The Derby Silver Company was founded in 1872 and began operations on Shelton’s Canal Street one year later. The company soon outgrew its quarters and in 1877 constructed a larger building, which still stands on Bridge Street, Shelton, near the Housatonic River, overlooking Derby. A number of additions were completed in subsequent years. The original Canal Street building was razed when the railroad was built through Shelton in 1888.
The company made toilet articles, mirrors, combs, clocks, brushes, tableware and flatware, tea sets, children’s cups, loving cups (trophies), candlesticks, fruit baskets, dishes, basically anything which was plated by or made of silver. Special orders were constantly commissioned as well. The factory manufactured items for the Sperry and Hutchinson trading stamp stores. The Company was noted for its large line of silver-plated toilet ware and an economical line of plated hollowware sold under the popular trademark of the Victor Silver Plate Company.
Showrooms were established in New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco. A considerable amount of silver was shipped to South America. The logo at the time featured an anchor, often with the words “Derby Silver Company” or its initials surrounding it.
In 1898, the plant merged with the International Silver Company, a consortium of Connecticut silver companies. At that time the Derby Silver Company works was known as Factory B. Thus, as a rule of thumb, items with the Derby Silver Company logo most likely date from the 19th century, while items with the International Silver Company logo, either Derby or Factory B, are from the 20th.
A victim of the Depression, the plant closed in 1933. The Derby Silver Company’s building remains intact on Bridge Street in Shelton. The building had served as an automobile muffler factory and during World War II manufactured bombsight optics. In 1949 it was bought by the Sponge Rubber Products Company. The Sponge Rubber Products Company was bought out by B.F. Goodrich in 1954. The large smokestack that served the Silver Company was torn down in October of 1961. The building reverted back to the rejuvenated Sponge Rubber Products Company in 1974 and, fortunately, stood far enough away from the SRPC’s main plant (a block south on Canal Street) that it was not destroyed when a firebombing decimated that property.
The old building was bought by former employees of the Sponge Rubber Company, who formed Housatonic Everfloat, a manufacturer of foam rubber cushions, mats, and life preservers. Housatonic Everfloat was bought out by a company called Spongex in 1985, which continues similar manufacturing operations in the old Silver Company building to the present day.
Articles manufactured by the Derby Silver Company can be found on public display in Derby, Shelton, and her sister communities of the Lower Naugatuck Valley. In addition to the Derby and Shelton Historical Societies, a good source of information on this local industry is A Century in Silver 1847-1947, Connecticut Yankees and a Noble Metal (1947) by Earl Chapin May.
Courtesy of the Derby Historical Society. This article originally appeared on the Derby Historical Society’s website.