Gleason PewterThe pinnacle of Dorchester's metals industry
Roswell Gleason manufactured home goods from metal, first pewter ware and later silver-plated tableware. He introduced the shiny pewter called Britannia ware to America.
The Gleason Pewter and Silver-Plating Company was located on Washington Street in Dorchester on the north side of Park Street.
The Gleason estate with house and other buildings is shown in the 1874 Hopkins Atlas of Dorchester. The house and factory buildings faced Washington Street just north of Park Street, not quite as far as the area known today as Mothers Rest. Today Claybourne, Greenbrier, Larchmont, Lindsey and Tonawanda Streets run through the area formerly owned by Gleason.
In 1818 Roswell Gleason moved from Putney, Vermont to Dorchester and found employment with Mr. Wilcox, a maker of tinware. After Wilcox retired, Gleason went into business for himself about the year 1830, beginning with the manufacture of block tin and pewter.
In the 1850s Gleason and one of his sons opened the first silver-plating establishment in America. At one time they employed 125 men at their factory on Washington Street. By 1851 Gleason had become wealthy enough to be included in a book entitled Rich Men of Massachusetts. He owned a property of 25 acres with a 1,000 foot frontage on Washington Street encompassing his house and 15 other structures including stables, outbuildings and factory buildings. Park Street was installed on the southern border of his land.
When Gleason began the production of silver-plate, the style of his work began to change from the simple, traditionally inspired design of his early work to a more heavily ornamented and opulent style which better suited the tastes of his Victorian clientele. Largely due to this ability to adapt to changing tastes and to keep abreast of technical advances in manufacturing, Gleasons operation continued to prosper. In his later years, business suffered when the Civil War interrupted sales in the southern states. After both his sons died, and an explosion occurred in one of his factories, he retired in 1871 at the age of 72. He died in Dorchester in 1887.