Who was the ‘other’ William Henry Rogers?

Wm. H. Rogers, Shell pattern, sugar shell and olive/pickle fork

As noted in the last post, William Hazen Rogers of the original Rogers Brothers silver-plate had a son named William Henry Rogers who joined in the family business. While the Rogers family had a number of trademarks for their various companies and designs of flatware, Wm. H. Rogers A1 does not appear in any of their various silver mark stamps that I have located.

A search for Wm. H. Rogers in the shell pattern turned up several items that helped identify the long handle pickle/olive fork and several designs of the shell design sugar shell, but all in slightly alternate forms and by other manufacturers. The twisted-handle design was used in bar-ware as the design allegedly helped with mixing liquids while stirring. During the heyday of the silver-plate years, the sophisticated hostess expected to have a piece of flatware or serving ware for every possible function, thus, there were berry forks, cake forks, salad forks, oyster forks, fish forks, ice cream forks, pie forks, strawberry forks, berry spoons, grapefruit spoons, gumbo spoons, ice cream spoons, asparagus servers, tomato servers, pie servers, horseradish scoops, mustard ladles, fish knives, butter knives, fruit knives, pate knives, etc., ad infinitum!

W. H. Rogers was a machinist and repaired bicycles in his shop in Plainfield from 1890-1898 as “the North avenue wheelman” (The Whirr of the Wheel, June 3, 1897, p. 5). Business was brisk and Rogers found it “impossible to fill of his orders for Spalding wheels.” Rogers himself was an avid cyclist.

In 1898, he formed a partnership under the name Wm. H. Rogers Company with Joseph A. Hubbard who advanced the money to begin a silver-plated tableware business. Rogers had no experience in or knowledge of electro-plating. He read catalogues, including those of the Wm. Rogers Manufacturing Company, selected patterns, and arranged for the Bristol Brass & Clock Company in Connecticut to manufacture and stamp his goods with the name Wm. H. Rogers Co. This partnership lasted until August 1899, and sold primarily wholesale at little profit.

The Courier News, Dec. 19, 1898, p. 8.

When he discontinued the partnership with Hubbard, he entered into contract with the M. S. Benedict Manufacturing Company, of Syracuse. He sold to Benedict most of the goods Bristol and others were making for him. From August 1899 to August 1900, they were stamped with the name Wm. H. Rogers.

In May, 1900, the International Silver Company, which had acquired the rights to the original Wm. Rogers Mfg. Co. filed action to restrain the manufacturers Bristol Brass & Clock Company from stamping the Wm. H. Rogers on their silver-plate. Bristol ceased to manufacture for W. H. Rogers. Then in Nov. 1900, International Silver brought suit against the M. S. Benedict Manufacturing Company. Benedict did not respond so Feb. 1, 1901 injunction was issued to Benedict to prohibit their stamping with Wm., William H., or in any combination with Rogers. Rogers himself was not sued. It was not known how much W. H. Rogers was able to procure after July 1900 and until he formed the William H. Rogers Corporation in April 1901. Newspaper ads indicated at least some were still available.

Woodhull & Martin ran an ad in the Plainfield Daily Press March 28, 1901:

This would indicate that the Wm. H. Rogers A1 stamp was in use already, prior to the formation of the corporation. However, Woodhull & Martin ran an ad June 14, 1901 for Rogers Tea Spoons with the same designation:

Wm. H. Rogers, A 1, silver tea spoons, Kirkwood pattern, always sold at 1.25 per half dozen, Saturday special at 78c

In July, “the entire stock of Wm. H. Rogers” was purchased by Woodhull & Martin and sold for reduced prices.

Woodhull & Martin ad, Plainfield Daily Press, Jul 16, 1901, p. 4.

Even though W. H. Rogers continued to advertise with the name Wm. H. Rogers, International Silver had not sued him. After he organized the corporation in April 1901, IS still did not sue. They waited over a year and filed in June 1902 to ask for a preliminary injunction to restrain the corporation and “Wm. H. Rogers personally from stamping any silver-plated ware with the mark ‘Wm. H. Rogers’ or any other mark of which the words Wm. Rogers are a characteristic part” (Silver Trust Beaten by Local Concern, Oct. 24, 1902, Plainfield Daily Press, p. 1). The preliminary injunction had been argued in July.

