A request from a client led me to a long session of searching through lots of my vintage silver catalogs, and during my quest I came across this gem. It’s from a Gorham leaflet circa 1950-ish..what particularly struck me is the second half. Gorham (or their advertising agency) obviously felt the need to emphasize how silver is practical and easy to clean. They are advocating silver in the dishwasher — even for knives!
Gorham Says – Silver in the Dishwasher!
I personally would not advocate placing your knives in the dishwasher!! The Gorham knives referred to in this leaflet have handles that are almost certainly filled with cement, thus able to better resist the loosening of knife blade and handle that can happen in the heat of any washing method, not just the when you put your silver in the dishwasher. All solid pieces of flatware are ok to go in the dishwasher…just not the knives. See here for more information about silver in the dishwasher.
The sub-text of this fascinating little leaflet is that Gorham (and the other silver companies) were almost certainly feeling the squeeze of changing times and tastes. The market for sterling silverware was shrinking by the ’50s. Stainless steel dominated the market, and the novel use of plastic and melamine in flatware design as what we now call ‘mid-century modern’ was really getting underway. Sterling was perceived as the traditional choice and the silver companies didn’t want to get left behind.
So they responded, this leaflet extolls the virtues of Gorham classics, but heralds their new ‘masterpieces of modern design’ — such as Sea Rose, Stardust, and Celeste, to show they were in touch with current taste. And furthermore, their silver was just as compatible with the changing needs and desire of modern women, just pop the silver in the dishwasher and be done!
Sixty-ish years after it was written, the advice about the dishwasher still stands, but I’m personally not so convinced that Gorham’s modern designs stand the test of time. In fact some of their older designs seem much more ‘modern’ to me — Christina from the 1930s and even Fairfax.
What do you think?