The Gorham Design Library: Publication One


From The Gorham Design Library: Publication One authors Samuel J. Hough and Penelope R.O. Hough: The Owl at the Bridge presents the CD-ROM publication of all nineteen annual Gorham production hollowware catalogs published between 1880 and 1909. In addition there are reproductions of an 1889 spoon catalog, the 1928 Modern America flyer (Eric Magnussen's design), the 1889 Paris Exposition catalog, and two 1900 Paris Exposition catalogs. The total represents about twenty percent more images than originally announced (compression allowed more images than the scanning company had estimated). There are included as well (but not indexed) a number of smaller catalogs and lists‹ the 1900 catalog includes priced Buttercup and Lancaster lists; there is an umbrella-handle catalog and some price sheets. Browsers will be rewarded with unexpected treats.

The annual catalogs and the 1900 English-language Paris Exposition catalog (which includes some Martelé) are fully indexed. It is possible to seek individual pieces by production code number; to call up all napkin rings or vases, for example; and to scroll through each year's catalog, each year being set up as a folder.

The eight disks contain the following folders (jpg images):

1. Index and thumbnail images of the entire file;
2. 1880, 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, and 1885;
3. 1886, 1888, 1889 (spoons), and 1890;
4. 1892 and 1894;
5. "file" 134" (Modern America), 1896, 1898, and "Plan" (1889 Paris, not indexed);
6. 1900, "NY Paper" (has view of 1889 Paris Exposition), NY Sterling and Martelé, and Paris Martelé (in French; not indexed);
7. 1902 and 1904;
8. 1906-1907, 1906-1907 smallwares, and 1908-1909.

This represents the complete run.

Scan quality is sharp and clear enough to be highly magnified (good for repair details).

The price for the set of eight disks is $350.00 (less than ten cents per image) plus $5.00 for shipping & handling. The originally announced price of $300 per set will be honored for orders placed before 1 January 2003. Checks, Visa and Mastercard are accepted; institutions invoiced. Discounts are available for purchasers of multiple copies who intend to offer sets for resale. Proceeds above production costs will help to fund preservation of the Gorham Archive at Brown University.

Jeff Herman's Review: Sam and Penny Hough began cataloging the Gorham design library in 1986. At that time, they had no idea of the magnitude and scope of the collection that would come to be the most comprehensive industrial archive of any company in the United States. I have admired their tenacity in organizing the Gorham records, catalogs, and other objects since its beginnings. This includes the famous photo file and cost cards of almost every product the company made. With these cards and corresponding product numbers of the photographs, one is able to easily access company records to see the processes used, the cost of each process, and the final finished item price. This is very rare since most companies of this type discard such records after a period of time and don't see the value they represent for future reference within the company. The catalogued Gorham archive at Brown University is a work of art, in that you can follow the history of the company and how it developed its products and special projects, such as their Martelé line.

The Gorham Design Library: Publication One will give you an appreciation of the incredible artistry generated from the Gorham design department during their most creative period: from late 19th to the early 20th century. The CD-ROM eight-disk set is user friendly, even for those with limited knowledge of working with a computer. If you install the catalog on your hard drive you will avoid having to shuffle through the eight disks to see the full-size image of each piece. The catalog uses your Web browser to access images from the CDs. On the first CD there is a tree-style index of all the thumbnails and larger images. There is also a valuable search function, like using Google or other Web search engines. I have found that by clicking on the thumbnail, the larger image that appears in a new window is sufficient. You only need to swap CDs if you are interested in viewing the full-size scan and investigating the minutest detail on a piece. Since the pages of the catalogs were scanned at a high resolution, even these larger images show great detail. This is especially helpful for a restorer if a piece comes in and an area must be reworked or a part reproduced.

There are a few criticisms I must mention. First, all the catalog pages were scanned as produced in a vertical format. Normally, a salesman would present the catalog to a retailer who would then turn it horizontally to view a tea set. Unfortunately, all three sizes of that type of image must be read vertically. If you have image manipulating software, such as Photoshop, you can rotate the largest image to a horizontal position. Also, it would have been beneficial to have a clickable link under each thumbnail that would instruct you to swap disks, immediately revealing the largest image. Instead, you must manually find that Martele fruit dish in file /NEW_YORK/NY00037.jpg on CD #6-a bit tedious. As mentioned earlier, the middle-size image produced when clicking on the thumbnail will be sufficient for most pieces. For those not familiar with Gorham, a short history and high points of the company would have given the viewer a greater appreciation of this company. Anyone interested in learning more about Gorham should purchase Charles H. Carpenter's Gorham Silver 1831-1981 (available from the Houghs).

The Houghs must be commended for their countless hours in producing and developing this enormous compilation of images. From tantalus stands to chatelaine bags, alms basins to cheese knobs, you won't believe what was being produced during Gorham's most prolific period.

Gorham Design Library: Publication One is available for $350 ($250 for SAS members) by contacting Sam and Penny Hough, The Owl at the Bridge, 25 Berwick Ln., Cranston, RI 02905-3708, 401/467-7362, .

The specs for the CDs are:

Volume #


Size (MB)


# Images


Volume 1 (the index CD) has smaller versions of all the images, and contains all the index and HTML files used to create the user interface. It contains about 250 MB of data in 17,000 files.


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