“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Middletown in Middlesex County, Connecticut — The American Northeast (New England)

Danforth Pewter Shop

Danforth Pewter Shop Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Michael Herrick, April 18, 2016
1. Danforth Pewter Shop Marker
In 1756, this simple structure was the birthplace of one of New England's leading craft dynasties, the Danforth family of pewterers. For nearly a century, three generations of Danforth men fashioned everything from plain plates to graceful teapots, tankards, and communion service sets. Today, museums around the country display the works of these expert craftsmen.

Sometimes called the "poor man's silver," pewter was made primarily of tin, often mixed with small quantities of lead and antimony. For middle-class families in the 1700s and 1800s, pewter was affordable and reasonably durable. Family patriarch Thomas Danforth began hand crafting pewter in 1756 in this combination workshop and store, originally located in an artisans neighborhood along Henshaw Lane, today's College Street. He was succeeded by his sons then by a grandson, who finally gave up the trade in 1846.

The Danforths and other local pewterers built Middletown into a major pewter center rivaling Boston and Philadelphia. They marketed their wares virtually throughout the country. Several of Thomas Danforth's descendants and others trained in the Danforth
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shop set up the pewterer's trade in other Connecticut communities, as well as in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, extending the family's influence on the industry. The Danforth pewter shop was dismantled in 1979, when its original College Street location was targeted for a parking lot. It was reconstructed on this site in 1984.

Today it is privately owned and is not open to the public.

Josiah Danforth (1803-1873), grandson of pewterer Thomas Danforth, crafted this teapot and coffeepot in his Middletown shop, probably between 1825 and 1840. By the time Josiah gave up the business in 1846, pewter was becoming unfashionable, replaced by Britannia ware, a shinier amalgam that more closely resembled silver.
Courtesy of the Middlesex County Historical Society
Making It In Middletown
During the 1700s, pewterers and other artisans — goldsmiths silversmiths, cabinetmakers, and stonecarvers flourished in Middletown. The town was one of Connecticut’s wealthiest communities, thanks to its maritime trade, and its residents were eager to show off their prosperity. Local craftsmen supplied the well-to-do with elegant tea tables for their parlors, gold rings for their nngers, and flnally, elaborately carved stone monuments for their graves.

Middlesex Memorial Hospital
On the day Middlesex Hospital
Danforth Pewter Shop image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Michael Herrick, April 18, 2016
2. Danforth Pewter Shop
opened in 1904, doctors raced to conduct their first surgery there: an amputation on a laborer whose leg had been crushed by a train in the Portland brownstone quarries. The patient lved, and the hospital's reputation quickly grew.

Though local people had incorporated Middlesex Hospital in 1895, for nearly a decade there were no funds to construct a building. In 1903, members of the Camp family donated their large home on Crescent Street just around the corner from here, and a bequest from Mrs. Henry G. Hubbard funded medical equipment. Middlesex Hospital opened in 1904.

To most Middletown people in the early 1900s, a hospital was a strange and threatening place. Medical care (even surgery) usually took place at home. But the need for such a facility was clear: the first year, lt treated 108 patients for everything from malaria to a broken nose, from gunshot wounds to indigestion. Almost immediately, the hospital expanded, adding training facilities, a surgical wing, nurses' training facilities, a pediatric ward and more. In 1953 Middlesex Memorial Hospital built its South Wing, and in 1968 removed the 19th century Camp house to build the North Wing, which opened three years later.

Middletown cabinetmaker William Sage (c. 1738-1823) built this well-proportioned desk-and-bookcase of cherry wood about 1780. Sage's clientele probably included many
Danforth Pewter Shop and Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Michael Herrick, April 18, 2016
3. Danforth Pewter Shop and Marker
of the city's wealthy merchants and ship captains, who furnished their mansions with elegant furniture that proclaimed their affluence.
Courtesy of the Middlesex County Historical Society; Photograph by John Giammatteo

In its early days, Middlesex Hospital charged patients $25 a week for a private room, and $7 a week for a bed in the public wards. The average patient remained in the hospital for a month! At the time of this view, about 1910, the hospital's only ambulance was horse-drawn. Postcard, c. 1910, courtesy the Middlesex County Historical Society
Erected by the Middlesex County Historical Society.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Industry & Commerce.
Location. 41° 33.344′ N, 72° 38.928′ W. Marker is in Middletown, Connecticut, in Middlesex County. Marker is at the intersection of South Main Street and Pleasant Street, on the left when traveling east on South Main Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Middletown CT 06457, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Congregation Adath Israel (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Henry Clay Work (about 300 feet away); Middletown Soldiers Monument (about 400 feet away); Middletown and the Civil War
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(about 400 feet away); Middletown (about 500 feet away); Near This Site In 1750 (about 500 feet away); The General Mansfield House (about 600 feet away); The Abolitionist Movement (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Middletown.
More about this marker. Weather has affected the clarity of the text and pictures. The Middlesex County Historical Society generously aided in transcribing this marker.
Credits. This page was last revised on November 13, 2020. It was originally submitted on October 9, 2016, by Michael Herrick of Southbury, Connecticut. This page has been viewed 457 times since then and 9 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on October 9, 2016, by Michael Herrick of Southbury, Connecticut.

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Feb. 22, 2024