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Our visit to

Old Newbury Crafters

Amesbury, Massachusetts
April 22, 2002
by Scott & June Martin

In The Book of Silver, there are two Old Newbury Crafters patterns represented for which we were not able to clearly identify the pattern names. As we were going through final review for the next Book of Silver update, I remembered that one of our registered users had provided us some information about Old Newbury Crafters specifically to help us identify one of the unknown patterns. This info was very helpful but not conclusive. It was enough to pique my interest and I thought perhaps a quick call to Old Newbury Crafters could clear up the mystery. Unfortunately, the pattern identification could not be accomplished over the phone. This gave me an inspiration. Why not pay a personal visit to Old Newbury Crafters to pin down the identification of both unknown patterns as well as get a first hand look at a fine old silver crafting firm? The folks at Old Newbury Crafters were more than happy to give us a tour, so we headed up to Amesbury, Massachusetts.

ONC Door

Amesbury sits in the Northeast corner of Massachusetts about 35 miles north of Boston. The Powow River is a main attraction. During the 19th century, the river was used to power the mills that served as an economic base for the community. Today the Powow is a recreational attraction for the area. Old Newbury Crafters relocated from Newburyport to Amesbury in 1979. ONC now occupies one of these historic old mill buildings beside the river.

Old Newbury Crafters began business in 1915 as a partnership between "spoonman" Elmer Senior and "polisher" Albert MacBurnie. Both men had worked at the Frank Smith Silver Company in Gardner, Massachusetts. After leaving there, MacBurnie went to work for Towle Silversmiths, but on his off hours, he did finishing work of hand wrought pieces made by Elmer Senior who had perfected his silversmithing craft under the guidance of George Blanchard. When MacBurnie left Towle, he went to work full time at Old Newbury Crafters. When Elmer Senior died in 1932, the business was incorporated as "The Old Newbury Crafters". MacBurnie remained with the firm until his death in 1944 at which point control passed to MacBurnie's son, Everett. Everett, in turn, sold it to his cousin, Reynolds Senior, in 1950. Reynolds Senior served as Master Silversmith and shop foreman until 1959 at which point he was succeeded by Chester A. Dow (aka "Cap") who remained in this capacity until his death in 1978.

Reynolds Senior
Chester Dow

In 1955, Reynolds Senior sold the business to Swift C. Barnes, who had been associated with Towle Silversmiths. In 1983, Old Newbury Crafters was acquired by Donald J Brady of Greensboro, North Carolina. Ownership passed to Connecticut businessman, Peter Dooney, in 1998.

During the early years of the firm, only two flatware patterns were offered: Moulton and Old Newbury. These patterns were distributed mostly through crafts societies and fine jewelry stores. When Swift Barnes acquired ownership in 1955, emphasis was placed on expanding the product lines as well as the distribution channels. Five new flatware patterns were added to the line: Windsor, Fiddleback, Panel Antique, Old English and Moderne. Also around this time, all work began to be marked "Handwrought O.N.C. sterling".

ONC die punch

Prior to this, flatware pieces were stamped with STERLING in a rectangle followed by an incused ONC with no periods. The Old Newbury Crafters pieces that had initiated our visit, were found to have the older mark.

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