Readers often write to ask for help in identifying a pattern. A significant number will say something like, “this piece was made by J. E. Caldwell & Co.” While it is true that J. E. Caldwell & Co. did make some silver pieces, especially in their early years, they were known more significantly as a retailer of silver pieces made by others. If one searches web sites such as Replacements, Ltd. or Sterling Flatware Fashions and Facts, few, if any, silver patterns will be found attributable to J. E. Caldwell & Co.
The picture accompanying this article illustrates why the confusion exists. The piece has been stamped clearly as “J. E. Caldwell & Co.” However, this piece was actually manufactured by Dominick & Haff. We can tell because the Dominick & Haff mark is clearly visible on the left in the picture. It’s the small symbol next to the word, “Sterling.”
During the latter part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century, it was common for retailers to stamp their names on pieces like this.
J. E. Caldwell & Co. was founded in 1839 by James E. Caldwell in Philadelphia, PA. The company evolved into a first-class jewelry business and, like many jewelry retailers, they sold silver items as well. Later, they opened stores in other northeastern cities. It appears that the company suffered financial troubles and closed its flagship store in Philadelphia in 2003. I don’t know the status of the other stores but based upon the status of their web site, things don’t look promising.