The American Arts & Crafts movement began producing decorative objects around the turn of the 20th Century.  Influenced by British reformers such as Morris, MacKintosh, Ashbee, and Ruskin, American Arts & Crafts workers shared the basic tenets of the movement -- simplicity, hand craftsmanship, a love of nature, and a rebellion against the fussy, mass-produced, over-ornamented Victorian style.  

Much has been written about Arts & Crafts furniture and pottery.  Pioneers in these fields such as Stickley, Limbert, TECO's Gates, Newcomb, Ohr, Grueby, Hubbard and the Roycrofters, Van Briggle, and Rookwood Pottery's Nichols and Taylor, are all fairly well known. 

However, Arts & Crafts metalwork lags behind in popularity.  Apart from Tiffany and Van Erp, most metalcrafters from this period are unheralded.  Arts & Crafts metalsmiths such as Clara Barck Welles, Falick Novick, Heinrich Eicher, Julius Randahl, Boston's Edward and Gilbert Oakes, Frank Hale, and Margaret Rogers, and Cleveland's Horace Potter created wonderful objects but languish in relative obscurity.

Horace Potter brooch, gold, with maple leaves and winged seeds on oval frame made to look like a curved twig.  Hammered and carved details.  Thick and very heavy.

Especially odd is the lack of appreciation for items made from silver or gold.  Many Arts & Crafts dealers feel the dark patina of copper is more in keeping with fumed oak furniture and the gloomy interiors of the day, and best represents the rustic, communal underpinnings of the movement.  To them it is preferable to put a pedestrian copper Roycroft bowl on a Stickley sideboard rather than a lovely one handwrought in sterling silver by the Kalo Shop.  Copper certainly has a place in the Arts & Crafts pantheon, but so does silver.  In fact, some of the finest work of the Arts & Crafts movement was done in silver and gold by makers such Kalo and Oakes.

Arts & Crafts makers in Chicago had their own distinct identity.  The Art Institute of Chicago noted in its Windows on the West (www.artic.edu/aic/exhibitions/window/themes.html) exhibition:  "As craftsmen on the East Coast found inspiration in medieval examples of furniture and colonial silver, the Arts and Crafts community of Chicago looked to nature for artistic inspiration -- the prairie landscape and its grasses and flowers. After the 1893 World’s Fair, these artists also incorporated the earth colors, organic designs, and abstracted linear compositions of Native American art."  Today those Eastern colonial and medieval pieces can look dated while many Chicago designs seem timeless and classic.

Cleveland's Rokesley Shop pendant, enameled, with pearl drop, on chain with barrel clasp. 

Many of the best Arts & Crafts silversmiths in America worked in Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, and a few other cities in the Midwest from just before 1900 to the 1920's.  To many experts, this brief period was the golden age (or maybe the silver age) of metalwork in America. 

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Although the focus here is on Chicago, It would be a glaring omission to write about Arts & Crafts silver without mentioning Arthur Stone -- the two leading Arts & Crafts silversmiths in America were Stone in Massachusetts and Kalo in Chicago.  Stone was born in England in 1847, and at 14 was apprenticed to a master silversmith.  In 1884 he moved to the US, where he worked for Durgin, F.W. Smith, and J.P. Howard, before starting his own operation in 1901 in Gardner, MA.

Stone was a supremely accomplished silversmith and chaser, who produced a considerable amount of masterful hollowware.  He also believed in sharing the spotlight.  Stone began hiring other silversmiths to work in his shop in 1906, and unlike some other larger operations such as the Kalo Shop, let them add their initial to the Stone mark (the word "Stone" with an outline of a hammer serving as the crossbar of the letter "t" and running through the entire name).  In 1937 he sold the business, which was renamed to Stone Associates.

