History of Revere Copper and Brass
(Credit for this goes to Charlie Anjard of The Shine Shop)
Paul Revere was born in 1734, to a modest family in Massachusetts. Completing his silversmithing apprenticeship at the age of 19, he became a master craftsman, and proceeded to establish a prosperous business with shops in and around Boston, MA. Upon returning to civilian life after the Revolutionary War, Revere began a copper foundry using his family’s savings. Initially his principal goods were cast bolts, spikes and nails for shipyards, then cannon for the military, and (after 1792) bells ranging ftom 50 to 2885 pounds. Those 12 years working with copper gave him the experience needed to to “roll” malleable copper into sheets, which (appart from normal manufacturing) was used as cladding to protect the wooden hulls of warships from marine worms. Until that time the collonies were importing most of their sheet copper from England. In 1801, Paul Revere paid $6,200 for two pieces of property on the Neponset River in Massachusetts, and converted an existing mill to hold the machinery for rolling copper.
By October 24, 1802 at the latest, Paul Revere, at 67 years of age, rolled his first copper sheets for supply to the U.S. government.
- Revere supplied the sheathing used to re-copper the frigate Constitution.
- Paul Revere took his son, Joseph Warren Revere, into his business as a partner,
allotting him a one-third interest, which the father valued at $16,200. The company name then became Revere & Son .
- Paul Revere died at the age of 84.
- Revere & Son merged with James Davis & Son of Boston Brass
Foundry to form the Revere Copper Company .
- With Joseph Warren Revere as its president, the Revere Copper Company delivered 150,000 pounds of sheathing to the Charleston Navy Yard.
- Joseph Warren Revere died after more than sixty years in business, and was succeeded by his nephew, Frederick Walker Lincoln. Several Revere family members, (John Revere followed by his two sons William Bacon Revere and Edward H.R. Revere) remained active in the company.
- Frederick Lincoln died, and the direction of the company was turned over to James Davis, Jr.
- John Revere, Paul Revere’s grandson, became company president. Subsequently, Revere Copper Company merged with the New Bedford Copper Company and the Taunton Copper Company , to form the Taunton-New Bedford Copper Company. Revere retained its name as a separate division.
- Six companies – Rome Brass & Copper Company, Michigan Copper & Brass Company, Baltimore Copper Rolling Mill, Dallas Brass & Copper Co., Taunton-New Bedford Copper Company, and Higgins Brass & Manufacturing Company were merged and incorporated as the General Brass Corporation on December 1, 1928. The merger produced the second largest fabricator of copper & brass products in the U.S. with 25% of the country’s rolling mill capacity. Four days later, the name was changed to Republic Brass Corporation .
November 12th, 1929
- Out of respect to the founder of the American copper industry the name ofthe company was changed again, this time to Revere Copper and Brass Incorporated. At this point in time, much of America’s home cooking was done in heavy, cast iron skillets. Restaurants used solid copper with a lining of tin – a delicate and expensive alternative.
- Chester McCreery, then a salesman for the Rome Manufacturing Division; proposed that Revere produce a new line of cookware using chrome plating instead of the tin plating then in use (tin was easily damaged in day-to- day use). The new product line was introduced, and promptly failed – the chemicals released when potatoes were cooked with salt caused the chrome to flake off, and the project was quickly abandoned.
- Donald Dallas (then President of Revere Copper and Brass, Inc.), directed James Kennedy to go the Rome plant (after the copper/chrome failure) and “produce something worthwhile”. Kennedy brought together the nucleus of people that remained intact for the next 20 years and formed the Manufactured Products Division of Revere Copper and Brass, Incorporated .
- Kennedy’s team conducted an intense investigation of the chrome plating failure. Their results showed that only stainless steel could both withstand corrosion and resist the wear and tear of everyday use. However, stainless steel conducted heat unevenly and tended to burn rather than to cook. Kennedy reasoned that stainless steel coated with copper was the perfect solution to the problem. He then directed the team to develop a manufacturing process to make a heavy layer of copper adhere to Stainless Steel (something thought to be impossible at the time).
