Gorham responded to the era’s desire to celebrate, feast, socialize, honor and simply enjoy the everyday in style. 

Gorham was perhaps best known for innovating the use of the steam-powered drop press in its operations, but mechanization was always accompanied by meticulous handwork. The company’s influence in the United States and around the world hit full stride in 1850 (as the exhibition title indicates). After her husband’s presidential inauguration, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln chose a handsome Gorham tea and coffee service for use in the White House. 

Tickets for Gorham Silver are free for museum members. Tickets will soon be available for purchase by the general public at the Cincinnati Art Museum front desk and online at cincinnatiartmuseum.org.

The museum is open Tuesday–Sunday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. and Thursday, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.  cincinnatiartmuseum.org.

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