Artists & Designers

Wood & Hughes (American, 1845-1899)

In 1833, silversmiths Jacob Wood and Joseph Hughes left the firm of William Gale, Sr. eventually forming their own firm, aptly named Wood & Hughes. The Gale and the Wood & Hughes firms grew to be, for a time, the largest manufacturers of silverware in the country. The Industrial Census of the State of New York for 1855 reports that Wood & Hughes produced an annual product of $225,000 and employed 105 individuals. The outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 seriously threatened the existence of the firm since, like many other New York and Philadelphia firms, they had a great many southern accounts which were suddenly uncollectible. Soon thereafter, however, the northern economic boom created by the Civil War enabled Wood & Hughes to survive and even prosper.

This Wood & Hughes firm produced a full line of table silverware, including numerous ornamental patterns of flatware. Many of these were patented by Charles F. Richers, who was likely chief designer during the 1860s and 1870s. A number of Wood & Hughes's flatware designs were also patented by Charles Witteck, who worked for them for a period following dissolution of the Beiderhase firm.

In 1891 the Wood & Hughes building suffered a disastrous fire from which the company never fully recovered. The fire resulted in the "loss of records, models and patterns." In 1899 the partners made it known that they wished to sell out. At that time, Mr. Frost of Black, Starr & Frost suggested to Clarence A. Dunn that he, along with his other young friends, Charles Graff and William L. Washbourne, form a partnership to buy out Wood & Hughes. Frost assured them that his prestigious retail outlet wanted a special relationship with a good silverware manufacturer. This was evidently true since large amounts of Black, Starr & Frost silver bears the manufacturing logo of Graff, Washbourne & Dunn. Also, much of the silver retailed by Black, Starr & Frost shows stylistic evidence of having been produced in the Graff, Washbourne & Dunn shops, although it lacks the firm's manufacturing mark.

Adapted from

  • Charles L. Venable, Silver in America, 1840-1940: A Century of Splendor (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Museum of Art; New York, New York; Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1994), 324.