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The Many Stories of Louise Miller Rust’s Coin Silver Forks

An elegant set of coin silver forks from Saginaw’s Rust family reminds us that holiday meals often incorporate traditions and objects that have been handed down for generations, connecting us with intertwined stories of our community’s heritage. The markings and engravings on these forks connect us with Louise Miller Rust – their original owner, of the firm that made them and the East Saginaw Store that sold them


“Louise Miller was born Aug. 8, 1852, at Williston, Vermont, and was the only daughter of the late William M. and Harriet (Granger) Miller. She was a child of gentle nature and sprang from families of culture, refinement and high standing. When eight years of age she came with her parents to this city [Saginaw City], where here her father followed in the practice of law, until his death in 1871. Her mother passed away Oct. 3, 1887, and is still remembered with kindest feelings. In 1873, Louise Miller became the bride of Charles A. Rust on Oct. 15, and the union was blessed with four children, two of whom died in infancy. With the grief stricken husband, a daughter Elizabeth and son Amasa M., still survive.” (The Saginaw Evening News, May 24, 1905.)


The silverware is marked “H & S,” for Hotchkiss & Schreuder of Syracuse, New York. “Although little known today, even among silver collectors and scholars, Hotchkiss & Schreuder produced a number of fine flatware patterns. Their wares reached diverse markets ranging from local customers in upstate New York to retail outlets in the Midwest (https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/702898 ) While the original name of the pattern – if there was one –remains unknown, Hotchkiss & Schreuder used this mark from 1864 until 1871.

This fits perfectly with the other mark on the back of the forks’ handles: “D.R. Brown & Co.,” the East Saginaw jewelry store that sold them. By the time D.R. Brown was listed in the 1867 East Saginaw Directory, he had almost certainly owned his store for several years. In 1883, Brown advertised he had “been in business for the past 24 years in this city, is a first-class engraver.” (The Saginaw Evening News, June 20, 1882) D.R. Brown – Demetrius R. Brown – was sometimes known as “Mett the engraver.” In 1884, the paper reported:

“Mr. D.R. Brown, of the firm of Brown & Grant, has been in the east for the past week purchasing new and seasonable goods. Mr. Brown is too well-known as a gentleman of the best taste to need it to be said that his selections will be the best that the market affords. (The Saginaw Evening News, June 4, 1884, p.2 )


Although Brown had several business partners, he remained in the jewelry business until he left Saginaw in 1901.

And, like all good Thanksgiving dinner guests, these elegant forks divulge many of their stories; however, they have left some enigmas that encourage us to invite them back again and try to learn more.


The mark indicates they were produced at least two years prior to Louise Miller’s 1873 marriage to Charles Amasa Rust. At first glance, the engravings would seem to indicate that they were acquired at the time of or after her marriage. Indeed, this may be the case. They could have been older stock – East Saginaw was still deep in the Midwest and sales for coin silver flatware may have been slow. However, there are tantalizing clues in the engraving. The word “Louise” is engraved in a very different style than the “R” or her son’s name “Amasa” on the youth-sized fork. It is quite possible the pieces were gifts or purchases made before her marriage and the “R” and her son’s name were later additions. It is even possible that some of the engravings were executed by D.R. Brown - “Mett” the engraver.


Although we are certain we will think of additional questions, it is time to return to Thanksgiving festivities and meditate on the way objects connect the past and present.


We will add, we could have made this piece much longer, but the Jello mold is melting...

 

Note: Coin Silver is not plated; however, the silver content differs from Sterling. To learn more:

https://www.marthastewart.com/8104180/collecting-coin-silver-flatware



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