SMP Logo
SM Publications
Silver Salon Forums - The premier site for discussing Silver.
SMP | Silver Salon Forums | SSF - Guidelines | SSF - FAQ | Silver Sales

The Silver Salon Forums
Since 1993
Over 11,793 threads & 64,769 posts !!
American Sterling Silver Forum
How to Post Photos REGISTER (click here)

customtitle open  SMP Silver Salon Forums
tlineopen  American Sterling Silver
tline3open  Dirksen Silver

Post New Topic  Post A Reply
profile | register | preferences | faq | search

ForumFriend SSFFriend: Email This Page to Someone! next newest topic | next oldest topic
Author Topic:   Dirksen Silver
FredZ

Posts: 1069
Registered: Jun 99

iconnumber posted 12-08-2003 02:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FredZ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
[01-1331]

I just found and bought a filigree teaspoon by the Dirksen Filigree Silver company of Freeport. This is the third spoon I have had the pleasure of buying. It is not a technique I am interested in and I admire the patience and quality of these items. This last spoon was marked with a D between two stars. Does anyone have further examples of their work?

Fred

IP: Logged

Paul Lemieux

Posts: 1768
Registered: Apr 2000

iconnumber posted 12-08-2003 06:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul Lemieux     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't have any examples to share. However, I have seen numerous examples of spoons by other makers (e.g. Watson) that have had the interior of the handle cut out, leaving just an open space in the handle, which was then filled in with filigree work highly typical of Dirksen.

I am wondering if Dirksen embellished spoons by other makers and if so under what circumstances (special orders or regular practice?). Other smiths have been known to do this--such as John Bellis who added hammered finishes, applied monograms, etc. to plain pieces of silver. The difference is that I have not seen one of the converted filigree spoons signed by Dirksen.

IP: Logged

Patrick Vyvyan

Posts: 640
Registered: May 2003

iconnumber posted 01-06-2004 01:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Patrick Vyvyan     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Stephenson County Historical Society museum has a page devoted to Dirksen with some photos:
quote:





The "Dirksen Silver Filigree Co.," a facsimile of the 1896-97 product catalog, was reprinted by the Stephenson County Historical Society in 1986. The following is a copy of the catalog's forward, written by Philip L. Keister.

A small but interesting Freeport industry of the past was the Dirksen Silver Filigree company located on South State Avenue. This business was founded and operated by Gerrit Dirksen, a silversmith, who learned his trade in Germany and built up this business in the last twenty years of the nineteenth century. He was born about 1818 in Emden, Germany, where he learned the trade of silversmith. He died about 1903 in Freeport. His wife, Antje, who was born in 1817 came to America with him about 1844 and died in 1917, age nearly 100. They lived on a farm in Ridott Township for some years after coming to America, but later moved to Freeport where they ran a small grocery store on State Street just north of Galena Avenue. Gerrit set up a small silversmith shop in the back of the store and made many beautiful pieces of silverware and filigree during the 1800s.

About 1890, the business of making and selling filigree pieces became so great that the store was given up and the building converted into a silver filigree factory or shop. It was a two-story frame structure located on the second lot north of the business place. The numerous operations of making the filigree were carried on in this building, from receiving the bars of silver to shipping out the beautiful pieces of silverware.

The front of the building was plain with a door to the north and a window to the south. Inside, on the first floor, there was a counter at the front of the shop, back of which was a large safe and some semblance of an office. The work benches were in front of the windows to get good light for the detailed work of laying out the fine work. The patient work of "filling" the pieces took place on thick green glass with fine tweezers. This was done from a roll of wire drawn very fine, which was cut to desired lengths and rolled and curled to desired shapes and patterns and then carefully arranged in the handle or piece being "filled." The next step was to solder the layouts after being filled. The handles were then soldered onto the spoons or other utensils and heated to whiten and temper them.

The next step was to dip the articles in a "pickle" solution which made them bright and of lasting quality. After cleaning and buffing, they were taken to the second floor of the building and dipped into an enamel solution which preserved the bright shiny beauty of the products. Some items, such as forks, were partially dipped in a gold solution to gild the tines. The pieces were then wrapped, packed and shipped.

The second floor also housed a button machine which placed celluloid caps over buttons with photos between to make picture buttons so popular about 1900.

The 1893 World's Fair at Chicago and the World's Columbian Exposition, gave the silver filigree business a big boost as the Dirksens designed, made up, and exhibited some very large and fine pieces at a booth at the fair. For about five years following, John Dirksen, a son and also a jewelry traveling salesman, pushed the line with other goods and kept the little shop in Freeport busy turning out fine pieces. Richard D. Dirksen, the older son, assisted Gerrit in the shop and gradually did most of the actual work and supervision of the five or six other employees. These employees were usually girls hired at wages which now seem very low. Some of the employees of the shop were Florence Hershy Yarger (1891 - 1897); Jennie Hamm and Helen Watson (1901 - 05).

In 1896, the business had W.H. Wagner & Sons print it a fine catalog which is reproduced here. It appears to be largely the work of John Dirksen the salesman. The various pieces were costly, considering 1896 money values but it must be remembered that labor was plentiful and cheap in order to make such intricate work even at such prices.