The best sources of information on Stone are the catalogs of the respected dealer Ark Antiques (www.ark-antiques.com/stone.htm), and a book by  Elenita Chickering 1847-1938: Designer and Silversmith, published 1994 as a catalog of an exhibition of his work by the American Federation of Arts.  A small sample of his work can be found at artarchives.si.edu/exhibits/craft/craftpage1.htm and artarchives.si.edu/exhibits/craft/craftpage1a.htm)

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While Stone created meticulously crafted and finished hollowware, the work of the Kalo Shop was equally lovely but often much more architectural, heavy, or curving and feminine, and more in keeping with the Arts & Crafts notion of highlighting the handmade quality of its pieces.  Many early Kalo objects are so artfully planished that they gleam and shimmer in the light.  The output of the Kalo Shop was also prodigious, lasting for nearly seven decades.

Kalo necklace, centering large semicircular plaque with cutouts, chased design, and large oval bezel-set lapis stone.  Three large teardrop-shaped lapis drops with scalloped silver tops suspend from the central plaque.

The Kalo Shop was founded in 1900 in Park Ridge, Illinois by 32-year old Clara P. Barck, who named it after the Greek word for beauty.  She initially produced textiles, leatherwork, and some copper items, and in 1905, when Barck married a coal merchant and amateur silversmith named George Welles, the Kalo Shop began focusing exclusively on the hand wrought copper and silver items for which it is best known.  In 1913 Clara Welles opened a branch store in New York that lasted only until 1918.  Welles retired to California at age 40, and eventually turned the Shop over to four of her craftsmen (Robert Bower, Daniel Pederson, Arne Myhre, and Yngve Olsson) in 1959.  In 1970, when Pederson and Olsson died, she closed the store for good. 
Kalo bangle bracelet with carved pink coral rose centered by pierced cut-out and applied silver leaves.
In an interview in the Summer 1992 issue of American Silversmith (http://www.silversmithing.com/1artmem.htm), Bower explained why the Shop shut down. "We ran out of silversmiths. In the last year we lost our three top silversmiths; men who could not be replaced. It was difficult trying to find men willing to learn silversmithing and it took years to train them."
Kalo pendant, gold, on paperclip chain. Shield form gold frame with Art Nouveau style applied gold work flowers and vines centering a large blister pearl with shades of green and pink.  Small central baroque pearl drop. 
The Shop produced hand wrought flatware, hollowware and jewelry, and trained or worked with noted Chicago silversmiths such as Julius Randahl, Grant Wood, Esther Meacham, Matthias Hanck, Falick Novick, Heinrich Eicher, and Emery Todd.  In the early years most of the output was copper, but quickly changed to silver.  It also produced some gold jewelry.

Kalo bar pin, with cutout geometric pattern on sides, centering large square bezel-set yellow citrine stone.

Welles was unusual for many reasons.  While most other silversmiths of the period ran smaller boutique operations, Welles knew from the start that she wanted a large commercial operation.  At one point she employed over 25 silversmiths.  She hired women whom she called the "Kalo girls" to design most of the items, and Scandinavian immigrants to fabricate them at a time when both of these groups were shunned by many businessmen.  During the first World War, when silver was scarce, and some her silversmiths were sent overseas, and the influx of foreign silversmith trainees was reduced, she had her female employees produce small items like jewelry.

After Welles retired, the Shop continued making copies of the early pieces, adding a few modernist items and some in the Danish taste.  Many of its forms are classics, and very collectible, reflecting Welles' motto:  "Beautiful, Useful, Enduring."

Kalo brooch, oval, three large blossoms spaced evenly around a chased and cutout oval frame, each with four petals and each centering a dark green bezel-set round cabochon stone.

The Kalo Shop's first mark was KALO -- or in rare cases KALO STERLING, since the output of the Shop back then was largely copper.  This was soon followed for a few years by HAND BEATEN / AT / THE KALO SHOP / PARK RIDGE / ILLS. (founder Clara Welles's home and workshop was initially located in this Chicago suburb).  Some time around 1913, when the Shop decided to open a store on 57th Street in New York City, the mark was changed to HAND WROUGHT / AT / THE KALO SHOPS / CHICAGO / AND / NEW YORK.

