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The Legacy of Virginia Metalcrafters of Waynesboro

April 28th, 2015 · 22 Comments

By Garland Pollard

virginia metalcraftersWAYNESBORO – Perhaps the greatest American brass company of the 20th century was Virginia Metalcrafters.

The company started as a stove manufacturer, early on making, of all things, the Hotpoint brand. Begun by William J. Loth as the Waynesboro Stove Company, it was born at a time when there were many regional iron foundries and stove makers. As electric appliances took over, most of these companies shut down, unable to adapt. However, Virginia Metalcrafters figured out a way to survive. In 1936, it became Virginia Metalcrafters, selling unique household items to that new, sensational American tourist attraction, Colonial Williamsburg.

At right, a photo of its trivets, placed in a modern decorating scheme, from the 1982 Williamsburg Reproductions catalog.

The company closed almost a decade ago. Last month, however, the Commonwealth of Virginia awarded the foundry on Waynesboro’s East Main Street a $600,000 grant from the state’s industrial revitalization fund to turn the factory into a new  hub of businesses. The award, announced through Gov. Terry McAuliff’s office, went to VM Acquisitions Waynesboro LLC. It apparently not be an actual foundry, with restaurant, farmer’s market and other hipster haven features at the site instead.

Through most of the rest of the 20th century, Virginia Metalcrafters did a booming business in tasteful metal goods. The company worked closely with Colonial Williamsburg to produce reproductions of the items that the “Restoration” was digging up and finding, including trivets, candlesticks, irons and trays.

All of the items made by Virginia Metalcrafters were of the highest quality, whether Williamsburg or not. It was truly a company living in the William Morris craft tradition, and as the Williamsburg program grew, other historic areas copied the reproductions program.

There were different categories of items, including Reproductions and Adaptations. Reproductions were exact copies of items that were in existence in Colonial Virginia, and adaptations were items that were styled after the era. In addition, there were items unknown to Virginians of the 18th century, such as hostess bells in the shape of a colonial woman in hoopskirts and ashtrays in the shape of leaves.

Virginia Metalcrafters was but one of dozens of Willliamsburg reproduction manufacturers, all showcased at the Craft House, a special Colonial gallery near the Williamsburg Inn. For instance, in 1971, the list of reproduction licensees included Josiah Wedgewood (china), Doulton & Company (figurines), Harvin Company (fireplace equipment, that too was in Waynesboro), Kittinger Company (furniture), Martin-Senour paints, Royal Leerdam glass, Williamsburg Pottery, Dietz Press prints, Eaton Paper (stationary), Katzenbach & Warren (wallpaper), Messrs. Oud Delft of Nijmegen (Deftware), Chelsea Clock Company (clocks) and Stieff Company (silver and pewter).

Over the decades, the licensee list at Williamsburg evolved, new items were added and slow sellers dropped. Perhaps the zenith was the U.S. Bicentennial, when millions visited the great houses and history of America. However, by the end of the 20th century, Williamsburg deteriorated in popularity, and the overall operation suffered. Restaurants, which had been operated at the highest Rockefeller standards, dropped in quality, a result of many factors, including demand. In spite of innovations like the History Channel, Americans knew far less about history, and did not seek out Williamsburg.

The deterioration was also partly self inflicted, and could be seen in the reproductions program itself. By the end of the 20th century, Williamsburg’s reproductions began to sell cheaper items, and license their products in places like Lowe’s.

The spinoff for manufacturers was hard. Williamsburg was the idea generator and the overall design consciousness, and it operated like a luxury goods company as astute and nimble as LVMH or Tiffany.

But back to Waynesboro, which suffered greatly with the closing of Virginia Metalcrafters. The city was blessed with the company, not only because it provided good paying jobs. The company also had a design and creative side, a retail operation and marketing functions, all of which brought prestige to the city. A connection with a high-end brand like Colonial Williamsburg also helped Williamsburg, as Virginia Metalcrafters was listed among the official licensees of Williamsburg at the reception door of the Craft House at the five star Williamsburg Inn.

In May of 2013, three businessmen purchased the site of the foundry, not with the intention of reviving the whole company, but of using part of it. The group was VM Acquisition Waynesboro, named as John Hall, Christopher Mast, and Paul Cline. Unfortunately for the actual Virginia Metalcrafters brand, the Facebook page is dead, however, and has not been posted to since 2012. And the domain vametalcrafters.com is defunct. However, the Virginia Metal Spinners brand, using Millwork Lighting, seems to be sort of keeping things going.

 

Tags: News

22 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bill Eckman // Jun 15, 2015 at 9:16 am

    Please correct your information.

    My father bought the company in 1953 and that is when the name was changed to Virginia Metalcrafers. Before that, VM was just the giftware line of the Loth Stove Company.