- After almost 2 years time and considerable expense, the objectives were reached: A 2-step electroplating technique was developed which could deposit a thick layer of copper plate (1 1/2 times the thickness of the underlying metal) on 18-8 stainless steel at production speeds. This thickness was more than sufficient to overcome the burning problems of regular stainless steel cookware.
- While the final trial runs were being completed, Dr. W.A. Welden, head of Revere’s design group, was given the job of creating the product that would use the new “Copper-Clad” process. Welden’s design combined a rivet-free construction and cool Bakelite handles with the new cooking surface. The product was known as the 1400 line within the company, while to the consumer it became “Revere Ware”.
- Revere Ware was introduced to the public at the 1939 Chicago Housewares Show and was an immediate success. Sales grew steadily, and Revere expanded the 1400 line to include 15 distinct pieces of cookware.
- Revere was issued Patent No.US2272609, covering their new copper cladding process as used in the Revere Ware product line.– All civilian production was halted by the onset of WWII and production turned to wartime requirements – cartridge cases, smoke bombs, and rocket cases. At war’s end, Revere Copper and Brass, Inc. was composed of six manufacturing divisions including Rome Manufactured Products, headquarterd in Rome NY, which was in total controll of all cookware (including teakettles) production.
- Problems surfaced with the Bakelite handles – Revere responded immediately by modifying the castings, then mailed complete sets to customers, in whatever quantity was requeested to the customers – free of charge. This temporary fix was followed by a complete redesign of the handle tang and casting – by 1948, all production had been switched to the new handle.
- The circular 1801 Revere profile surrounded by “Copper Clad Stainless Steel” was formally adopted as the new trademark, accompanied by references to Revere’s patent number – stamped into each piece of its copper-clad cookware.
- The sales of Revere Ware were limited only by the production capacity of the Rome, NY plant, and the decision was made to establish a second plant on the west coast. Subsequently, an abandoned manufacturing plant in Riverside, CA, was acquired and equipped for production.
- The Riverside, California plant completed its first shipment of cookware.
- With both the Rome and Riverside plants operating at 100% capacity, Revere established a third manufacturing site for the copper-clad line at the southeast edge of Clinton, IL. A complete manufacturing plant and trained work force was set up in less than 10 months. The first shipment of Revere Ware from Clinton to customers was made on December 14, 1950.
- Revere Copper and Brass Inc. celebrated its 150th Anniversary as the oldest and largest independent copper fabricator in the country. The Copper Clad Revere Ware line was the premium line of cookware in the United States, and arguably the best cookware ever produced. Principal sales points were ease of use, increased family health (waterless cooking), and economy (less heat needed to cook).
Marketing Revere Ware in a surging post-war economy…The 1950’s
- Revere sought to build its sales base by meeting new demands with new products, making sure to link them to it’s market leading Revere Ware.- Institutional Ware (Originally conceived in 1939), 1954.
– Miniature Revere Ware, (1955).
– Patio Ware,(1956).
- Revere Copper and Brass,Inc., together with Olin Corporation, formed Ormet Corporation – a wholly owned subsidiary, it was dedicated to primary production of Aluminum with the intent of supplying only its parent companies. Revere then entered into an association with Wilkinson, Inc., and began manufacturing aluminum foil pans.- Patriot Ware, (1957).
– Copper Maid Cookware, (1957).
– Penneys by Revere, (J.C. Penneys in 1957).
- The patent on Revere’s Copper-Cladding process expired; facing declines in sales, Revere (as it did in 1938) redesigned its classic Revere Ware, introducing a new “copper core” metal laminate cooking surface along with dramatic modern styling, ease-of-use upgrades, and a number of new utensils to the marketplace. Backeed by a huge promotional program, Revere’s expectation of another “Revere Ware” success were blunted by the near-simultaneous introduction of the Teflon® non-stick cooking surface.- Designers’ Group, (1959)- Deluxe Revere Ware, (1962).