 While the normal mark from this Chicago / New York period included both cities, a fair number of pieces have surfaced that say KALO SHOPS rather than KALO SHOP, but list just CHICAGO rather than CHICAGO / NEW YORK.  It is possible that this mark was used in the immediate post-Park Ridge days when the Shop was in the first stages of getting its New York branch ready for business.

Kalo brooch, with detailed insect body and antennae surrounded by four-part wings decorated with cloisonné enamel cells in blue, orange, black, red, and green colors.

By far the most common mark is simply HAND WROUGHT AT KALO SHOP, which was used for the remaining life of the operation starting in late 1918 when the New York Shop closed.  However, there were two other marks that appeared briefly.  From 1929 to 1932, the Kalo Shop changed the mark to STERLING / HAND WROUGHT / THE KALO SHOP / CHICAGO / U.S.A..  It's unlikely that Welles included the country name because of export considerations.  It may have been added for reasons of national pride, but nobody is certain.

The other unusual mark was from the Kalo Shop's aborted Norse Line.  While some Chicago silversmiths sold objects through department stores in New York and the Midwest, the Kalo Shop did not. Robert R. Bower, a Kalo employee for nearly five decades, told American Silversmith magazine (Summer / 1992 -- www.silversmithing.com/1artmem.htm):  "We had an arrangement with a sales organization to sell a wholesale line consisting of 40 items of all new Kalo sterling designs that were handwrought and of substantial weight. It was called the Norse line. All the samples were ready to go, then the market crashed in 1929. That was the end of the wholesale business."  Norse Line products were marked either STERLING / HAND WROUGHT / KALO / SILVERSMITHS NS17 or just STERLING KALO NS57, or STERLING / HANDWROUGHT / AT / THE KALO SHOP / NS40L (the numbers at the end varied but always started with NS).

 

Dates Details Marks
1905 - 1911

Earliest Park Ridge days

KALO

(or)

HAND BEATEN / AT / THE KALO SHOP / PARK RIDGE / ILLS.

 

1913 - 1918

 

Chicago / New York

 

HAND WROUGHT / AT / THE KALO SHOPS / CHICAGO / AND / NEW YORK

 

(or)

 

HAND WROUGHT / AT / THE KALO SHOPS / CHICAGO

 

1918 - 1970

 

Most common later mark

 

STERLING / HAND WROUGHT / AT / THE KALO SHOP

 

1929 - 1932

Short-lived CHICAGO / U. S. A. mark

 

STERLING / HAND WROUGHT / THE KALO SHOP / CHICAGO / U.S.A.

 

1938 - 1939

Short-lived Norse Line mark

STERLING / HANDWROUGHT / KALO / SILVERSMITHS / NS

(and)

STERLING KALO NS

 


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The Kalo Shop acted almost as a metalcraft university, training many silversmiths who left to start their own Shops.  The most notable of these was probably Julius O. Randahl.   Randahl was a Swedish silversmith who worked at the Kalo Shop from 1907 to 1910-- important Park Ridge years when Kalo was growing quickly and creating some of its best work.   After leaving, Randahl and another ex-Kalo silversmith, Matthias Hanck formed a shop called the Julmat (from the first syllables from each of their names), which lasted just one year.   After this short-lived store closed, Hanck opened a small shop in Park Ridge specializing in jewelry.  Randahl founded the Randahl Shop, probably inspired by the Kalo model, with one important difference -- Randahl sold his hollowware through department stores and jewelry shops rather than just from his storefront.

The Shop closed during the first World War, and when Randahl re-opened it he introduced mechanization.  While some work was still done the old way, it was no longer a pure handwrought operation like Kalo.   Randahl arranged for national distribution, and soon had 15 - 20 workers producing his hollowware.   The Shop did well enough to weather the Depression years (although Randahl had to mortgage his home) and prospered into the 1950's, when Randahl, now in business with his sons as the Randahl Company, purchased Cellini Craft, an Evanston, IL silversmith dating back to 1914.  Finally, in 1965, the business was sold to Reed & Barton.

