Wanna meet my Yale & Towne hardware?
The other day Bo Sullivan asked me about the hardware in the Cross House.
I was excited about the inquiry, for the hardware is a sight to behold!
It looks like all your hardware is by Yale & Towne.
The very nice entry hardware pattern is known as “Kelp” and is one of Yale’s most artistic and highly regarded patterns of the era. The reticulation (open cast work) in the plate and the unusual open-work knob are distinguishing characteristics, but it is the awesome organic quality of the pattern overall that really sets it apart. Kelp is also a great example of the sublime quality of dimensional modeling that Yale acheived in their master patterns – extremely tight and controlled, and yet viscerally subtle and organic in line and surface.
Although Yale classified this pattern as Gothic, the design reflects the interesting fascination with organic marine motifs that was popular in the late 1880s. It is almost like Romanesque gone wild.
Kelp included at least 56 pieces in the family (how many do you have?).
The Antique Doorknob Collectors of America refer to the Kelp knob design in their reference book Victorian Decorative Art as H-409.
Some more kelp hardware.
The interior pattern with the stars and prominent anthemions is called Austerlitz and it is in the Empire style, reflecting one of the early 1890s’ most popular decorative trends. The Empire style was a free interpretation of motifs popular during Napoleon’s First Empire of 1804-1814. The name, of course, comes from Napoleon’s greatest military victory in 1805, near that small village in what was then the Austrian Empire, but is now Slavkov u Brua in the Czech Republic.
Auserlitz was also a popular pattern, with at least 40 different pieces in the family (collect them all!). The Antique Doorknob Collectors of America refer to the Austerlitz knob design in VDA as J-307.
Your hardware is all cast bronze, and would have had one of a wide range of different finishes, hard to discern in existing condition but perhaps preserved inside a closet or in some other location that rarely saw light or hand. And any restoration should avoid bright polishing and use appropriate slotted screws. Always slotted screws in an old house, man. If your knobs are loose and need fine tuning in fit, etc., that can be a post for a future date.
Amazingly, most of the original hardware in still in the house.
Linus Yale, Jr. died tragically in 1868 just after inventing the cylinder lock and founding of the company with Towne. Your lock cylinder, and everyone else’s with his name on it, is like a tiny memorial to his contributions to lock history.
The “bible” for Yale hardware – and indeed for understanding most of the hardware styles of the 1885-1905 period – is the book “Locks & Builder’s Hardware, a Hand Book for Architects” by Henry Towne.
Available on Google Books, this highly sought after volume devotes chapters to each of the different “Schools of Design” and includes all the Yale patterns in each. If you ever wondered what the difference between French Renaissance and Italian Renaissance was, this is your bedside read. Small but thick, if you can find a copy for under $200 in decent condition (the binding did not hold up very well in most cases), get it!
For the Gothic School, see page 403, and for Kelp, see page 410 and other pieces on other pages. For the Empire School, see page 557, and for Austerlitz, see page 560 and other pieces on other pages.
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