Danforth: A Family History of Quality Pewter

Jim Therriault


I’m always amazed by how many tree ornaments are sold throughout the year in my store. A single evergreen is on display year-round, loaded with an assortment of wooden, clay, and glass decorations. In addition, there’s a large antique jewelry case that houses a dazzling selection of Danforth pewter ornaments and jewelry.

People love Danforth’s classic designs, elegant details, and affordable prices. Whether they are purchasing these exquisite pieces for their own enjoyment or as gifts for others, Danforth pewter has a legendary reputation for crafting pewter of outstanding quality and timeless beauty.

Dating back to 1755, Danforth began when Thomas Danforth II opened a pewter workshop in colonial Connecticut. Generations of the Danforth family followed him into the business. Prior to the 1860s, nearly all American households had pewter plates and cups, and the Danforths were one of the leading producers of American pewter.

After the Civil War, the American pewter industry collapsed as glass and ceramic became affordable alternatives to pewter. By 1873, the last of the colonial-era Danforth descendants stopped working in pewter. Fortunately, several of those early-period Danforth pewter pieces were preserved in museums across the United States, including the Smithsonian, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Museum Collection at Colonial Williamsburg.

A century later, Thomas Danforth II’s great-great-great-great-great grandson, Fred Danforth, revived the family tradition with his wife, Judi, when they opened Danforth Pewter in Vermont in 1975. Like their ancestors, Fred and Judi are passionate about their craft and proud of their family’s role in the history of pewtermaking in America.

Today, they strive to keep artisan pewter alive and well in the 21st century. Every piece of Danforth pewter is still crafted by hand in their Middlebury, Vermont, workshop. Their line includes everything from miniature pocket charms to one-of-a-kind oil lamps signed by the artist. Danforth’s most popular categories include jewelry, holiday ornaments, and key rings.

Danforth pewter is made of the finest high-quality, lead-free alloy of tin, copper, and antimony. The tin imparts a fine sheen and malleability. Over time, pewter develops a wonderful patina. Though certain conditions can cause pewter to oxidize and darken, pewter does not tarnish like silver and copper. Pewter is easily cleaned by washing with warm, soapy water; rinsing; and then towel-drying with a soft cloth.

For everlasting ornaments that will become cherished keepsakes for generations, start—or add to—your collection of Danforth pewter and help continue a long-standing American tradition.

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