Coffee Service, "Modernist" Pattern Manufacturer: Reed and Barton (American, founded 1840)


American Decorative Arts

On view, 1st floor, American Decorative Arts before 1900

This after-dinner coffee service was the centerpiece of Reed & Barton’s Modernist line of silver, silver-plate, and pewter housewares that was unveiled in 1928. The designs included under the Modernist heading were conservative interpretations of the contemporary European objects that Americans saw in magazines and at exhibitions arranged by museums and department stores. Modernist was Reed & Barton’s first foray into modern design, a field they entered tentatively, using the slogan, “Sensibly Interpreting the Spirit of Modernism,” to launch the line. Advertisements assured buyers that “here are pieces one likes to live with, to enjoy, to use. Here the influences of modern decoration are applied, sensibly, to necessary silver.” A review of the Modernist pattern in Good Furniture magazine ventured that “in the making of beautiful silver Americans are showing today an originality akin to that which distinguished the silver of our Colonial days.” This comment—however dubious—successfully linked the modern pieces to a respected history of American design.
     This after-dinner coffee set bears little resemblance to historical models, although the curvaceous form could be seen to relate to late eighteenth-century coffeepots. The unknown designer was more likely looking to the hammered surfaces and unusual geometric forms found on the silver of Viennese designer Joseph Hoffmann. Advertisements for this set depict a tall creamer that echoes the coffeepot. This creamer matches the sugar bowl. Most of the elements in this set are marked with the symbol for 1928. The low creamer is marked with the symbol for 1929, suggesting that Reed & Barton added a new creamer shape during the second year of production.


Sterling silver


coffeepot: 8 1/2 × 7 3/8 × 2 7/8 in. (21.6 × 18.7 × 7.3 cm), 14 oz., 7 dwt. (466 gm)
creamer: 2 7/8 × 5 3/4 × 3 1/4 in. (7.3 × 14.6 × 8.3 cm), 4 oz., 2 dwt. (133 gm)
sugar bowl: 2 3/4 × 5 1/2 × 3 3/8 in. (7 × 14 × 8.6 cm), 4 oz., 8 dwt. (137 gm)
tray: 7/8 × 13 1/4 × 10 1/4 in. (2.2 × 33.7 × 26 cm), 18 oz., 9 dwt. (574 gm)

Credit Line

John C. Waddell Collection, Gift of John C. Waddell, B.A. 1959

Accession Number



20th century


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



John C. Waddell, New York, 2006–10; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.
  • John Stuart Gordon et al., A Modern World: American Design from the Yale University Art Gallery, 1920–1950 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2011), 286, no. 193
Object copyright
Additional information


"[eagle] R [in shield] [rampant lion] / STERLING / D1000 / 27 / 1 1/4 PTS / [eagle, 1928 date mark]" incuse on underside of coffeepot; "[eagle] R [in shield] [rampant lion] / STERLING / D1000 / [torch, 1929 date mark]" incuse on underside of creamer; "[eagle] R [in shield] [rampant lion] / STERLING / D1000 / [eagle]" struck over faint "REED & BARTON / STERLING" incuse on underside of sugar bowl; "[eagle] R [in shield] [rampant lion] / STERLING / 1000" incuse on underside of tray

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