Artists & Designers

William C. Codman (1839-1921)

Born in Norfolk, England on Christmas Day, 1839, William Christmas Codman (1839-1921) began his career in England as an ecclesiastical designer, producing Gothic Revival style pieces in a variety of media for abbeys and cathedrals from Ottowa to Delhi. In 1891, Gorham Manufacturing Company of Providence, Rhode Island founded an ecclesiastical design department, prompting management to search for a designer with experience in the field. In 1891, Gorham hired Codman as chief designer, a position he held for a quarter of a century. After his arrival, Codman spent his first two years developing objects for Gorham's display at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. His enameled and bejeweled designs included the Nautilus Centerpiece influenced by Classical, Renaissance, and Beaux Arts traditions. During his tenure, Codman was responsible for the design of a majority of objects in Gorham's displays in world's fairs, including those in Paris, Turin, and St. Louis. A prolific and versatile designer, Codman developed silver patterns and lines both mass-produced and hand-crafted. He designed no fewer than fifty-five flatware patterns, including Chantilly (1895), reportedly the most popular flatware pattern ever made. His most famous contribution to the company, however, was Martelé, a line of Art Nouveau style furniture and holloware raised and chased by hand. By 1900, the year of the debut of the Martelé line at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, Codman's annual salary of $6,000 equaled that of the company's president Edward Holbrook. In 1914, at the age of seventy-five, William C. Codman left Gorham and returned to England, where he died in 1921. With such achievements, it leaves little doubt that William C. Codman was in large part responsible for the continued acclaim that Gorham received at home and abroad between 1891 and 1914.

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), 155-156.

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