If you're familiar with early 20th century silverware, you're probably aware of the International Silver Company. If you collect silver settings of this period, you almost certainly possess the company's wares. The history of the International Silver Company parallels the history of silver manufacturing in Connecticut from the late 19th century until the 1950s.

Company Origins

Although the International Silver Company was headquartered in Meriden, Connecticut, for most of its existence, it was initially organized under New Jersey law in November 1898. Within the next few years, ISC purchased 17 silver companies. These included the Connecticut-based companies Barbour Silver Company, Meriden Britannia Company, Rogers Cutlery, Holmes and Edwards Silver Company, Norwich Cutlery, Derby Silver Company, William Rogers Manufacturing Company, Rogers and Hamilton, Rogers and Brothers, Middletown Plate Company, Wilcox Silver Plate, Simpson Nickel Company, Watrous Manufacturing Company, Simpson Hall Miller and Company, and the United States Silver Corporation. It also acquired the New York-based Manhattan Silver Plate and Toronto, Canada's Standard Silver Company, Ltd. ISC continued acquiring American and Canadian silver companies into the 1930s. The company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1927.

Silver City

With the rapid acquisition of these companies, ISC soon became the largest producer of silver items in the country. Corporate hometown Meriden earned the moniker "Silver City" and much of the area's economic and social life revolved around ISC. ISC manufacturing plants in the city included those previously operated by the companies it purchased. During World War II, ISC's Factory H in Meriden was converted to wartime military production. Silver production in Meriden ceased in 1984.

Earnings and Sales History

Valued at $20 million shortly after its inception, ISC had annual earnings of $1.3 million by 1906, although earnings dropped in 1907 and 1908. By 1909, earnings were on the upswing again but without tremendous growth. The company earned $1.1 million in 1923 on sales of $18 million. Nearly two decades later, in 1941, ISC had sales of $23.9 million and earnings of $1.5 million. In 1943, in the midst of World War II, sales reached $33 million but income fell to approximately $1 million. Postwar sales rose to $68.6 million in 1948, with earnings of $7.8 million.

Insilco Corporation

As early as the 1920s, ISC was informally known as Insilco. It officially became the Insilco Corporation in 1969, by which time silver was a minor part of its operations. Insilco was out of the silver business by 1983, with its headquarters moved to Midland, Texas. ISC's diversification began in the 1950s, when inexpensive flatware from overseas threatened its primary business. Over the next decades, Insilco subsidiaries included home builders, office products, military hardware, electronics and textbooks. The company filed for bankruptcy in 1991 but within a few years was back on a strong financial footing.