Friday, March 14, 2014

Vanished Makes: George Butler & Co., Sheffield, England

I picked up this lovely old British carving set recently:

Below, details from the carving knife:

William Butler started using the "Butler" mark in 1768, and by the time his sons George and James were running the firm in the early 19th century, the company had become the largest employer in the trade.  In 1843, the company officially became George Butler & Co.  In the late 1840's, the company was acquired by the Andrew twins, who came from a very prosperous family.  In 1853, the firm's wares were put on display at the New York Exhibition.  Around the same time, George Rowe became a partner, and with his brother he patented an improved means of attaching handles to table knives and forks.  Because the company's "Butler" mark was being frequently counterfeited, in 1861 they began to use the "Art" mark to positively identify their wares to customers.  Over the following decades, the company enjoyed a high reputation for its hand-forged and hand-ground pocket and table cutlery.  After World War II, the company attempted to maintain its emphasis on hand-made knives, but succumbed to competition from the mass-market companies in 1952. 

The Birmingham firm of Arthur Price acquired the brand in 1993.  (Back in the day, Sheffield concentrated on knives and blades, while Birmingham industry was more focused on forks and spoons.) Comments on the web suggest that, under Price's control, the quality is no longer what it once was.  Still, in their defense, the Price company dates back to 1902.  They were the first to make forks and spoons of chromium plate, the predecessor of stainless steel.  They also had the distinction of being commissioned to create the cutlery both for the Titanic in 1912 and the Concorde in 1976.

I am indebted to for much if the history of the company and the two final images.

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