- In response to ever weakening sales, the Riverside plant was closed permanently, and its copper-clad production and much of the R & D work was moved to Clinton, IL; while remaining contract production was transferred to the newly opened Alusco plant in Oneonta, AL.- Revere Teflon, (1963).
- Revere began a 20+ year foray into the primary aluminum market. Revere committed vast financial resources to penetrating the non-stick aluminum cookware market. In an unusual move, Revere chose a “vertical” approach, taking all aspects of the manufacturing process in-house. A Bauxite mine (the raw material from which aluminum is produced) in Jamaica was purchased, and a smelter (to refine the bauxite into aluminum) and rolling mill were built in Scottsboro, AL. In 1963, the Oneonta utensil plant was opened, producing the first Revere Teflon® coated products. Although designed to allow for later expansion, each was, small and inefficient. Revere invested over 300 million dollars in these facilities between 1966 and 1976, recovering little even after their selling them in the 1980’s. In contrast, the other aluminum cookware manufacturers were buying the aluminum (or aluminum-clad stainless steel) blanks from existing manufacturers, while they concentrated on the developing efficient manufacturing and distribution activities. Revere undertook its mammoth project with a management team which had only limited experience in the aluminum industry, and suffered “one of the worst corporate disasters in recent history” (James Cook, Forbes, 7/1/1977). With the copper industry in a slump, and the Aluminum Division failing, the Housewares Division (with the Revere Ware line) generated all of the Revere Copper and Brass operating profit.– Galaxy, (1965)
– Neptune, (1966-71 – several issues).
- Revere “moth-balled” the Rome, NY copper-clad line; the equipment was left in place, and the tea kettle line continued in operation.- Gourmet Line, (1969).
- Revere apparently decided that new product lines would not meet its profit goals and instead concentrated on minimizing production costs and maximizing productivity of existing lines. Attention was focussed on the copper cladding process, where the electroplating process was gradually shortened – reducing the thickness of the cladding while simultaneously increasing the production line speed. Ultimately, the thickness of the cladding was reduced by 50% (which unfortunately caused the cladding to loose much of its’ ability to dissipate heat). This change passed unnoticed by consumers (at first) – there was little change in the appearance of the product. The changes allowed Revere to lower retail prices, leading to a rebound in sales through the mid 1970’s.
- With Rome moth-balled until 1974, Clinton continued economizing the Copper Clad line. Traditional Dutch Ovens were dropped from the line and replaced with wide versions of Covered Sauce Pots, which lacked the Vapor Seal Rim and the high domed lid unique to the original Dutch Ovens. Manufactured in 6, 8, 10, & 12 Qt sizes, they were Dutch Ovens in name only. The entire coffee pot line was then discontinued, as were the square skillets, griddle, and many of the stainless steel accessories.- Daisy Decorated Ware, (early 1970’s)
– Stainless Revere Ware, (1974).
- The Rome copper-clad production was re-started to handle the copper-clad line production displaced from Clinton by the new Stainless Revere Ware line.
- Jamaica doubled the production levy on bauxite making Revere’s Maggotty Alumina plant unprofitable to operate.
- Revere attempted to close its’ Maggotty Alumina mine, but the 1966 negotiations with the Jamaican government left Revere contractually obligated to pay taxes based on production rates no longer physically or financially attainable. Revere decided to sell it’s entire Aluminum division, and began a search for a buyer.
- E. I. DuPont introduced the second generation of non-stick coatings – a three-coat fluoropolymer system, marketed as SilverStone™. Significant durability improvements over the original Teflon™, backed by strong television advertising prompted its rapid acceptance by cookware manufacturers.1978
- Revere transferred part of the tea kettle production to Korea, and simultaneously added the location, month and year of production to the marks on all manufactured product.
- Continued loses from its Aluminum activities had become a fiscal nightmare, forcing Revere Copper and Brass, Inc. to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Despite Revere’s fiscal problems, the cookware division (Revere Ware Inc.)remained profitable.
