For centuries, world-class handmade pewter has been at the heart of the Danforth family tradition.
In 1755, in what was then still a British colony, Thomas Danforth II opened a pewter workshop in Middletown, Connecticut. He quickly gained popularity for his well-made household goods, such as plates, cups, and teapots – all items that were commonly made of pewter in those days. While the wealthy ate and drank out of glass and porcelain, which were breakable and expensive, working folks used pewter for their everyday items because it was affordable, and better yet, it lasted. Pewter doesn't tarnish, rust, or break, making it an ideal material for frequent use.
Thus was born not only the Danforth tradition of working pewter by hand, but also the core values that have remained the lifeblood of the business: sustainability, quality, and timelessness.
Thomas passed the family business down to his children, who passed it along through the generations for over a century. Pewter continued to be a popular material until the late 1860s, when it suddenly fell out of style. Chinese imports made glass and porcelain more affordable for the working class, causing a massive shift away from pewter. The last of the first line of Danforth artisans, Thomas Danforth Boardman, worked in his pewter shop until he died in 1873.
For the next one hundred years, the Danforths’ metalworking tools lay dormant. But in 1975, something remarkable happened that would give new life to the tradition.
Growing up in Ohio, Fred Danforth aspired to be a talented craftsman – though he believed his calling was in woodworking, not pewter. After moving to Vermont in his 20s, Fred met Judi Whipple, a fellow Vermont artist with a metalworking background and a passion for crafting pewter. Judi was so passionate about the metal that she even knew of the early Danforth pewter makers– and so was curious to find out whether Fred, their descendent, intended to rekindle the tradition.
Perhaps it was fate that intervened the day Judi told Fred that as a Danforth, he simply had to try working with pewter. Either way, it didn’t take him long to be convinced. The couple traveled to Nova Scotia to apprentice with pewter artisans, and then returned to Woodstock, VT, where they opened a workshop in an old dairy barn. From the start, both Fred and Judi designed and made their own creations. Eventually, combining Judi’s talent for carving models for jewelry and ornaments and Fred’s love of spinning holloware, they grew into their respective specialties. The business quickly became known for its one-of-a-kind oil lamps, jewelry, tumblers, picture frames, candlesticks, and other timeless heirlooms.
This was the birth of a new Danforth Pewter.
From day one, Danforth Pewter has been a family-run, family-like business with a passion for working metal by hand. Some of the pieces made by colonial and early American Danforths now live in the Smithsonian, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, the Winterthur Museum in Delaware, the DeWitt-Wallace Museum in Colonial Williamsburg, and many other historical museums.
Today, Danforth Pewter carries out Judi and Fred’s vision, staying true to the family’s original values of sustainability and authentic, handmade artistry while bringing in new talent to design and explore the versatile properties of pewter. Every item at Danforth Pewter is made in New England by master metalworkers, receiving personal attention as it's shaped from raw pewter to the beautiful object you hold in your hands.
To learn more about Danforth Pewter, we invite you to visit our workshop in the heart of Middlebury, Vermont, or any of our stores along the Eastern Seaboard. (For a full list and directions, click HERE.) Stay in touch by signing up for our newsletter, where you’ll be the first to know about special offers, and how to earn rewards with our Pewter Points program.
To read about our company values, the steps we’re toward zero-emissions sustainability, and our extensive collection of handcrafted pewter gifts, click HERE.