The Legacy of Virginia Metalcrafters of Waynesboro

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.

 

65 Comments

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

  3. 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.

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

    1. Good afternoon,

      I’d be glad to give you some assistance. Please reach out to me at your earliest convenience.

  7. 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

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

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

  10. 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.

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

  12. 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.

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

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

  15. 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!

  16. 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?

  17. 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

  18. would anyone know about Princess Diana Candlesticks VM-161

  19. 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.

  20. I have 2 VM basses marked CW 16-63 with the V1M stamp. I also have 1 square rod and 4 candle holder arms the have a swan on the end. Need 2 of the top pieces. Believe these were called Governors Palace candle sticks. Any one out there that can shed some light? Ed

  21. Also that was a very informative article Garland Pollard wrote.
    Ed

  22. I have found an engraving titled “Birch Lake” that I would like to authenticate. It is an engraving done by hand and colored by hand and is in excellent condition. It is labeled item No. 1130 or order number 19-039. It is a beautiful engraving of a Cottage, a Lake, a Sunset, and Birch trees. Any suggestions?

  23. I am looking for a penny feet VM floor lamp. Does anyone know I can find one?

  24. I just picked up a candlestick from Goodwill at $1 and have been collecting pieces from there by all types of brands and craftsman that are of high quality just by touch and feel. My issue is that these type of goods should not be entering that market and leaving others that have been devalued by lower prices from subsidized programs and cheap labor. Protecting the values of assets that have higher quality and cost more to make plus marketing that to consumers for sustained investment or growth potential in the material used with in that item should be priority to allow for more market opportunities in resell or leasing or recycle back into those industries without ending at the dump or damaged shelves in goodwill at the lowest price.

    Having a Asset buyback program by each state to keep resources from leaving and protect consumer and industry investments is something everyone should promote against thrift shops or other charitable donations that receive tax credits and bought out by large funds in bulk cheaper moving resources back out to large companies.

  25. I am looking for a 4 toggle brass switchplate to match or other VM items.

  26. I have a VM clock my mom gave to me years ago. I’d like to have it refreshed. Some of the metal flake around the numbers have come off. I LOVE it and was hoping to find someone to give it some love 🙂
    The clock doesn’t work either but it’s gorgeous.

  27. I have a Butterfly Bush brass leaf that is approximately 10×3. On the back is also 3-21 and copyright 1948 and VM. Anyone know anything about this?

  28. I have a lovely wooden box from VM, Williamsburg Wooden Accessories. There is metal dust inside and I am concerned that it might be lead. I hope it’s pewter, but I’d rather be safe and know.
    Can anyone help me? Thanks

  29. My wife and I found probably the most unique VMC item there is to be found. The CW aluminum “Gingerbread Man” reproduction mold (with its forerunning wooden mold de-accessioned by CW), produced one, and one only, black cast iron mold from the wooden one. We possess the cast iron mold. And, to honor Waynesboro VM and CW, I have begun to produce unique, sequentially numbered cast tin “Gingerbread Men” from the cast iron “Gingerbread Man” mold. The wooden original is thought to have been carved in America during or sometime after the Bacon Rebellion and it is clear as a bell that the wooden mold is the image of Governor Berkeley with his big hair and all ! This is an exercise in history and the energizing of the crazy story of intrigue during the Bacon Rebellion ! For more information and to see the cast tin memento, please write me at kabauman86 (at) hotmail (dot) com – thank you.

  30. Telephone: Two six 0 seven two three four nine four two.

  31. I will be contacting C. Mast at Millwork Lighting (by VM) in Harrisonburg, VA soon reference this subject. Hopefully C. Mast can shed more light on this unique subject matter? Let’s hope.

  32. Vicki: The box is lined with tin, not lead.

    Ken Bauman: Chris Mast has passed away.

    Mr. Loth: Would love to get in touch.

    Anyone with VM/Victorious questions my contact me at eckmanwilliam@yahoo.com

  33. Still looking for parts for the 2 VM basses marked CW 16-63 with the V1M stamp. I also have 1 square rod and 4 candle holder arms the have a swan on the end. Need 2 of the top pieces. Believe these were called Governors Palace candle sticks. Any one out there that can shed some light? Ed

  34. Thanks for responding with information, Bill. -Ken

  35. The “Gingerbread Man” mold which creates the “Tin – Gerbread Man” castings, is related to the Beale Papers mystery within my project called “Arachnid Red Knee”. Is anyone interested in the “Beale Papers” and its solution? Please write me at kabauman86@hotmail.com Thank you. -Ken

  36. I have several original VMware leafs , would like to know current value.
    Thankyou

  37. My wife has a VM trivet from 1995. The protective coating has failed in some parts and the brass has corroded. What can I use to strip the clear coating in order to polish and re-coat?
    Thanks for your help.

  38. We were given the Cupid birdbath for our wedding in 1991 by dear friends. I have someone who is looking for one now as she loves mine. I see a few on Etsy. Having been born and raised in Virginia I am now loving all of the history on the Virginia metal crafters. We moved away for 20 years and while in Minneapolis we sold our fireplace set! I can’t believe what some people are asking for those on some of the websites. $3500. Wish we had known to keep it. Still have lots of candlesticks packed away though! It was such a wonderful company. Fond memories.

  39. I recently acquired a perfect small trivet dated 1952, VA METAL CRAFTERS, which conflicts slightly with the 1953 company acquisition date, Mr. Eckman. It commemorates “The Confederate States of America, 22 February 1862. Shield on top says 1861 -1865. Beautiful detail and condition.

  40. Is there any way of knowing when my large brass Queen Anne trivet was made? I’ve been told the 1950
    CW 10-10 is only the copyright and I can’t seem to find any more information.

