History and Objectives of The PCCA

In some autobiographical notes, Thomas Danforth Boardman, perhaps the best known of all American pewterers, said: From the landing of the Pilgrims to the peace of the revolution, Most all, if not all, used pewter plaits, and platters, cups, and porringers imported from London and made up of the old worn out. This was done in Boston, New York, Providence, Taunton, and other places.

Pewter was, as Mr. Boardman only partially indicated, one of the most universal elements in American colonial life. Its use crossed all social and economic boundaries. It was owned and used by General George Washington, John Hancock, and other notable figures, as well as by the average farm or village family in early America.

For over two centuries, pewter played a daily role in our private, public, religious, social, and economic life, and it is now an element of our history which may be studied alone, or will become a part of the study of almost any facet of the lives of our forebears.

The Pewter Collectors' Club of America was founded by a group of people vitally interested in the physical products of the trade of the pewterer, the economic impact that the trade produced in the early years of our country, and the varied uses of pewter by the members of our fledgling society. The organization has now grown to many hundreds of students and collectors, whose research has produced a great body of information regarding the craft, the men who served in it, and the products of their shops.

The organizational meeting of the Pewter Collectors' Club of America was held on March 21, 1934, at the Old State House, in Boston, Massachusetts. The "call" for that meeting was issued by William Germain Dooley, then antiques editor for the Boston Evening Transcript. He is now regarded as the "founder" of the organization.  Mr. Dooley, having noted a solid and growing interest in pewter, announced in his newspaper column that he had arranged for a meeting for persons sharing that enthusiasm, and on the date proposed approximately thirty persons assembled and formed the PCCA.  In 1984, we celebrated our fiftieth anniversary with nearly six hundred members, representing nearly all of the 50 United States, and including members from
Canada, Great Britain, France, Sweden, and other countries.

The objectives of the PCCA have always been directed towards education, and in the first printing of the Bulletin, a semi-annual publication of the organization, those objectives were broadly outlined.

The object of the Club is to foster study and research in the field of American pewter and to cooperate in the studies of those interested in English and Continental pewter. Collections of antique pewter in all forms will be encouraged. Membership will be extended to all students and collectors of pewter in this country and abroad and one of the chief functions of the Club will be to act as a clearing house of information on pewter and pewterers. Touch marks will be recorded and every effort will be made to acquire knowledge of hitherto unknown pewterers and their marks, and to expose spurious touch marks and all forms of faked pieces and faked marks.

Through the years, hundreds of articles written by members and published in the Bulletin, have helped to fulfill those objectives. New information about pewter and pewterers has been documented, and photographs of marks and pewter objects constantly enlarge and upgrade our understanding of the subject. Many museums, historical societies, and libraries have become members of the PCCA to obtain the Bulletins for study and inclusion in their collections. Under the guidance of the members who have served as Editor of the Bulletin over sixty-five years, it has grown from a page or two of recollections of meetings and verbal presentation of recent discoveries, to a first rate publication, with an average of about fifty pages each issue, presenting in-depth studies with dozens of photographs to support them.

During the early years, the meetings of the PCCA were held on nearly a monthly basis, and frequently at the homes of members. This was practical with the small membership which was concentrated in the greater Boston area. In more recent years, with membership from coast to coast, the national organization meets twice each year, and regional groups have been formed which meet regularly within their own areas. At present, there are regional groups in the Northeast, the Mid-Atlantic area, and Mid-West area. At both the national and regional group meetings, pewter is brought for examination, and some major topic is undertaken by either a single speaker, or group. Within this framework of a free exchange of fact and opinion, many new discoveries are made, or confirmed, adding both quantity and quality to the whole body of information concerning the trade of the pewterer and the men who practiced it.

At the time of its founding, the PCCA was fortunate to have had the groundwork laid to formulate its direction and objectives by early researchers and writers.   J.B. Kerfoot had written American Pewter in l924,and Charies A. Caider had published Rhode Island Pewterers and Their Work, and also Some Additional Notes on Rhode Island Pewterers. Louis G. Myers published Some Notes on American Pewterers in 1926. Those early writers inspired Ledlie 1. Laughlin to create the two-volume Pewter in America, which was published by that PCCA member in 1940. That book, and a third volume published in 1971, is still the most comprehensive overall publication dealing with the subject of American pewter.

Interest in every field of collecting will increase as more information and documentation become available. The books mentioned above provided the information that fed the enlargement of interest in pewter, and also membership in the PCCA.

Carl Jacobs, who was an important factor in the field of pewter collecting, wrote Guide to American Pewter, published in 1957, and the interest continued to grow. Prompted perhaps by the interest of their fellow collectors, many PCCA members have also contributed to the pool of published data. Henry J. Kauffman published The American Pewterer - His Techniques and His Products in 1970, and Celia Jacobs published The Pocket Book of American Pewter in the same year. Another member, Katherine Ebert, wrote Collecting American Pewter in 1973, and in the same year, Charles F. Montgomery wrote A History of American Pewter. Member John Carl Thomas wrote Connecticut Pewter and Pewterers in 1976.

In addition to the books published by members of the PCCA, there are the hundreds of articles in the Bulletin and many other periodical publications, and all of the efforts have been supported by the Club, and have, in turn, helped the Club to grow.

A little more than a year after its organizational meeting, the PCCA undertook the presentation of an exhibition of pewter at the Boston Public Library, which was advertised as, "The first exhibition of pewter, national in scope, to be held in this country". The 28 page catalog which was issued at the time shows that large amounts of pewter from America and other countries were on view.

In a publication relating to the fortieth anniversary of the PCCA, William 0. Blaney, then Editor of the Bulletin, nothing had come of it. He observed then that, certainly, such an affair, drawing from the collections of today's Club members as well as various institutions would be of tremendous interest to pewter collectors as well as the public, and a stimulant for others to participate in the enjoyment of collecting, studying and researching pewter and its many facets.

Another decade passed, and the PCCA celebrated its "golden anniversary" with just such an exhibition, mounted at, and in cooperation with, the Museum of Our National Heritage, in Lexington, Massachusetts. The exhibition dates were May 13 to October 28, 1984.  Approximately 36,000 people saw the exhibit during the five and one half months it was on view.

The exhibition catalog,  Pewter in American Life illustrates a great percentage of the pewter which made up that exhibition.  It is the sincere wish of the collective membership of the PCCA, and in absolute accord with the objects stated over sixty-six years ago, that the exhibit and catalog will act as a... stimulant for others to participate in the enjoyment of collecting pewter.
Adapted from Pewter in American Life, Pewter Collectors' Club of America, 1984.

To further the objectives of the PCCA, "The object of the Club is to foster study and research in the field of American pewter and to cooperate in the studies of those interested in English and Continental pewter",  for the benefit of it's members as well as non-members and institutions such as libraries and museums the PCCA recently published  Collecting Antique Pewter, What to Look For and What to Avoid, sent to current members and available to the public early in 2007.