Collecting, cleaning, displaying, researching, and appreciating TRIVETS and related go-withs!
Mint pair of brass Half Leaf Trivets, each 8 3/8″ x 4 1/2″
Virginia Metalcrafters (VM) was founded in 1895 as the W. J. Loth Stove Company of Waynesboro, Virginia. (In 1890 it was called the Waynesboro Stove Company – still Mr. Loth.) They initially manufactured cast iron stoves and wood and coal heaters.
In 1938 Loth installed a brass foundry and Virginia Metalcrafters became the brand name of the company’s brass and iron giftware line. March 1, 1940 marked the first use of the VM Betty Lamp hallmark on their products. When brass was once again available after World War II, production was resumed and their gift line was expanded.
Virginia Metalcrafters’ familiar Betty Lamp hallmark
Charles Eckman bought the firm in 1953 and incorporated under the name Virginia Metalcrafters, Inc. In 1956 Virginia Metalcrafters acquired the Harvin Company of Baltimore, makers of fine brassware.
Trivets were offered in Solid Brass, White Bronze, Aluminum (called Silvertone) and Cast Iron (in a Polished, Verdi or Black finish). VM utilized a stock numbering system of a 9 or 10 followed by another number; for example, 9-18 Doodlers Dream or 10-17 Kings Arms. Virginia Metalcrafters produced the largest number of original trivet designs of any modern manufacturer.
FYI: Per Bill Eckman, Charles Eckman’s son, the date on a copyrighted VM trivet refers only to the copyright date. The actual date of manufacture could be anywhere between then and 2006 when the company closed.
They also produced souvenir trivets for the following American tourist destinations: Historic Charleston, Marineland, Monticello, Mount Vernon, Mystic Seaport, the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP), Natural Bridge, Historic Newport, Old Salem, Old Sturbridge Village (OSV), Silver Springs, Skyline Drive, the Smithsonian Institution, Colonial Williamsburg, and the Winterthur Museum.
VM registered hallmarks, from their 1969 catalog
Trivets were produced from 1946 until December 2006, when the Waynesboro, Virginia foundry doors closed for good. But now there’s new life for this historic property! In 2013 the foundry and surrounding property was purchased. Renovations are almost complete for a 5,000 barrel production craft brewery and a 2300 square foot taproom. There may even be room to house artisan crafters and other tourism services.
The next time I’m in Virginia I look forward to visiting the Basic City Beer Company, located at 1010 Main Street, Waynesboro, Virginia. UPDATE 6/26/18: Bill Eckman, VM founder Charles Eckman’s son, recommends the brewery saying “Excellent beer being brewed there now.”
And check out the Virginia Metalcrafters Facebook Group for collectors of VM castings! A number of former employees belong to the group and bring a wealth of information on the workings of the foundry and their products.
Q: What’s the best way to polish Virginia Metalcrafters brass trivets? Mine have been used regularly and are tarnished.
A: It all depends on whether or not the brass was lacquered. First, review the information on brass care at the Trivetology post Caring for brass, bronze and copper trivets.
The following additional information can be found at the Virginia Metalcrafters Facebook Group.
● Virginia Metalcrafters’ Colonial Williamsburg (CW) reproductions made before the mid to late 1970s were NOT lacquered. Those bear the CW hallmark and can be polished by hand fairly easily. Back in the day VM sold “Colonial Brass Polish” for polishing their brass. Today you can use a product like Brasso.
● Around the mid to late 1970’s Virginia Metalcrafters began to lacquer all their brass. VM lacquer was sprayed on, but was not baked. You may decide to remove the lacquer on castings that have tarnished. (1) You could try lacquer thinner, following the directions on the product. (2) An alternative would be to have a professional metal refinisher strip and restore your brass VM casting.
Waynesboro, Virginia’s Basic City Beer Company has opened a restaurant in what was formerly the Virginia Metalcrafters showroom outlet. The name? The Showroom, of course!
Image shared courtesy of Cindy Ohm Lubahn
Question from Cindy: I posted this trivet on Facebook and a few collectors commented they never saw this one. On the reverse it’s signed 9-2 GRAPE with the VM logo. Are the common cast iron trivet designs from Virginia Metalcrafters harder to find?
Answer: Most US foundries sold a variety of traditional cast iron “repro” trivets in the 1960s-1970s, Virginia Metalcrafters included. These VM trivets can be found on eBay and Etsy; search using the words Virginia Metalcrafters and the design name, if known.
Most VM trivets were offered in a black finished cast iron or a polished or antiqued brass. Less commonly seen was a finish called Silvertone and another called Verdi (verdigris applied over cast iron). The VM line of cast iron trivets got more limited over time as they moved more into brass cypher trivets and other specialty offerings created for museum gift shops like Old Sturbridge Village (OSV), etc.
FYI: Virginia Metalcrafters never produced hand-painted (enameled) trivets; this Grape trivet was decorated after purchase. Information confirmed by Bill Eckman, whose father owned Virginia Metalcrafters.
Many Virginia Metalcrafters items show a Copyright sign © which made me curious. Is there a public record of Copyrights? I checked the US Copyright Office online and there is! There are 106 VM Copyrights on file, from 1976 to present. Directions: At the US Copyright Office website, in the Search For box type Virginia Metalcrafters; and in the Search By dropdown list select Name. Then click Begin Search. You will then be directed to the list of 106 VM Copyrights.
This question appeared today at the Virginia Metalcrafters Facebook group: “Is there an easy way to tell which VM pieces were manufactured at the Waynesboro (Virginia) plant?”
Answer by Bill Eckman, whose father owned Virginia Metalcrafters: “Certainly if they have a VM hallmark they were made in Waynesboro, except for the last few years the company was in business when some items were cast overseas and just finished in Waynesboro. The is very little out there that was not made in Waynesboro. Harvin made some items in Baltimore before VM bought them but they wouldn’t have the VM hallmark. But basically it would be difficult otherwise to tell things apart. Just like a VM leaf tray made in 1950 and still made in 2002 would be indistinguishable as to which was made when (other than maybe the yellowing of the lacquer).”
Question from Marta: “I have just come into two pair of the trivets pictured at the top. I’m wondering if you know if they are a reproduction of historical pieces. I read elsewhere that VM did reproductions of pieces found in Williamsburg.”
Answer: I’m not aware of an antique trivet in this exact design or configuration. From the article The Legacy of Virginia Metalcrafters of Waynesboro: “There were different categories of items, including Reproductions and Adaptations. Reproductions were exact copies of items that were in existence in Colonial Virginia, and adaptations were items that were styled after the era.”