Collecting, cleaning, displaying, researching, and appreciating TRIVETS and related go-withs!
In the 1870’s two brothers, John H. and George H. Ober, founded the Ober Manufacturing Company of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Although primarily a woodworking machinery manufacturer, the foundry eventually also produced a variety of cast iron household products including the Ober stands and sadirons that are so valued today. Ober was also one of the most prominent American manufacturers of toy irons at the turn of that century.
Ober sadiron stands, because of their smaller size, served double-duty as coffee, tea, or table stands. The handsome square, grid, and leaf patterns were available in either a japanned (black enamel) or electroplated nickel finish. Ober sadiron stands are interesting castings to collect; and since there were a limited number of designs a complete set, although not inexpensive, is attainable. The following trivets appeared in a 1914 Ober catalog.
The Ober foundry continued production until 1916, with the Ober Large Leaf design being one of the last issued sadiron stands. Although the foundry was formally sold in 1932, family members ran the company as a machine shop until 1960. At that time the building was condemned, the property sold and the area cleared and converted to parking and storage.
The terms Large, Late and Square have been used by collectors to identify the three different Ober trivets with a leaf pattern. Dick Hankenson used the terms Large and Late in Trivets Book 2 (1972), pages 9-10. However, in Ober catalogs and advertisements, these leaf trivets were not assigned names.
I recently received this question from Jim Halikias.
You refer to one of these as the Ober “late” leaf trivet in your books. I just acquired one on Ebay. I was curious about why this term is used. On the other Ober leaf trivets (the large leaf and square leaf) there appears to be 3 or 5 separate petals to the leaf, whereas on the “late” leaf the petals are all fused into one leaf. Is this because over the season, the leaf develops like this? Also, is the leaf supposed to be that of the buckeye tree? One former collector said that this was the case. But the “late” leaf looks more like a maple leaf.
So I reached out to Cliff Ober, the great-great grandson of George H. Ober. Here are Cliff’s observations:
My understanding has always been that the larger leaf trivets are indeed buckeye and maple. They are a bit stylized but still very recognizable. The square leaf trivet is an oddity though. At one point I remember hearing it called a dogwood, but it bears no resemblance to that tree. Dogwood leaves are not clustered, and they look nothing like the trivet leaves. The dogwood flower has four petals too, not five as the trivet displays. The trivet also looks nothing like buckeye to me either, not the leaves nor the flowers. There is one plant I know of that does look like the trivet – it’s called Common Cinquefoil. It has 5-cluster leaves and pretty yellow flower, both of which are a good match to the trivet. It isn’t a tree, but with only two other tree leaf designs for trivets it would hardly break a series to have something other.
I have no idea where any of the trivet names originated. I can only speculate that they’ve been assigned by collectors over the years; as far as I know the foundry only referred to their products by model numbers. Unfortunately I am not in possession of even a single catalog of the consumer products, only scans of a few individual pages. I have a couple of complete catalogs for their industrial woodworking machinery and a few other bits of ephemera, but that’s it. After Archie Ober (George’s son) died in 1950 a number of family members helped clear out his home. I remember my uncle telling me years ago that they had thrown out dozens of boxes of Ober Manufacturing records and documents. What a trove that would be now …
The Chagrin Falls Historical Society has a collection of Ober trivets, stands, irons, and other items related to the Ober Manufacturing Company including catalogs and company records. In 2015 the Society moved to the George H. Ober House at 87 East Washington Street, Chagrin Falls, OH. Museum hours are 2 PM to 7 PM on Thursdays and 11 AM to 3 PM on Saturdays; and by appointment. View the Museum website for more information. The museum’s archivist can be reached by email at Chaghist@gmail.com.
Clicking below will open a photo gallery featuring an example of each different trivet design produced by Ober. Note: only the leaf designs were signed on the reverse. ☆ Please allow a few moments for the images to load. You may need to click < or > to get the slideshow started.