The Meriden Britannia Company got its start by manufacturing fine household metal products in Connecticut. Formed in 1852, the company made and sold items such as silverware, bowls, pitchers, plates, tureens and decorative items. Initially, all products were made only from Britannia metal, which is very similar in appearance to pewter. As customer desire for Britannia metal products waned, the company began silver-plating its products.
Dennis and Horace Wilcox founded the Meriden Britannia Company in an effort to capitalize on the popularity of Britannia metal. Britannia metal has a luster that is similar to silver, but it is more affordable. Many American households bought the company's products as an acceptable substitute for pure silver products. Another advantage of Britannia metal is that it is not susceptible to tarnishing and thus doesn't require polishing to keep it looking nice.
Early Meriden Britannia pieces are valued by private and public collectors. The Brooklyn Museum has many pieces in its collection. Photos reveal that these items still maintain their original sheen even though they were made over 100 years ago.
The company continued to be a leading manufacturer of popular silver goods well into the 20th century. Meriden, Conn., became known as "The Silver City" as a result of the international reputation of Meriden Britannia Company products.