  41. In response to Rachel Elorriaga 27
    parts of what you propose are interesting concepts and you make a very astute observation. Americans do not seem to care about the preservation of our cultural heritage. There was a time, and it wasn’t that long ago, that America not only stood for hard work, perseverance and inovation, but less discussed now, the quality of our goods, we stood for this, “The best in the world”, Sadly, were not like English or the French or any of the other European Countries where they respect their heritage and their time honored crafts and craftsmanship.
    As a nation we are mostly in the present and at any given time this doesn’t include
    nostalgia, especially of things from any other given era, we dismiss and devalue and are ignorant to the importance of it, In the context of “now” it’s not cool, sexy or on the fringe, craftsmanship and craft are less thought of, unless, maybe in a cocktail and have been $discounted and sent to China at our own peril. We’ve lost the craftsmanship of the everyday things we wear and put in our homes and we lose the respect of ourselves on some level because of it. Quality does still exists
    but is much scarcer and compared to the past is at a very inflated price, things and services are pandered off as quality when they’r not, so the problem is how would you know the quality of what something is if you are not brought up to appreciate or understand what goes into making something exquisite. you have nothing to compare it to. I think your thoughts about this are insightful.
    The old adage if don’t know where you came from or anything about history
    (especially good or not) then who are you as an individual and where are you going and for this conversation, how does it compare?
    Obviously you have taken notice and that’s a good start.

  42. I have a Virginia Metalcrafters Betty lamp. I would like to know when it was made. My otjer VMC pieved habe dates. The Betty lamp does not.

  43. I have a Virginia Metalcrafters Betty lamp. I would like to know when it was made. My other VMC pieces have dates. The Betty lamp does not.

  44. Carolyn Gerard-The QA trivet was copyrighted in the year on the back (probably 1950). The design was owned by Virginia Metalcrafters (Williamsburg disputed this) and made as a souvenir of Colonial Williamsburg. CW10-10 was the product number. Could have been made anytime between 1950 and when the foundry closed in 2006.

  45. Karen,

    The VM brass and iron giftware line began in the late 1940’s as part of the Loth Stove Company. My father incorporated the company when he bought it in 1953 under the name Virginia Metalcrafters. So, there are copyright dates prior to 1953 with the name Virginia Metalcrafters. Questions welcomed at eckmanwilliam@yahoo.com

  46. I recently came across a Loth cast iron basting dutch oven lid raised lettering. . I’m wondering if someone could tell if it s a reproduction or the real thing. Date,value etc. Thanks

  47. I found a Loth cast iron lid for a Dutch oven no. 10
    I’m wanting to know if it’s a reproduction, age,value rarity. I have pics
    Kimmie2383@gmail.com

  48. Some time in the early 80’s my wife and I had the pleasure to meet and have a drink with Charles Eckman and his wife on their way to Florida. I operated Baroody’s Baldwin Brass Center here in Florence, SC. I had persisted with VM time and time again about selling their magnificent castings, particularly their fireplace andirons and tools. Being the proprietor of a Baldwin Brass Center, seemed somewhat awkward to Mr. Eckman. VM and Baldwin were competitors, certainly not friends. Baldwin forged and VM sand cast all of their brass. Anyhow, I had a very delightful meeting with Mr. Eckman and hoped that after meeting face to face that he would reconsider and sell to me. After a week or so I received a very pleasant letter from Mr. Eckman stating that although he and his wife enjoyed meeting with me and my wife, that he could not sell to me but would think about it. I never heard from him again.

  49. I have two framed prints (by Carlos Van Reifel)
    “Fragaria Grandiflora “ and “ Rubus Linkianus”
    Each has a Certificate of Authencity from the Virginia Metalcrafters Inc. Both were a wedding gift in 1973.
    Can anyone provide more information about origin and value. Thank you.

  50. I’m seeking information on a cast no 1 farm bell I believe to be from the VM Bell company. I would love to hear from Anyone with information about its origin and age etc… 813-601-4916 Valrico florida

  51. I have two silk watercolors,that I can’t seem to find any info on.Has a victorius division of metalcrafters Inc tag on the back.Item number 7052-3 order 50/009.If you could give me info on these it would be greatly appreciated.

  52. I have a painting by Childe Hassam with a certificate of authenticity by Victorious a division of Virginia Metalworks? Can anyone help me with information on this and how much it cost?

  53. I have a painting by Childe Hassam and has a certificate of authenticity on the back by Victorious a division of Virginia Metalworks. I need information on it and what it is worth.

  54. I have several items that were inherited from a former Virginia Metalcrafters employee. I would like to know where is the best place to sell some of these items. Is there someplace in Virginia that would have an interest in buying them? I have items from light switch plates, plug cover plates, lamps, etc all the way to a fireplace fender.

  55. Pineapple products doorstop

  56. We recently purchased a pair of the Virginia Metalcrafters Colonial Williamsburg tapersticks on the secondary market. Both are marked with both hallmarks. One has the usual sand cast heavy base. The heavy base has the usual 16-39 ID number. The other has a much thinner and lighter weight base , almost like heavy sheet brass that was pressed to shape. Was this base change an effort to be more cost effective in production in it’s last years of business? Also this piece is marked with the number 39 alone, not the usual 16-39, which makes me wonder if the 16 is a prefix to identify Williamsburg pieces. Can anyone help with this? Tks!

  57. I’m looking for a set of creepers/log stops to the VM reproduction of the new port Andiron.

  58. I just received from a cousin a set of twelve 1994 VM Flower Collectables ornaments. Would like to know if there is much value to this group. Never used and packaged in pristine original condition. My deceased cousin was Jay Gaynor, the person in charge of all the crafters in Williamsburg. He died 5 years ago and was a magnificent person. Anyone know him? Betty Jane

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