The crux of the defense was that between the time of May 1st, 1901 and June 7th, 1902, the corporation had expended a good deal of money in constructing a plant and engaging in manufacturing. The ‘temporary win’ was International Silver had delayed too long in filing suit with no good reason, and was not entitled to the recuperation of any monies they alleged to have lost as a result of unfair competition, nor an account of profits made by the corporation. Although International Silver had sued the manufacturing company and the selling company, it had never sued W. H. Rogers, nor was notice ever given to him that they intended to proceed with a complaint. Under the laches doctrine (unreasonable delay in filing suit), Vice Chancellor Stevens’ opinion was:

The more severe the penalty, the greater the diligence complainant should use in asserting its rights. It should not be permitted to stand by, knowing that defendant is devoting its money and efforts to building up a business, wait until after he has made profits, and then come in and demand them as his own. A clear distinction is made in all the cases, English and American, between the right to an injunction and the right to profits.

Rogers complied with changing the name of the corporation. The corporation was changed from Wm. H. Rogers corporation April 6, 1905 to the Plainfield Silver Plate Company (Corporations of New Jersey, 1905). International Silver again brought suit in December 1905 to enjoin the use of the name Wm. H. Rogers or any version of Rogers.(The Courier-News, Dec. 14, 1905, p. 1). Once again headlines in Plainfield read “SILVER TRUST DEFEATED” when Vice-Chancellor Stevens filed his opinion refusing the injunction against Rogers’ use of his own name. Following the proceedings from the most recent case, Rogers started a new business under his name, W. H. Rogers, the name he had always used, and had his silver-plate stamped with “W. H. Rogers of Plainfield, N. J.)

He printed on his labels, box covers and advertisements “Not connected with any other Rogers.” He selected patterns of his own, and obtained a patent, conducting the entire business from start to finish, in his own factory. Stevens decided W. H. Rogers as he was currently operating was entitled to conduct business as he had been and that the complaint should be dismissed (Plainfield Daily Press, July 6, 1906, p. 1, 8). Stevens countered that the complaint is no way “pretended that the defendant is in any way imitating the complainant’s wares or the packages, boxes or wrappers in which they are contained. The only complaint is that because he is using his own name, he may be getting some of the trade that would otherwise go to complainant, he should further differentiate his manufacture from that of complainant’s by stamping upon the ware itself the words ‘Not connected with the original Rogers’ ” (Silver Trust Defeated). Stevens further decided Rogers was not obligated to “injure his plated ware” by putting further stamping that other makers did not, being only legally obligated to only use his own name fairly. The case was dismissed.

The victory was short-lived. It was taken up in appeal to the United States Supreme Court, who reversed the decision in 1911 and W. H. Rogers was enjoined to add:

Rogers closed his local plant in Plainfield in March 1908 and relocated to Muncie, Indiana, with his office in New York. He continued to live in Plainfield.

The Muncie Evening Press, Nov. 19, 1910, p.3

William Henry Rogers of Plainfield, N. J. died at age 69, March 1, 1923. He was survived by his wife Mertilla and two daughters. Given the history of W. H. Rogers’ work in silver plate, and the trademarks and stamps he used, my best guess is this sugar spoon and pickle fork would have been manufactured sometime between 1899 when he began, and 1905, when he began to use the W. H. Rogers of Plainfield, N. J. designation.

While he may have started out with the intention to benefit from the name of Wm. Rogers and their prolific manufacturing history, that was never definitively proven, merely implied. Ultimately, he succeeded using the same name he had always used in business, W. H. Rogers, and became known as a manufacturer of excellent silver plate, according to the records in the various suits.

I plan one more post on the Rogers silver-plate companies, that of Wm. A. Rogers. International Silver will again make a ‘cameo’ appearance.

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6 Responses to Who was the ‘other’ William Henry Rogers?

  1. Good story and history. I confess to having a sugar shell, pickle forks, salad forks, butter knife, large serving forks, iced tea spoons and more..I love old silver-plate flatware. My children will not want any of it when I am gone. Or my china. Good post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Suzassippi says:

      Thank you, Jo Nell. None of our kids want any of our things anymore. I cherish the items passed down to me from family–if it is family, I know whose it was. I do not always remember where I obtained something like this pickle fork and sugar shell. Do you use all the various items?


  2. Betty says:

    You are quite the historian and will have me looking more closely at the backs of antique silverware. I find the “Not the Original Rogers” notation interesting. Could he have added “,but better?” I look forward to the next Rogers post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Suzassippi says:

      I like that suggestion; if they had kept it up, he would not have room for decoration due to all the disclaimers. Rand laughed at me for all the time I have spent on this, but I just tell him it is fun to me to solve a puzzle.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. peggy says:

    Another good history lesson about an item few people think about. You definitely are a historian. I doubt that I could spend time researching items as efficently as you do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Suzassippi says:

      Thank you, Peggy. I also find it interesting how many silver plate items are for sale on ebay or etsy. Now that is something I doubt I could spend time doing–selling stuff on the Internet!

      Liked by 1 person

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