Much of the success of the business was because of the skill of Gerrit Dirksen with his old school craft trade of sliversmithing learned in Germany and the promotion and salesmanship of his son who was progressive and who could merchandise the wares. The various expositions of the '90s helped sell the goods and the demand for the products during the 1890s probably stemmed from the ornate style and fancy detail. When the plain and austere period of the twentieth century came, the delicate and ornate handmade filigree silverware and other pieces became outmoded and old style. One of John Dirksen's biggest complaints was that fact that not enough different or new style pieces were designed to enable him to push the goods harder. The pieces made for the Chicago World's Fair were very ornate - a huge fan, for example, a bouquet holder and other large pieces. These were kept for many years by Mrs. R.D. Dirksen and were later sold to various people to have other things made from them.

Gerrit was over 80 years of age and did less and less work or designing. John also lost interest as the fad and popularity of the wares began to wane. The business of the filigree factory started to slip. After the death of the father in 1903, the business went down hill rapidly, so that Richard closed it out by 1905. He used the building for a carpenters shop and later razed it to make room for the double house he built on the side. This house is still there today.

The museum of the Stephenson County Historical Society has several card cases made by Dirksen, one being the earlier and fine work done by the elder Dirksen himself. The courser work came later when demand was at its peak and the very plain and course work came later, just before the end.

Dirksen pieces can usually be identified by the letters GD intercrossed in a simple design or by the words, "G. Dirksen, Freeport, Ill."

Although it was never a sizable Freeport industry, the Dirksen Silver Filigree Company will be remembered for its beautiful silver spoons, napkin rings, card cases, and many other pieces. Gerrit Dirksen was a fine craftsman and his earlier work showed this quality and character. It was one of those American businesses that bridged the gap between the single workman who produced with hand tools in his own shop to the modern factory system of today.

Many pieces of Dirksen Silver, including the pieces pictured here, are on display in a permanent exhibit at the Stephenson County Historical Society.



IP: Logged

FredZ

Posts: 1069
Registered: Jun 99

iconnumber posted 01-06-2004 01:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FredZ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The museum even offers a copy of one of the Dirksen catalogues. The Dirksen's business was boosted by there participation in one of the world expositions.

Fred

IP: Logged

dragonflywink

Posts: 975
Registered: Dec 2002

iconnumber posted 01-11-2004 01:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dragonflywink     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi Fred,

Thought you might like to see a filigree spoon from another maker. This is a lovely piece from Wendell, a Chicago manufacturer. It's monogrammed with initials and "1892" on the back of the bowl, has the mark that Rainwater shows as being used before 1894, measures 6 inches long. Given that Chicago is just a little over a hundred miles from Freeport, perhaps Wendell lured some of Dirksen's craftsmen to the big city. biggrin

Cheryl

IP: Logged

FredZ

Posts: 1069
Registered: Jun 99

iconnumber posted 01-11-2004 10:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for FredZ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Cheryl,

Dirksen's silver was shown at the 1893 World's Fair at Chicago. They might have been competitors. Thanks for the image. I would have sworn that the spoon was a Dirksen piece. Is it possible that Dirksen could have made items for retailers? I need to get a copy of their cataloge.

Fred

IP: Logged

dragonflywink

Posts: 975
Registered: Dec 2002

iconnumber posted 01-11-2004 11:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dragonflywink     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi Fred,

Bought the spoon as part of a mixed lot on eBay a few years ago, had decent pictures but no real description. My gut instinct was Dirksen (looks very much like pattern "A" in the Turner book), so I was surprised to find the Wendell mark. Certainly no disappointment though, it's a wonderful piece.

According to Turner, "During later years, sterling blanks were purchased from other companies, notably A.F.Towle & Son. Marks of these companies sometimes appear on pieces with Dirksen filigree handles.". Turner shows the Dirksen being in business from 1892-1910. The museum site indicates the grocery business was given up for the silver shop around 1890 due to popularity of the filigree.

Found the website description of manufacturing interesting, but curious about the handles being soldered onto the spoons or other utencils after the wirework being done. I find no evidence of that on this spoon, even with 20x magnification. What about your pieces of Dirksen?

Gave this piece to my Mom, who collects pierced and filigree silver. She also has filigree souvenir spoons from Peru and Mexico that show less wirework, but are still nicely done.

Cheryl

[This message has been edited by dragonflywink (edited 01-11-2004).]

IP: Logged

All times are ET

next newest topic | next oldest topic

Administrative Options: Close Topic | Archive/Move | Delete Topic
Post New Topic  Post A Reply
Hop to:


Ultimate Bulletin Board 5.46a


1. Public Silver Forums (open Free membership) - anyone with a valid e-mail address may register. Once you have received your Silver Salon Forum password, and then if you abide by the Silver Salon Forum Guidelines, you may start a thread or post a reply in the New Members' Forum. New Members who show a continued willingness to participate, to completely read and abide by the Guidelines will be allowed to post to the Member Public Forums.
Click here to Register for a Free password

2. Private Silver Salon Forums (invitational or $ donation membership) - The Private Silver Salon Forums require registration and special authorization to view, search, start a thread or to post a reply. Special authorization can be obtained in one of several ways: by Invitation; Annual $ Donation; or via Special Limited Membership. For more details click here (under development).

3. Administrative/Special Private Forums (special membership required) - These forums are reserved for special subjects or administrative discussion. These forums are not open to the public and require special authorization to view or post.


| Home | Order | The Guide to Evaluating Gold & Silver Objects | The Book of Silver
| Update BOS Registration | Silver Library | For Sale | Our Wants List | Silver Dealers | Speakers Bureau |
| Silversmiths | How to set a table | Shows | SMP | Silver News |
copyright © 1993 - 2020 SM Publications
All Rights Reserved.
Legal & Privacy Notices