Filley Tinware : LUSENET : WHS Ask Us : One Thread

Where was the tinware sold by Oliver Filley made? I heard that it was purchased unpainted, and then decorations were applied in varios locations.

-- Marc Sitkin (, July 18, 2000


At the Bloomfield factory (both on Mountain Road and the subsequent site on Brown Street), O Filley employed upwards of 15 men and women, including one gentleman of African descent who made and painted the tinware. It is possible that at the Pennsylvania and New York sites that production and painting took place.

-- Judi Sitkin (, July 28, 2000.

Dear Marc and Judi: Through research for the National Register application, we've learned some incredibly interesting information about Capt. Oliver Filley and his tinware. The information mainly comes from the Filley Papers, located in the CT Historical Society, and in numerous books written about American painted tinware. Regarding the latter, please email me for specific titles and authors.

Records in the Filley Papers show that Capt. Filley first started repairing and manufacturing tinware at his Mountain Avenue, Bloomfield, homestead between 1805 and 1806. His home and his tinware shop at this location no longer exist - and their exact position on today's Filley House property has not been ascertained. Of course, the traprock Filley House was constructed in the year 1834.

We believe that in the year 1817, when Capt. Filley constructed his Federal home on Brown Street (Bloomfield), he established his tinshop at this location as well. In actuality, the term or terms that should be used here are "tinshop," "shop," "craftshop," or "manufactory." The first and last terms are generally used, with the last being a contemporary term. The tinshop actually did not employ a large number of people (yes, perhaps an upper limit of 15 men and women), and in the early 19th century the term factory was not in use.

Capt. Filley conducted his tinware business on a variety of different levels. Filley purchased his sheets of tinplate from several sources in Hartford and New York and well as from his tinware competitors in Berlin, CT. As tin was exclusively mined in England at this time, this was the actual source of the product - then to be exported to the United States.

Sources, including the primary documents that are the Filley papers, show that Capt. Filley both purchased unpainted tinware and manufactured tinware items. In any case, Filley was known as a craftsman in respect to the somewhat mysterious method of successfully japanning (firing a layer of black asphaltum)the tinware. For this task, he did hire and train a number of indentured laborers, including previously mentioned (Judi)man of African descent.

-- Ed Stanley (, August 08, 2000.

Filley Tinware Answer, Part II:

To continue:

Capt. Oliver Filley also hired other regular laborers in addition to those of the indentured nature for the purpose of manufacturing and coating (with asphaltum) the tinware. Men and women - mainly the latter - were employed in the fanciful decoration of the tinware after the items were coated with asphaltum.

Records (in particular, letters and account books) show that the decorative painting of the tinware was done at the Filley Bloomfield location as well as at other distribution points maintained by Capt. Filley. These locations were established and manned by Filley's sons as well as a cousin, Augustus, and a brother, Harvey. The specific tinware distribution locations were: Lansingburg (New York), Philadelphia, and St. Louis (Missouri).

-- Ed Stanley (, August 08, 2000.

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