Artists & Designers

William Bogert (American, active 1839-1881)

William Bogert (d. 1881) was one of at least three silversmithing sons of Nicholas I. Bogert and the one who achieved the most prominence in the American silverware industry. Little is known of his early history. Even the year of his birth is not certain. Evidence suggests he is the "William Bogert, silversmith," working in Albany in the late 1830s and the early 1840s. From there he left to work in New York City with William Forbes, a member of the extensive Forbes silversmithing family. Because the Bogerts and the Forbes were tied together by marriage in at least two instances, and because William's father, Nicholas, had apprenticed with W. G. Forbes in earlier years, this move is not surprising. Furthermore, William Van Gilder Forbes, another of the Forbes family silversmiths, is buried in the Bogert family plot in St. Andrew's Cemetery, near Walden, New York.

By the mid 1850s, Bogert relocated to Newburgh, New York, going into business with John Gordon, his brother-in-law and a former apprentice of his father. At the beginning there was another partner named Eaton. It is reported that the partnership was not particularly successful, and after a time, Bogert became the sole proprietor. Nevertheless, during this period he and his partners were producing items for some of the leading retail houses, including Ball, Black & Co.

Some of Bogert's most important work was undoubtedly done when he returned to New York City in 1866. Here he bought out the estate of Charles Grosjean, a leading silversmith who had produced heavily for Tiffany & Co. At this time his firm was styled William Bogert & Co., the "& Co." being Bernard D. Beiderhase. Beiderhase was a talented designer and silversmith in his own right and was already a partner in the prominent firm of John R. Wendt & Co. Bogert assumed Grosjean's former role, producing exclusively for Tiffany & Co. and manufacturing expensive, high-end silverware. Often figural in style and generally heavy in weight, it frequently was decorated with exquisitely detailed castings. In 1869 Tiffany & Co. formed its own silver works, and many of its former suppliers, including Bogert, were cast aside.

By the 1870s, William had entered into a partnership with one of the other giants of the New York City silversmithing scene—John Polhamus. Their relationship was not a happy one, since Bogert later sued Polhamus. Polhamus died in 1877, shortly after judgment was ruled against him. Bogert followed a few short years later, passing on Christmas Day, 1881. A curious memorial still exists—a four-sided, silver-tipped, brass-bodied, wooden-based pyramid—which bears the inscription "In Memory of William Bogert, a true friend and faithful artisan, whose work was excelled by no silversmith of his day. This model pyramid is a part of his work made shortly before his death December 25, 1881." This piece is in a private collection.

Adapted from

Charles L. Venable, Silver in America 1840-1940: A Century of Splendor (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1994), 316.