Collecting, cleaning, displaying, researching, and appreciating TRIVETS and related go-withs!

Researching the R & B trivet

This interesting cast iron trivet appeared in my first book The A-Z Guide To Collecting Trivets (2004, p. 148). It measures 8 1/2″ x 5 3/8″ with three 1″ legs and has two unfiled gate-marks, one on either side of the body. There is a shallow 1/8″ iron guide along each side to keep an iron in position. (It’s since been sold.)

It could have been a Masonic commemorative or, more likely, a wedding or anniversary gift. Back in 2004 I believed the R & B trivet was one of a kind; that has since been disproven. But over the years I’ve only encountered this trivet a total of five times. How rare might it be?

My trivet with a sprue mark

This is the R& B trivet in my current collection. It measures slightly larger at 8 13/16″ x 5 9/16″ with three 1 1/4″ legs. Note the pronounced sprue mark on the center reverse, indicating an older casting.

Some of the symbolism appears Masonic in nature. Freemasons greet each another with a handshake based on their rank within the organization. The three rungs of Jacob’s Ladder represent Faith, Hope, and Charity. The Sun and Moon remind lodge officers to govern with regularity. As for the initials, I’ve reviewed Masonic abbreviations and have not found any terms or titles linked to R and/or B.

However, the hearts and lovebirds are definitely romantic symbols. The initials R and B most likely refer to one person or two individuals.

But why would multiple trivets exist, all with the same initials? Note that my first trivet (with the gate-marks) measured 8 1/2″ x 5 3/8″ and is One Size Smaller than this version with a sprue mark. That suggests my first trivet may have been an early reproduction, cast from a larger original.

More clues to age & origin

This screenshot “pin” documents an ended eBay auction added a few years ago to my Pinterest page Laundry Day Collectibles. If I recall correctly there was no provenance to authenticate the 1825 date or a Pennsylvania Dutch origin. Please see my Pinterest update.

My Pinterest pin was noticed by Glynis Maxwell of Canada. Two weeks ago she emailed me images of her own R & B trivet (below) and provided the following information.

Very intrigued, as I have a trivet identical to this, given as a wedding gift to my grandparents in 1916 (they lived in England). My mother told me that between the moon & stars was Jacob’s ladder leading, above it, to the gates of Heaven. Would love to know more about what you’ve learned about its Pennsylvania Dutch origin, especially as it fetched up in England, and whether you know the meaning of the letters “R” and”B”.  

Measurements: 8 3/4″ long x 5 1/2″ wide. The three long legs are uneven at 1 7/16″, 1 9/16″ and 1 5/16″ but the trivet doesn’t wobble, having three points of balance.

UPDATE from Glynis, 4/16/2023: My grandfather was a baker (but not a bakery owner) & I assume their friends were from the same worker class, skilled but not lavishly paid, even in peacetime. And, of course, in 1916, they were all presumably managing on soldiers’ pay. We’ll never know for sure, of course, but I would expect that a wedding gift purchased second-hand, and therefore possibly quite old in 1916, would be totally consistent with their friends’ means.

And no, he definitely wasn’t a Mason. I suppose the gifter could have been, but I rather think if my grandparents had any inkling of Masonic imagery, my mother would have known & passed that on. My gut feel is that someone saw it in a second-hand shop & simply thought the symbols of love & faith appropriate without necessarily understanding the deeper meaning.

And finally, this R & B trivet just sold at auction! It was one of thirteen trivets in Lot 120 from a large trivet collection, presented by the Atlanta Auction Gallery on April 15, 2023. I know who won it and will request she update us once the shipment is received and the trivet examined. I’ll be interested to learn the measurements and discover what type of cast mark(s) it has.

Unanswered questions

● How rare is this design? It’s not documented in Trivets & Stands (Kelly & Ellwood, 1990) or any of my other trivet references.

● Were reproductions cast using the original as a pattern? Locating examples, then making comparisons (measurements, casting methods, design quality, etc.) should provide some answers.

● Verbal provenance documents this trivet to 1916. But at the time it was gifted was it newly cast, or older?

● Is it possible this design was not produced in North America but, instead, originated in the United Kingdom?

● Freemasonry was active from the 1700s in England, Canada and Colonial America. Masons living on either continent could have provided the inspiration. If this is Masonic, what country was it from?

If you have one of these trivets and/or have any information to share, please Contact Me.


This entry was posted on April 16, 2023 by in Antique Trivets & Stands, Casting, Figural, fraternal organization.

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