Flagg and Homan: Historical Notes

 

by

 

Gary D. Wiggins

 

Over the years, many collectors have been confused by pewter (Britannia) pieces with “Flagg & Homan” or other Homan touches.  This article covers the history of both the people and companies that produced these items and will correct a number of misconceptions about them.

 

The original firm that grew to become the 20th century’s Homan Manufacturing Company began operation as “Flagg & Homan” in 1847.  It was then that H. Henry Homan formed a partnership with Asa F. Flagg to manufacture Britannia wares and other items in Cincinnati, Ohio.(1)  Flagg was already an established Britannia maker by 1847.  He was an employee of the Luther Boardman firm in Massachusetts during the period 4 January 1836 to 4 June 1837 (9 January 1837 – 17 April, 1837 according to Turano). (2), (3)   He had moved to Cincinnati by 1842. Flagg set up shop on Seventh Street between Main and Sycamore Streets, according to McConnell.(4)  Brown also feels that Flagg worked on his own during the period 1842-1846.(5)  Until at least sometime in 1851, Asa Flagg was a partner with Henry Homan.    

 

Fig. 1. Herman Henry Homan, 1826-1868

 

Herman Henry Homan went to public school in Cincinnati until age 14, when he began to work as an apprentice at the Britannia ware firm of Sellew & Co. around 1840.  Sellew & Co. was then the only Britannia maker in Cincinnati, and Homan stayed with them until he was 21 in 1847.  There are only a few pewter pieces from the Flagg & Homan period 1847-1851 that have a mark with both the Flagg and Homan names.(6)  Records seen at the home of Henry Homan descendant Ted Homan in 2012 and 2013 indicate that their business was initially located on Jackson Street between Twelfth and Canal Streets.  They had moved to Fifth Street by 1851.   Shortly thereafter, the partnership ended, and the business was then known simply by Henry Homan’s name.(7)  Figures 2 through 8 show ads from Cincinnati city directories that clarify the names used by the Homan Britannia business in the first 20 years of its existence.

Fig. 2. Flagg & Homan ad in Williams’ Cincinnati Directory, 1851-52

Fig. 3. Henry Homan ad in Williams’ Cincinnati Directory, 1853

 

Although the partnership between Henry Homan and Asa “Pewter” Flagg, as he came to be known, probably ended before 1853, Homan soon found a new partner in William M. Miller, who remained with him at least until 1861. By 1856, they were already advertising gold and silver plating.  The building on Fifth Street burned down around 1855, and by 1856 they had moved to no. 11 E. Seventh Street between Main and Sycamore, north side.  The company name vacillated for a while among the names Henry Homan, Homan & Co., H. Homan & Co. before finally settling on Homan & Co after Henry’s death in 1865.(8)  Homan & Co. then expanded into no. 12 and no. 14 E. Seventh Street, where the business remained for several decades.  By 1888 they had the entire block, 10 to 18 E. Seventh Street.

 

Fig. 4. Homan & Co ad in Williams’ Cincinnati Directory, 1856

 

Fig. 5. H. Homan & Co. ad in Williams’ Cincinnati Directory, 1857

 

Fig. 6. Sketch of H. Homan & Co. Factory, circa 1860

 

 

Fig. 7. 1865 H. Homan ad in Williams’ Cincinnati Directory, 1865, p. 92

 

 

Fig. 8. Homan & Co. ad in Williams’ Cincinnati Directory, 1866

 

 

Upon Henry Homan’s death in 1865, his wife, Margaret Ackerman Homan, and one of her relatives, J. Thomas Ackerman (probably her brother Johann T. Ackerman), took over the management of the company.  She gradually involved her three sons in the company (Francis Xavier, b. 1 December 1851; d. 12 September 1879; Louis Bernard, b. 13 September 1860; d. 6 February 1944; and Joseph Theodore, b. 16 May 1864; d. 12 February 1941).   In 1879, Francis purchased the company from his mother, but he died of typhus the same year, and his widow, Louise, and her brother-in-law, Henry Korf, ran it for a while.  Margaret Homan bought the company back from Louise and operated it with her son Louis from 1883-1887 when she retired.(9)  A new partnership was formed by 1888 among Louis Homan, Joseph T. Homan, and Joseph Niehaus, a brother-in-law of the Homans.  Niehaus may have been the foreman at the factory.  An unsourced news item dating from this time announced the new partnership and noted that “After the first of January the house will manufacture on a larger scale than hitherto, and will furnish a new line of fine and high-priced goods.  They will be represented in every principal city of the United States.”