- Revere closed the Scottsboro, AL Aluminum reduction plant putting 600 people out of work.
- Revere appealed to the International Trade commission to sanction manufacturers of cookware imported from Korea claiming the goods were being misrepresented as Revere Ware. No sanctions were forthcoming.
- The Scottsdale Aluminum smelter and Oneonta rolling mill were sold to Noranda Inc.
– Aluminum Disc Bottom Line, (1985). – Revere introduced this line using components manufactured in Korea, and assembled at the Clinton Plant. It filled the needs of customers having the new ceramic/glass cooktops.
- Revere Copper and Brass, Inc. submitted to a takeover by a Florida venture capital firm Oxford Financial Group.
- The Revere Ware division was moved to a new subsidiary, Revere Ware Inc. based in Clinton IL.
- The Rome, NY plant was closed – permanently – after 80+ continuous years in operation. At its peak, 500 people worked at the Rome plant, but when operations were moved to Illinois that September, that number had fallen to only 125.
- All tea-kettle production was transferred to plants in the far-east.
- The Oneonta, manufacturing plant was closed and with it the upscale Paul Revere Ware line was discontinued.
- Revere negotiated government grants and labor concessions at the Clinton, IL plant; invested $5 million in new equipment, then transferred all disc line production back to the US from Korea.
- Revere Ware, Inc. was sold to Corning Inc.
- The Mill Products Division of Revere Copper and Brass, Inc. was bought by the employees, (retaining the Revere name) with its headquarters in Rome, NY; manufacturing in New Bedford, MA.
- Revere discontinued the spare parts program for all cookware lines. Customers would be allowed exchanges only under Revere’s warrantee program.
- Corning introduced eight new lines of Revere cookware, many using some form of non-stick coating together with other design changes. These new lines were “cross-over products” which reflected Corning’s emphasis on mass-merchandising Revere; and were often assembled at Clinton from parts manufactured in the far east.
- The out-sourced production was expanded as new afilliations were established
in China and Indonesia.
- Revere Ware, Inc. was sold to Borden Inc., along with the rest of the Corning Consumer Products Division (Corel, Corningware, Visions, Pyrex), all of which were reorganized as World Kitchen, Inc.
- The last domestic plant manufacturing Revere Ware (Clinton, IL) was closed. Revere Ware, Inc. headquarters was then moved to Indonesia, with production plants located in China and Korea.-Chef’s Supreme and Culinary Classic.(January, 2002)
- World Kitchen, Inc filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection.
- World Kitchen, Inc. emerged from financial restructuring, all
Revere Ware production was transferred to far-eastern plants, and the product imported to the US.
- The company records and historical archives that would normally have been the source for production and design details were moved to the Clinton Plant after the Rome facility closed in 1986. By all accounts, they were either lost, destroyed, or dispersed in 1999 when Clinton was closed, and are not available for reference. The lack of these company records has forced the use of uncertain data, making this history a “work in progress” – thus comments, criticisms, corrections, or assistance are all welcome!
Portions of this historical compilation were taken from previously published and anecdotal information in the following):
Marcosson, I. F.; The Story of Revere Copper and Brass Inc. , (1955), 254 pages.
Linz, J.; Art Deco Chrome , 1999
Paul Revere Memorial Association, Revere’s Copper Legacy: the Company Today , 1997
Kennedy et AL, Patent US2272609 , 1942
E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., DuPont Heritage: Silverstone , 2003
World Kitchen, Inc., (Press releases), 2002, and 2003
Jiamachello, T., ‘The Revere Copper & Brass Co. “1900-1950 Art Metal”‘ , 2001
Collins, C. L.; Revere Ware’, Encyclopedia of Consumer Goods, Vol. III: Durable Goods, 1994.
Editorial, Rome Sentinel Inc. Small Town Loses Revere Ware, March 8, 1999
Note: Much of the later historical detail was contributed by Skene Moody and Don Hemming.