You cannot hold Wm. A. Rogers responsible for the condition of this spoon. Oneida, possibly–that is the crux of yet another lawsuit from International Silver, this time, v. Oneida LTD. But first, a little of the history of yet another Rogers in the silver-plate business.
Wm. A. Rogers was a New York shopkeeper, and founded his business in 1881 according to Decisions of the Commissioner of Patents and of the United States Courts in Patent and Trade-Mark and Copyright Cases ( Wm. A. Rogers, Limited, v. International Silver Co.,1910). He did not enter the silver plate business until 1896. The first newspaper item I located with his brand was in 1897, but it implied he had been around long enough to be declared “celebrated” status. The ‘shell’ pattern was also found among different manufacturers with only slight variations. Wm. A.’s shell pattern came in plain or satin.
Wm. A. Rogers used the trademark (R) Rogers (R) from c. 1901 and 1881 (R) Rogers (R) from c. 1910. The Rs were centered in an open wreath design, and parentheses were used in text. He bought Simeon L. and Geo. H. Rogers Co. in 1918 and was bought out by Oneida in 1929. Enter:
International Silver Co. v. Oneida Community, Limited, Circuit Court of Appeals, Second Circuit (1934).
Lawsuits involving the use of the Rogers name were not uncommon. Even William Rogers, Jr., son of the “first” William H. Rogers was challenged at one point after his father’s death, although he prevailed. After International Silver Co. (apparently, a very large corporation) obtained the ownership and patents for the various ‘original’ Rogers companies, they frequently filed suit against any other silver-plate company using the name Rogers. IS filed suit against Wm. A. Rogers and won when the court ruled his trademark was “deceptively similar” to the Rogers Trademark (Anchor design) Rogers (Anchor design) even though there were major differences in other ways, including the 1881, New York, and Quadruple Plate that appeared in Wm. A. Rogers’ trademark, and that the wreath did not resemble an anchor. Wm. A. appealed, and won the appeal.
However, after Oneida Community obtained Wm. A. Rogers, IS was back in court basing it on being “the successor of the original Rogers firm that began business in 1847…” This suit provided the most relevant details of the long history of the ‘original’ Rogers brothers and their trademarks. They traced all the various Rogers’ silver-plate manufacturing, including all those using the name Rogers in some form, but who were never connected with any of the original Rogers brothers, and frequently had no original Rogers brothers or their sons connected with them. They also provided a number of instances in prior cases where judgements favoring IS were later reversed or dismissed. In Wm. A. Rogers v. International Silver (1910), it was ruled IS had no exclusive right to the word “Rogers.” All prior suits against Wm. A. Rogers had also failed and were discontinued in 1917.
What the court did decide was that Oneida had to advertise and mark its Rogers goods as Rogers, followed by the name Oneida Community as successor or manufacturer. The dissenting judge’s opinion was that the use of the name Rogers was not the issue, and agreed Rogers could not be monopolized by IS. He also further opined that Oneida should discontinue the use of the words “Genuine,” “Famous,” or “Celebrated” as that was a position W. A. Rogers never held. He also opined the use of “genuine Rogers” by IS was just as misleading as there was no ‘genuine’ merely ‘original’ Rogers.
The primary issue regarding Oneida was that they were accused of manufacturing lower quality silver-plate under the Wm. A. Rogers trademark and name. When one considers the poor condition of the above ladle manufactured by Oneida, it does lead one to believe corners may have been cut. Silver-plate was typically manufactured as a copper alloy with nickel and frequently, zinc, and then plated with silver. Nickel silver was first developed in China under the name “white copper” as an imitation of sterling silver. However, when in prolonged contact with acidic foods or beverages, the copper could be leached out, leading to toxicity, and certainly damage the utensil itself. Both Wm. Rogers companies and Wm. A. Rogers practiced extra plating. William Rogers, Jr. developed the extra plating technique on points of wear, and Wm. A. patented the quadruple plating method.
Perhaps the owner of the ladle served tomato soup frequently, or served lemonade with her Meadowbrook ladle, but it definitely evidences little to no silver plate left on the bowl’s back or front. It is even possible that some ambitious housewife scrubbed it with Ajax scouring cleanser. My mother was devastated to come home and find her mother-in-law had “surprised her” by “cleaning all that black off” her silver-plate…with Ajax and a Brillo pad. Oneida introduced the Meadowbrook line again in 1936.
In 1937, IS v. Oneida was again under appeal in New York. IS alleged Oneida was in contempt of the earlier ruling. Even though they had issued the notice to retail customers that they “must” include the statement ‘Rogers Ware Manufactured by Oneida,’ because they had furnished counsel to a retail dealer agreeing to pay the expenses of defending them against a suit because the dealer had advertised as Rogers, not Rogers Ware Manufactured by Oneida, IS alleged they were in contempt. The court ruled they were not in contempt for violating the requirement to furnish notice as they had made reasonable good faith attempts to do so. They did find Oneida in contempt for defending the retailer, asserting that as such, they were saying the “must” notice was not really a must. They found the complainant IS could not recover damages and was entitled to no relief. They did rule permission for IS to file a “supplemental bill for the purpose of requiring the defendant to cease selling its goods to any customer where such customer persistently disregards the notice that its ware must not be sold or represented as rogers ware simpliciter but only as Rogers ware manufactured by the defendant. They clarified “persistently” meant only a customer who disregarded the notice more than once. Apparently, thereafter, Oneida complied as did dealers.
This is it for the Rogers Dynasty, and all its many iterations and imitators. Just one more post on silver-plate, the Oneida Community. It is just too good to pass up, plus, the reader will see the difference between the Original Oneida and the Wm. A. Rogers manufactured by Oneida.