The Randahl Shop was really three very different operations.  In its earliest years the focus was very Kalo-like.  Much of the initial output -- objects like trays, bowls and pitchers -- were almost exact copies of Kalo items.  Randahl, like a lot of silversmiths, probably appreciated the Kalo designs and, during his years working for Clara Wells, certainly made a lot of them.  These early pieces were solid and lovely. 

 

Early Randahl pieces (left) were often similar to Kalo designs (right).

After the war years, Randahl began emulating Scandinavian designers like Georg Jensen, and much of the work had a distinct Danish taste.  It also suffered in quality.  Many pieces, destined for mass sales in the Shop's far-flung distribution network, were of lighter gauge silver, spun rather than hammered, and very pedestrian in design.  However, some quality work was still being done.

 The Shop's work declined again when it purchased Cellini, and then one more time when swallowed by Reed & Barton.  The early pieces carry the original mark -- Randahl's initials JOR with a stylized hammer running horizontally through the letters, and the words HAND WROUGHT.  In the 1930s this was changed to RANDAHL HANDWROUGHT, and finally just RANDAHL.  Some of the later JOR work is of clearly inferior quality, and some of the early RANDAHL HAND WROUGHT pieces were very elegant and well-made.  But nothing comes close to the initial work done after the post-Kalo days.

Randahl brooch, oval, with chased and cutout form of two geese or swans facing each other with intertwined necks, on oval frame.
Randahl focused on hollowware, and produced little jewelry.  A piece is shown here, almost certainly from the later Jensen-inspired days.  They are decent but hardly inspired.  The company had no trademark items the way Kalo did with its jeweled trays or paneled pitchers, but it did produce a series of interesting candle snuffers.


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The other large Chicago silversmith was Lebolt.  J. Myer Lebolt added a handwrought silversmithing department to his Chicago jewelry store in 1912.  Like Randahl, Lebolt initially produced bowls, trays, tea sets and other hollowware that was similar to that of the Kalo Shop, and like Randahl, the operation eventually employed a fairly large number of designers and smiths.  The silver was sold at Lebolt's storefronts in Chicago and New York. 

The earliest mark is LEBOLT / HAND MADE, which was later changed to LEBOLT / HAND BEATEN (the opposite evolution of the Kalo mark).  Lebolt produced hollowware and flatware in a wide range of styles.  Like Randahl, Lebolt's designs and execution were at a high level, but generally a notch down from that of the Kalo Shop.  However, on occasion Lebolt produced a few designs that rivaled those of Kalo, and many of its tea sets and pitchers are as good as any produced at the time.


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In 1912, after moving from their native Hungary, Edmund Boker and Ernest Gould formed the Chicago Art Silver Shop.  Both had worked as silversmiths in a Budapest factory making objects for European royal families.  Boker initially moonlighted at Chicago's Lebolt & Company to help bankroll the new store.  In 1918 they shortened the name to the Art Silver Shop, and when business slackened in 1934 they changed their business to focus on wholesale jewelry and renamed it the Art Metal Studios.
Boker did the designing and repousse work, while Gould fashioned the larger pieces.  While other shops seem to have had good luck with apprentices, Boker and Gould did not.  Some of the Shop's jewelry does seem a bit heavy-handed, but  Boker and Gould's own work was highly regarded, displaying a distinctive European Art Nouveau influence.
Art Silver Shop brooch, made of overlapping cutout and applied arrowhead forms on a complex cutout frame centering a large oval bezel-set cabochon tigers-eye stone.

Art Metal Studios pendant, centering large bezel-set oval faceted citrine, with single applied silver lobe top and bottom and three lobes on each side.  Bale on loop at top for chain.

 


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Robert Riddle Jarvie was a functionary at the Chicago Department of Transportation before the turn of the century and, as a hobby, began making lanterns and the tall, graceful candlesticks for which he is best known.  In 1904, he left his job and started the Jarvie Shop in downtown Chicago where he and his wife, Lillian Gray, sold handmade copper and brass items in the shop along with some Arts & Crafts items made by others.

