In 1831, Jabez Gorham partnered with Henry Webster to found the silver company that bears his name in his native Providence, Rhode Island. Originally a manufacturer of coin-silver flatware as well as small items like buttons, thimbles, and combs, the Gorham Manufacturing Company grew quickly after Jabez retired in 1847 and was succeeded by his son, John Gorham.
The Rhode Island School of Design, established in 1877, has long had a relationship with Gorham. "We have had a jewelry and light metals department for a century or more and have trained craftsmen and artists who have gone on to Gorham for decades and decades,"
It probably seemed foolhardy in 1806 New England. Fourteen years old and fatherless, Jabez Gorham apprenticed with Nehemiah H. Dodge, a leading Providence, Rhode Island silversmith. In early America, most people were farmers. Not many cared about sterling silver. Jabez could have followed his father's trade — harness-making.
Dodge was an excellent mentor, Jabez an apt student. Barely into his twenties, the young man opened a shop to sell such sundries as hair ornaments, thimbles, glove button closers, and garter pins. From this humble beginning, the business emerged that eclipsed English silver manufacturers as the largest purveyor of silver in the world.
By 1831, when Jabez Gorham formed a partnership with Henry Webster to make coin-silver spoons, American silver was a well-established craft industry, with spoon makers in most leading cities and towns.
It is sometimes said that James Watt got the idea for a steam engine while still a boy, watching steam lift the lid of his mother’s teakettle. The truth is that Watt did not invent the steam engine; however, he made major improvements on the inefficient steam engine of his time.