Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Palmer-Smith - his unique styles

       His motifs were often simple, his material was top-notch, his finished products were flawless. His products did not always please everyone and today many collectors find those simple motifs not to their taste. However that simplicity of design that exists in so many of Palmer-Smith's candle holders is a feature that makes them sought after and cherished by collectors of today.

However, occasionally the designs    
were so unusual that their appeal
was limited. This candelabrum with its fanciful porpoises  could fall into that category. The ball design was incorporated into each. This design was also used as a holder for a punch bowl. It looked great...unusual, but attractive.
Arthur Palmer's association with Wendell August began in 1932 but by 1935 he moved on to start his own company making metal wares. It was a common belief that the company's name was a combination of his own and his mother's maiden name.
       With the Palmer-Smith company, the Wendell August Forge, and Arthur Armour all located in Grove City, PA, and each employing from 12 to  25 or 30 workers, the hammered aluminum gift ware business became an important part of its economy. A number of the employees left their original employers and started their own business and a few examples of their work will be in future Aluminists.
     Browsing through old catalogues of any of these companies is an interesting experience. An old catalogue of Arthur Palmer's is extremely so. In his six years of production, he developed over 50 motifs (57 I believe) and used them on products ranging from bracelets to large center piece sets that are far from the plain designs we are so familiar with.  AND  they were not priced for the poor man! As Arthur Armour once told me, "The saying that aluminum pieces were the poor man's silver, was not completely accurate." The candle sticks (as they were called in the ad) were $75 for the pair, the bowl was $30. The design was called Regency. 

At an early show,
a holder similar to that onthe left was priced at $350. At that price most                                                                                      collectors simply looked and wished.

              The set on the right with the parrots                          
 perched inside the rings, created quiet a stir
  when they were first discovered. I expect that finding a matching pair today would do the same.

      Below left, is a wall sconce which I believe was of the Regency design. The top design is mostly hidden. It could possibly be wheat.
 there is no stopping place in listing the wares of the various companies! Palmer-Smith made a variety of punch bowls: an item that took a considerable amount of skill to complete without cracking or splitting in the shaping process. The bowl shown above has the lily motif around it inside edge.

            Notice that most of this company's motifs were not
 created by hammering, but by the intaglio
method of incising a design into the metal. To achieve the designs desired, small special tools were designed and used to either stamp or cut the designated  design into the metal. Incidentally,  keep in mind that Arthur Palmer was a man of ideas: his strength was not in art or design, but in getting fresh ideas to be used in the company's products. He had employees to apply his ideas!

Below. right,  This tray was very unusual and although
it appears to be slightly concave in the photo,
it was a flat piece with a shape similar to that
of a police badge Tiny bunnies formed feet
and the top had larger bunnies.

This company apparently was one of a few or perhaps the only one who made picture frames. A smoking set consisting of a divided cigarette box, a matchbox holder and an ash tray were also available with the applied gun. The backs of Palmer-Smith frames were beautifully constructed and some were decorated with various motifs.
A reader sent the photos below., right  Note the old advertisement displayed in the frame.