After 1905, Jarvie began working in silver and gold and produced impressive hollowware items and trophies.   One of his customers was Arthur Leonard, head of the Union Stock Yard Company, who in 1912 convinced Jarvie to move his shop to a cottage in the stockyards.  Jarvie created numerous trophies there, including a bronze lidded box for AMPA (American Meat Packers Association) designed by George G. Elmslie that has become a trademark Jarvie item.  Unfortunately, the war years took their toll on his business, and in 1920 he closed his shop, and became a salesman at the C. D. Peacock store.  

 

 

Rare Jarvie pendant on paperclip chain, pierced and tooled surfaces with large central pointed oval bezel-set chrysoprase stone below two pierced pointed tabs that each support a smaller oval bezel-set stone drop, with a similar oval bezel-set stone drop at the bottom. 

 

John Petterson, who eventually founded the Petterson Studios, and Knut Gustafson, who later founded the Chicago Silver Company, were both assistants in Jarvie's shop.

Jarvie produced a wide range of metalwork, from humble bowls and bookends to massive trophies, tea sets, pitchers, and punchbowls, many with elaborate applied monograms or inscriptions.  His jewelry is extremely rare.

 


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The best book on this topic is Sharon S. Darling's Chicago Silversmiths, published in 1977 as a catalog of an exhibition by the Chicago Historical Society.  Darling mentions dozens of silversmiths who worked in Chicago, but several stand out.  One is Falick Novick, who came to America in 1893 at the age of 15, and was initially employed as a plumber's assistant.  In 1907, he moved to Chicago to work as a silversmith, but struggled for years.  Novick produced copper bowls for the Kalo Shop until 1920, when it stopped selling copper items, and the heavy silver trays for which he is best known.  He eventually prospered and sold his work through retail outlets such as Macy's until he died in 1957.

Novick's mark was usually STERLING / HANDWROUGHT / BY / F. NOVICK / CHICAGO, although the city was sometimes omitted.  His work, and that of Heinrich Eicher, are on a par with Kalo. 

Little has been written about Eicher and his wife Anna, but their work is as good as that of Novick and Kalo.   According to the moderator of the Silver Salon Forum www.smpub.com/ubb/Forum17/HTML/000032.html, "Heinrich Eicher was, until 1914, the production foreman for Kalo while the shop was in Park Ridge . His wife Anna (whose legal name was Asta) worked from the front parlor of their home at 312 Cedar Street, producing silver in the Danish/Arts & Crafts style. After 1914, not wishing to move with Kalo to Chicago proper, Heinrich joined her on a full time basis and they adopted the AHE circular mark…. Henrich died in 1926/1927…..Asta Eicher continued at 312 until 1933. In that year, she and her three children were kidnapped by Harry Parker, an otherwise mild-mannered grocer of Clarkesville West Virginia. While investigating an unrelated matter, police discovered the bodies of the Eicher family and others in a culvert behind Mr. Parker's store. Later investigation discovered Asta Eicher's trunk of family papers and possessions in Parker's attic. The Eicher's Park Ridge neighbors later identified Parker as the man who had assured them that Asta had '...taken the children back to the old country to meet their family.' This and evidence from several of the other murders served to convict Mr. Parker, who, apparently, was the last man hung in West Virginia for a capital crime… the murder of Asta Eicher and her children by Harry Parker was the basis for the book Night of the Hunter by Davis Grubb. The movie version starring Robert "Pray for me, boys" Mitchum as Harry is truly frightening."

Stickpin by Matthias Hanck after leaving The Julmat with Julius Randahl.

Other makers in Chicago at the high end of the scale were Charles Didrich, the Mulholland Brothers (Walter and David), Jessie Preston, George Trautmann, Matthias Hanck, Emery Todd and Clemencia Cosio's TC Shop, the anonymous workers of the Marshall Field & Company Craft Shop, Edward Breese, Knut Gustafson, John P. Petterson and his The Petterson Studio (not to be confused with Canada's Carl Poul Petersen), Madeline Yale Wynne, James Winn, Frank Boyden, and The Cellini Shop.

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