 

Fig. 9. 1879 Homan & Co. Letterhead

 

 

One of the mainstays of the Homan product line over many decades was their Patent Improved Candle Mold Machine (originally, Willis Humiston’s patent candle mold machine; later Stainthorp & Co.’s), first made from pewter, then from tin.  This machine was very popular and was shipped all over the world. By 1888, there was scarcely a candle-making company anywhere that did not use Homan machines. Around 1895, the mold business was separated from the plating business and operated under the name Homan and Company. At that time, the plating business became known as The Homan Silver Plate Company. By 1905, the plating business was re-named The Homan Manufacturing Company.  In 1906, a new factory was opened at 1050 Findlay Street between Western and Hulbert Avenue. At the time, the new plant was the largest west of New England, and was said to have the most modern and efficient equipment in the United States.(10) 

 

Joseph T. Homan and Louis Homan were listed as officers of The Homan Manufacturing Company in the 1915 Annual Report of the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, and they were still involved with Homan family businesses when the plating company shut down in 1941, the year of Joseph T. Homan’s death.(11)  Homan & Co., Inc. (the mold business) was turned over to Joseph T. Homan’s son, Rudolf, in September 1940. It made trailer truck parts during World War II, and it was still in business in 1950 and was still providing candle mold machines throughout the world.(12)  The Cincinnati Post-Times Star’s June 22, 1962 edition contained the story “Dayton Firm Buys Homan Co,” detailing the sale of Homan and Co. to Dayton Steel Foundry Co.  At that time, the mold company was operating in a 54,000 square foot plant at 500 Main Street and employed about 45 people.

 

In 1859, the Homan company employed twenty-eight workers, and the value of their products was listed at $85,000.(13)  In 1888, from 75 -100 people were working there, and business was so brisk in the fall of 1887 that they ran night and day shifts to keep up with the orders. Plans were afoot shortly thereafter to double their capacity and the number of people employed.(14)  In 1919, The Homan Manufacturing Company was capitalized at $400,000 and employed between 300 and 400 workmen during the fall season.(15) 

 

Some pewter pieces were marked “Flagg & Homan” in the early history of the company. Homan undoubtedly began to use only his name in the touch shortly after the breakup of his partnership with Flagg, either as “H. Homan” or “Homan & Co.” The firm specialized in making items for ecclesiastical use, such as chalices, patens, baptismal bowls, alms dishes, and especially candlesticks. Homan marked some of its ecclesiastical wares “Sick Call” as a kind of company trademark.(16)  These were items intended to be kept in the home for a priest to use when they visited sick people. The company also had commissions from Mississippi and Ohio River boat companies for equipment ranging from swivel lamps to chargers, bowls, and water pitchers. In addition, they made items for bars and taverns. Other products made by the firm were chargers, plates, pitchers, tea sets, combs, spectacle frames, syrup jugs with pewter tops, and many other items.(17), (18)

 

Candlesticks were a particular specialty of Homan and Co. They were available in seven sizes, most often in the 8” and 10” varieties. They were very popular as first communion gifts and were reproduced in the 20th century. The reproductions can be identified by their lack of push-up candle ejectors, as well as a stamped Flagg & Homan mark in an oval and the word “PEWTER”. Most of the original candlesticks were unmarked, though some occasionally had the Flagg & Homan mark in an oval or a straight-line version of the company name.(19)

 

Fig. 10. Flagg & Homan Straight-Line Mark (PCCA Bulletin 7/3/104)

 

 

Fig. 11. Flagg & Homan in oval mark (source unknown)

 

Homan & Co. continued to produce pewter (Britannia ware) and silver-plated items from the mid-19th century into the fourth decade of the 20th century under the names Henry Homan, Homan & Co., H. Homan & Co., H. Homan, Homan & Co. (a second time), The Homan Silver Plate Co., and The Homan Manufacturing Co. (See Appendix I.)  They made pewter (Britannia metal) wares until at least 1864, but pewter virtually disappeared from their product line in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s, as electroplated silver and gold became more popular.  The company initially limited its manufactured goods to articles plated on a Britannia metal base, but around 1913, it added a complete assortment of patterns plated on nickel silver or German silver, and popularly known as Sheffield goods.(20)  The 1927 General Catalog No. 51 contained items plated on both nickel silver and Britannia metal.(21) 

 

 

Fig 11. Ad for Homan Plate circa 1905, showing the recent name change to The Homan Manufacturing Company

 

Pewter re-appeared in the product line during the first third of the 20th century. The Homan Manufacturing Company’s 1929 Supplementary Catalog no. 56 states that the new patterns in that catalog supplement the comprehensive assortment of pewter in Catalog no. 54.(22) (Unfortunately, no copy of catalog no. 54, issued sometime between 1927 and 1929, has been found.) 

