Mystery of the Boston Metallic Companies
Updated: Dec 26, 2022
THE FACTS…From a distance this passage knob looks like it should
be from MCCC c.1869 or 70 but a closer examination, especially a comparison of the reverse side, shows this knob is actually more similar in style to the MCCC/R&E knobs of the early 1870s.
Also on the reverse is the most int
eresting discovery: the lettering uses the same font and style as MCCC/R&E but spells out “Metallic Art Works Boston Mass. No. 1”.
Additionally, the MAW rosette has a design quite similar to the early flat back MCCC rosette, but the MAW rose has a thicker edge and a reverse that is scooped out like rosettes made in the later 1870s.
MORE MYSTERY & INTRIGUE…in January of 1870
there was a fire at the MCCC plant in Somerville, MA…fire companies responded quickly but had to lay the hose across a railroad track to access water. A train came through, severing the hose, and causing total loss of the buildings. This incident became an oft-cited reference in liability law, which faults the Fitchburg RR but does not mention what, if any, compensation went to MCCC. In June of 1870 all the patents for the MCCC hardware designs were granted, but assigned to Russell & Erwin. The highly legal patent process had to have begun well before the previous January, but we don’t know if MCCC & R&E signed the “Sole Agency” agreement and/or the patent assignment agreement before or after the fire. It is highly probably that MCCC was in financial straights before 1870, and they were officially bankrupt in 1871. However, in 1875, the men who started and failed with MCCC began a new company called the American Art Foundry. No doorknobs are known to be from AAF, and this company also failed a few years later. Meanwhile, we do have one doorknob and other products marked by Metallic Art Works, and there are references to people who worked there both before and after 1870. Most important, the similarities between MCCC and Metallic Art Works hardware are too strong to be ignored.
CONCLUSION: Apparently there were two “Metallic” hardware companies operating simultaneously in the Boston area in the late 1860s. Both companies made things other than door hardware and it would be likely that the two companies knew each other and shared or stole ideas, designs, personnel, fabrication methods, and maybe even the name. History is a storehouse of surprising facts, so we need to learn a lot more about American hardware history before we give all the creative credit to MCCC.