From the earliest days of American colonization and far into the 19th century, pewter was an integral part of day-to-day living. Pewterers’ wares included spoons, plates, bowls, tankards, lamps, chamber pots, inkstands, nursing bottles, buttons and even sundials.
The Danforths were one of Colonial America’s foremost families of pewterers, and the DAR Museum owns several of their pieces. Patriarch Thomas Danforth owned a shop and sold pewter and other metal wares in Norwich, Conn., starting somewhere around 1733. His son, Thomas Danforth II, who moved to Middletown, is often called Connecticut’s most important pewterer not only for his exemplary skills, but also for his training of apprentices and successful business practices. His six sons followed him in the trade, and at least 19 members of subsequent generations became pewterers or pursued allied metal trades from 1755 until about 1873.
The Danforths worked in several Connecticut towns, as well as Philadelphia, Richmond, Va., and Augusta, Ga. Since the chronicle of their lives is complicated by the duplication of Danforth given names and family trademarks, Connecticut Pewter and Pewterers by John Carl Thomas (Connecticut Historical Society, 1976) is a helpful resource for clarification of family history.