 

The Homan Manufacturing Company thus enthusiastically joined the renaissance of pewter production that occurred for a few brief years in the period 1928-31 in the United States.(23) Their long history of manufacturing Britannia and pewter wares encompassed nearly a century from 1847 to 1941 and provided many pieces that today entice collectors of American pewter.

 

Acknowledgement: The author is very grateful to Ted and Kyle Homan for their invaluable assistance in clarifying many of the facts reported in this article.

 

Bloomington, Indiana, 14 May 2013

 

References and Notes

 

(1)   Herman Henry Homan was born in 1826 in Osnabrück, Germany and died 8 November 1865 in Cincinnati.  His original partner Asa F. Flagg was born 10 December 1813 in Hartford, CT and died 28 August 1868.  Some, including John F. Brown and Rhea Mansfield Knittle, thought that Asa Flagg was an Englishman and that he died in 1851.  The 1850 Census of Cincinnati Ward 10, Hamilton County, Ohio indicates that he was born about 1815 in Connecticut.  His profession is given as “Brittania (sic) Manufacturer”.  The Flagg & Homan company is first listed in the 1849-50 Williams’ Cincinnati Directory at Twelfth and Jackson Streets.  In the 10th edition (1860) of Williams’ Cincinnati Directory, published eight years after the partnership with Homan was dissolved, Flagg’s entry reads: “Flagg, A. F., pewter smith, E. 6th, near Baum.”  He was still alive in 1865 and is listed in the 1865 Williams directory as “Flagg, Asa F., U.S.A., 478 W. 3rd,” indicating that he was in the U.S. Army at that time.  Flagg was a private in Co. K, 11th Regiment, Ohio Infantry during the Civil War.  Further adding to the confusion about Flagg is the listing of an Eli F. Flagg in the 1860 Census of Cincinnati Ward 13, Hamilton County, Ohio, born around 1813 in Connecticut with occupation designated as “Britannia Smith”.  A comparison of “Eli” Flagg’s 1860 census entry with Asa Flagg’s entry in the 1850 census is instructive.  With the exception of the obvious mistake listing his name as Eli, the Flagg family members in the two census records are the same.  All, including Asa/Eli have 10 years added to their ages in going from the 1850 to the 1860 census.  There are slight variations in the names (and in one case even the sex) of the children: Caroline P. vs. Carrie, Lorenz H.(male) vs. Florence (female), but Frederick F. in both.  (The 1860 census taker was obviously having a bad day!)  The 1860 Ohio Census of Cincinnati Ward 10, Hamilton County lists on p. 60: Homan, Henry, age 35, with occupation “Master Brit. & W. Maker,” born in Prussia.

(2)   Bowen, Richard L., Jr. “Luther Boardman’s Coffee Pot.”  The Pewter Collectors Club of America Bulletin, v. 9 no. 8 (97), December 1988, pp. 176-179: 177.   

(3)   Turano, Andrew F. “An Unrecorded Mark by H. Homan.” The Pewter Collectors Club of America Bulletin, v. 14 no. 3, Summer 2010, pp. 16-17: 16.

(4)   McConnell, David H. “Musings on the Mysteries of Some Mid-Ohio Valley Men/Women.”  The Pewter Collectors Club of America Bulletin, v. 8 no. 6 (85), September 1982, pp. 219-222: 220. The Morgan Index of Ohio People, Businesses and Institutions, 1796-1850 points to p. 308 of Charles Cist’s 1842 Cincinnati Directory showing Flagg’s business was on Clay Street between Twelfth and Thirteenth Streets.  The directory lists his occupation as Britannia ware maker.  McConnell postulates that Homan was an apprentice to Flagg, which contradicts Tenner’s 1878 depiction of Homan’s apprenticeship with Sellew & Co. (See Note 7.)  He also states that Asa Flagg died in 1851, but that clearly was not the case.  (See Note 1.)

(5)   Brown, John F. “Vas You Effer in Zinzinnati?” The Pewter Collectors Club of America Bulletin, v. 7 no. 5 (74), April 1977, pp. 180-184: 181. Brown believed that Asa Flagg was born in Birmingham, England.

