Artists & Designers

William Gale, Sr. (American, 1799-1864)

Billheads and advertising cards of the William Gale, Sr. firm indicate that it was established in 1821 and was for a while perhaps the largest silverware manufacturer in the country. Evidence suggests that William Gale, Sr. (1799-1864), was related to silversmiths Jesse and John L. Gale, listed in the early nineteenth-century New York City directories. For example, cemetery records of the Gale family plot in Greenwood, Brooklyn, show a Jesse Gale who was relocated from a cemetery in Bloomingdale area of New York City, as well as a John Lee Gale, presumably a son, who died at the age of 18 years and 4 months.

On December 7 1826, William Gale, Sr. received a patent for roller dies which gave him leadership in the industry. His technique involved engraving patterns on steel rollers, which were then used to impress full designs on flatware. It rendered obsolete the older system of dies, similar to those used in a coining press, by creating a much less expensive and easier process for manufacturing ornamented spoons and forks. With such a product line, Gale was able to supply the likes of the prestigious Marquand & Co. of New York City and prominent jewelers in the South who catered to the southern elite. By the 1850s, Gale was a wealthy man, having made money not only in the silverware business but also as a result of his ventures in the rapidly rising New York real estate market. By the time he died in 1867, his estate was valued at several hundred thousand dollars, a sum which would translate into many millions today.

William Gale, Jr. (1825-1885) carried on a prosperous business for some time after his father's retirement and death. The Federal Industrial Census of 1870 for the partnership of Gale & Corning reports an annual product of $120,000 and thirty-five employees-still a large operation, though somewhat diminished from earlier years. William Gale, Jr., died in Pittsford, Vermont.

Excerpt 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., 1994), 319.