  • 2 Bill Eckman // Jun 15, 2015 at 9:17 am

    Sorry, didn’t not give you may whole email address in the last comment.

  • 3 Susan Bostian // Nov 19, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    I have my mothers collection of Virgonia Metalcrafters items including wood trays a mirror pewter and brass. Any suggestions for where I could find a market for these items. Thanks.

  • 4 Garland Pollard // Nov 23, 2015 at 9:44 am

    Etsy seems to be the place people get a decent price..they are well made but prob not old enough to be collectible..

  • 5 Holger Loth // Dec 16, 2015 at 4:11 am

    to Bill Eckman.
    Hello Bill, I have read with interest that your father bought the company. Maybe you can help me to find out sth more of the history of Loth Stove company? As you can see, I have the same last name, and I am interested in the history of Loth and find out where the name came from and so on.
    Thanks in advance, best regards from Denmark.

  • 6 Andrew C. Christie // Dec 17, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    Great to find some one who appreciates the VM products.
    I was a dealer for VM ( Fireplace shop) but I got in the game late- Sold some nice things and I still have the 72″ cast aluminum hand painted Chesapeake eagle they offered in the 80’s- a beauty by any standard.
    I’ve not seen another one like it around.
    Andrew C.
    ArtMetal SF Ca.

  • 7 Patricia Kerr // Apr 28, 2016 at 9:41 am

    I am trying to find out some specifics regarding what I believe is a Raleigh Tavern chandelier, most likely made by Virginia Metalcrafters somewhere around 1965. I’m wondering if there is a way to get in touch with Bill Eckman, or someone that can give me guidance.
    Thanks for any help!

  • 8 J M Morgan // May 23, 2016 at 11:55 am

    I have many VM brass items purchased on visits to Colonial Williamsburg or by catalog and value those greatly. My need is small but important. I need to find a source for the small rubber foot protectors that came as part of the original item.
    I would appreciate this information should anyone be able to help.
    Regards,
    JMM

  • 9 Garland Pollard // May 23, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Good question….thank you for putting the question out there….

  • 10 Nancy Mercurio // Jun 18, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    I have seen the feet offered for sale on eBay. Keep checking the listings as they appear from time to time.

  • 11 Nancy Mercurio // Jun 18, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    I should have said small foot protectors are available on eBay from time to time.

  • 12 johnHoward // Jul 22, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    I have a Chesapeake Eagle painted. It has a 72inch wing span and made of solid brass with the company logo mark on the back. I was told it came out of a post office. Any information regarding date of manufacture how many made and value whatever you may know would be greatly appreciated.

  • 13 Kelly // Sep 23, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    I have purchased rubber trivet foot covers on EBay from: weegoz and herzo

  • 14 Garland Pollard // Oct 2, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    Thank you for this info! So many of the trivets around.

  • 15 Connie Laing // Oct 7, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    I have 2 large prints that are colorized engravings, named “The Love Letter”. On the back is a stamp that says: Victorius Incorporated Charlottesville, VA, a subsidiary of Virginia Metalcrafters. Can you tell me anything at all about these prints? Thank you very much.

  • 16 kay // Oct 17, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    would like to find a pair of their naughty and nice ducks which we used to have on our front steps. Any advice?

  • 17 Pat Rolison // Nov 22, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    Anything about Silk water colors from Victorious Division of Virginia Metalcrafters?

  • 18 Dan Stone // Dec 19, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    Coming into this very late; my grandmothers favorite place to visit was Colonial Williamsburg and her home was filled with reproduction works of all kinds including a great many pieces by Virginal Metalcrafters. I knew these as a child and her stories about their use and origins brought history alive. I wonder what happened to the artisans? Are there people existing now that still have these skills? Are they being passed down to younger generations? I hope at some point there will be a renewal of interest and perhaps the state could sponsor real artisans and revitalize something that was of quite a lot of value. Thank you for the brief history. If there are any other sites or books it would be great to hear about them. Thanks!

  • 19 Ginger // Jan 4, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    I have recently come across a reproduction of a ship titled the “Lord Lowther” with an Aunthenticity number on the back, which I think is weird since it’s a reproduction. Anyone know anything helpful?

  • 20 Rob Dino // Jan 6, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    I recently came across a reproduction fire mark of the Firemen’s Insurance company of DC and Georgetown. It has the logo initials VMC. I’m sure it is a reproduction due to the fact VMC was not around in 1839. I’m just not sure of the dates it would have been made. If anyone has any knowledge of when and more importantly, why they would reproduce them. Please kindly advise.

    Thank you
    Rob

  • 21 kevn // Feb 25, 2017 at 11:21 am

    would anyone know about Princess Diana Candlesticks VM-161

  • 22 James Rivis // Mar 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    VM also made some beautifully designed black cast iron trivets with the classic VM mark . I have one with either 9.9 or 6.6 on it.

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