(6)   McClaskey, Fred and Mary Ellen McClaskey.  “Flagg & Homan, Cincinnati, O. Pewterers, 1842-1854.” The Pewter Collectors Club of America Bulletin, v. 7 no. 3 (76), February 1976, pp. 104-105.

(7)   “Heinrich Homan” in: Tenner, Armin. Cincinnati Sonst und Jetzt.  Cincinnati, OH: Druck von Mecklenburg und Rosenthal, 1878; Zweiter Theil, Biographische Skizzen, pp. 50-51 (p. 181 of 716 in the pdf version online). A translation of the entry can be found on Ancestry.com in the Homan Family File provided by kljh527.  (See Appendix II.)  Note that there is no mention of Flagg on those pages, but the author does state that Homan served a lengthy apprenticeship at Sellew & Co.

(8)   The Centennial Review of Cincinnati. One Hundred Years of Progress in Commerce, Manufacture, the Professions, and in Social and Municipal Life. Cincinnati, Ohio, J. M. Elstner & Co., Publisher, 1888, pp. 48-49.

(9)    Knittle, Rhea Mansfield. Early Ohio Silversmiths and Pewterers, 1787-1847. (The Ohio Frontier Series, 1787-1847) Printed by the Calvert-Hatch Co., Copyright 1943 by Rhea Mansfield Knittle, pp. 46, 54-56, 58.  Knittle states on p. 55 that Mrs. Homan retired in December 1887.  However, she had done so once before.  The 1879 letter from which Figure 9 was taken was written by her son Francis.  It begins, “Dear Mother: You having decided to retire from business, I have prepared a complete inventory of the effects of the firm. . .”  Information found at the home of Ted and Kyle Homan in 2012 indicates that she did in fact sell the firm to Francis Homan at that time, but later purchased it back from his widow.

(10)  Cincinnati “The Queen City” NEWSPAPER REFERENCE BOOK. Published by The Cuvier Press Club, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1914, p. 49.

(11)  The Annual Report‎ - Page 257 of the Cincinnati (Ohio) Chamber of Commerce and Merchant’s Exchange, Cincinnati (Ohio), 1915 lists under “Plating”: Homan Manufacturing Co., 1050 Findlay St. Joseph T. Homan. Louis Homan.

(12)  “Fourth Generation in Family Firm.” The Cincinnati Times-Star, February 13, 1950, no. 21, p. 2. And: “Founder Develops Candle Machinery.” The Cincinnati Enquirer, February 13, 1950, p 6 (or 5?).

(13)  Sketches and Statistics of Cincinnati in 1859. By Charles Cist, p. 262.

(14)  The Centennial Review of Cincinnati. (op. cit.)  On page 49 there is a note that the company was preparing for a complete exhibit of their manufactures in an upcoming exposition, the “Centennial Exposition of the Ohio Valley and Central States,” which took place in Cincinnati from July 4 to October 27, 1888. However, the company apparently did not participate in this event. Neither the catalog of exhibitions nor the Report of the President of the Board of Executive Commissioners mentions the company. Perhaps the change in management of the company at the time had something to do with the decision not to participate.  See: Official Guide of the Centennial Exposition of the Ohio Valley and Central States. Cincinnati, John F.C. Mullen, Publisher, 1888.

And: Centennial Exposition of the Ohio Valley and Central States, Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A., July 4 to October 27, 1888. Celebrating the Settlement of the Ohio Valley—The Northwest Territory—The State of Ohio and the City of Cincinnati. Report of the President of the Board of Executive Commissioners, with Reports of the Committees, An Account of the Dedication and Opening Ceremonies, and Other Matters of Historic Interest. Cincinnati, Ohio, Press of Keating & Co., 311 Longworth St.

(15)  “Homan & Co., 1869; Homan Mfg. Co., 1919.” The Jewelers’ Circular v. 78 no. 1 (February 5, 1919, p. 397.

(16)  Fendelman, Helaine and Joe Rosson. “Valuing a ‘Sick Call’ Outfit.” The MetroWest Daily News May 2, 2008.

(17) Knittle, Rhea Mansfield. “The Homan Manufacturing Company.” Pewter Collectors Club of America Bulletin v. 5 no 7 (56), June 1967, p. 131. [notes from an interview Knittle had with Joseph T. Homan in 1932.  Copy provided by Georgiana Cook.]

(18)  Knittle, Rhea Mansfield. Early Ohio Silversmiths and Pewterers, 1787-1847. (op cit.), pp. 46, 54-56, 58.

(19)  Richmond, Andrew. “The Ubiquitous Pewter Candlesticks of Flagg and Homan.” Dunham Tavern Museum News November 2008, v. 69 no. 2, p. 1. http://www.hoosierpewter.com/flagghoman/Dunham_Tavern Museum News.pdf (Reproduced by permission of Andrew Richmond. See: http://www.youngantiquescollectors.blogspot.com/)

(20)  Cincinnati “The Queen City.” NEWSPAPER REFERENCE BOOK. Published by The Cuvier Press Club, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1914, p. 49.

(21)  General Catalog No. 51. Containing new patterns for the year 1927, and all current designs of previous years plated on Nickel Silver and Britannia Metal. Made by the Homan Manufacturing Co. Established 1847. August 15, 1927. This work supersedes previous catalogs. It was viewed in the Cincinnati Historical Society Library on 8/6/2009.  The introduction mentions the revival of early American styles in house furnishings, but there is no indication of pewter.  The introduction to the section on “Homan Brand Silver Plated Hollow Ware on Special Hard Britannia Metal” (p. 83) states that the assortment of goods plated on Britannia metal is no longer large and is largely limited to prize cups and trophies and popular priced tea ware.  The catalog also has a section on Richfield Brand Hollow Ware (p. 103 ff.)

(22)  Pewter by Flagg & Homan. Made as it was over 80 years ago by their successor The Homan Manufacturing Co. Founded in 1847, Findlay Street, Western and Hulbert Avenues, Cincinnati, Ohio. Supplementary Catalog No. 56, September 1929. C.W. Sweetland & Son, Inc. No. 171 Washington Street, Jewelers Building, Boston.

(23)  Smith, Carolyn A. and Peggy R. Hixon.  The Mystery Era of American Pewter, 1928-1931. Oklahoma City, OK: Universal Press, Inc., 1979 and the supplement published in 1984 by Carolyn A. Smith.

 

Suggested Additional Reading:

 

Wolf, Dr. Melvyn D. and Bette A. Wolf.  “Cincinnati Pewter.” The Pewter Collectors Club of America Bulletin v. 7 no. 3 (75), September 1977, pp. 220-231.

 

McClaskey, Fred and Mary Ellen McClaskey.  “Flagg & Homan, Cincinnati, O. Pewterers, 1852-1854.  The Pewter Collectors Club of America Bulletin v. 7 no. 3 (72), February 1976, pp. 104-105.

 

Appendix I: Dates, Company Names, and Locations Where Flagg and/or Homan Produced Britannia Wares and Other Products

Dates

Name Used by the Company

Address

1842-46

Asa F. Flagg

Clay between Twelfth & Thirteenth Streets; Seventh between Main & Sycamore Streets; North side of Seventh Street between Western Row & John Streets

1840-47

Henry Homan apprenticeship at Sellew & Company

East side of Main Street, between Fifth & Sixth Streets

1847-1850

Flagg & Homan

Jackson between Twelfth & Canal Streets; SW Corner of Twelfth and Jackson; SE corner of Fifth and Race

1850-52

Flagg & Homan

SE corner of Fifth & Race; SW corner of Fifth & Home Streets

1853-1855

Henry Homan

SW corner of Fifth & Home Streets; 211 Fifth Street between Elm & Plum Streets., corner of Home

1856

Homan & Co.

211 W. Fifth Street, corner of Home St.

1857-1861

H. Homan & Co.

11 E. Seventh Street, between Main & Sycamore Streets., north side

1862-1865

H. Homan

11 E. Seventh Street, between Main & Sycamore Streets, north side

1866-1962

Homan & Co.

(From ~1894 this name was used for the mold company.)

12 E. Seventh Street, between Main & Sycamore; later encompassed 10-18 E. Seventh; 500 Main Street (mold company)

~1894-1905

The Homan Silver Plate Co.

14 E. Seventh Street; later 214-226 E. Seventh

1906-1941

The Homan Manufacturing Co.

From May 1, 1906: 1906 Western Avenue, Hulbert Avenue and Findlay Street; Also listed as 1050 Findlay

 


 

Appendix II: Translation of the 1878 Heinrich Homan Biographical Entry in Cincinnati Sonst und Jetzt. (taken from Ancestry.com 10 May 2013)