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     Few men so fully realized an early ambition as did Robert Wallace. As a young man he became imbued with the desire to excel as a manufacturer and he bent every effort toward that end and the results which he accomplished were even beyond his expectations. His start in the business world was most humble but ere the end of his life he had come into possession of those things which men covet and desire as of value.
     He was born at Prospect, New Haven county, November 13, 1813, a son of James and Urania (Williams) Wallace. The father was a farmer of Prospect and was of Scotch and English descent. The grandfather, James Wallace, came from Edinburgh, Scotland. He married an English lady and crossed the Atlantic to try his fortune in the new world, bringing with him the first silk loom in America. This was set up at Blandford, Massachusetts. He also brought with him a very large library, for those days, and before his death divided it among several towns, his gift constituting the nucleus of what have become large public libraries in each place. A complete list of the books which he brought over is to be found in the Boston public library today. His death occurred in Blandford, where his grave is yet to be seen.
    Robert Wallace acquired a country school education and when eighteen years of age he began the manufacture of spoons in an old grist mill in Cheshire, there setting up his shop. Speaking of this period of his career, a contemporary writer has said: "In the early '30s of the last century an industrious youth used to come over the hills from Cheshire to sell spoons in and about Wallingford. When his stock was sold out he would go back and hammer out a new supply. This was Robert Wallace, founder of the business now known as the R. Wallace & Sons Manufacturing Company, the largest independent manufacturers of table flatware in the world." About the time that he began hammering out the spoons he learned of a new composition called German silver. From this new metal some spoons had been made which he saw. Upon investigation Mr. Wallace found that Dr. Louis Feuchtwanger, a chemist, he had brought a small bar of this metal from Germany. This Robert Wallace purchased and had it rolled in Waterbury, where he also met an Englishman from whom he purchased the formula for making the alloy, and thus he became the first in this country to compound German silver.
     Soon afterward he secured a small wooden building on the bank of the Quinnipiac river just below Wallingford and in June, 1835, equipped it with the simple machinery that constituted his working stock at that time. With his removal he was able to increase his output from three dozen to nine dozen spoons per day and from that initial point in his business career his progress was rapid and continuous. As early as 1855 the business represented an investment of twelve thousand dollars and something of the steady growth is indicated in the fact that in 1865 the company was incorporated and capitalized for one hundred thousand dollars. At that time the incorporation was made under the name of Wallace. Simpson & Company but in 1871 Robert Wallace purchased the interest of Mr. Simpson and admitted his two sons to a partnership under the present firm style of the R. Wallace & Sons Manufacturing Company. During the fifty-seven years which followed since his purchase of that historic bar of German silver there was great progress made in connection with the silver industry. At all times Mr. Wallace retained his position of leadership in connection with the craft and the business which he established and to which he devoted his entire life became the largest independent manufactory of silverware in the world. He became a close student of methods and as a result of his skill and his inventive genius there were produced a large number of improvements on machinery that are in use today.
     During the quarter of a century that has passed since his death the business has continued to expand at even a greater pace than in preceding years until today the factory consists of buildings with a total floor space of three hundred and fifty thousand square feet and covering a tract of six acres. The business now gives employment to about thirteen hundred operatives, mostly skilled labor. With the growth of the business the variety of the products has naturally increased. Beginning with only German silver spoons, they now cover the wide range of sterling silver flatware, hollow-ware, toilet ware and novelties, hotel silver and reproductions of old Sheffield plate. Following the death of Robert Wallace, his son, Frank A. Wallace, succeeded to the presidency, while H. L. Wallace is the secretary and C. W. Leavenworth, a grandson of the founder, is the treasurer.
     On the 23d of March, 1839, Mr. Wallace was married to Miss Louisa Moulthrop, of North Haven, Connecticut, and their children were as follows: William J., deceased; Nettie A., the widow of W. J. Leavenworth, of Wallingford, also deceased; Robert E., who resided in Brooklyn but has passed away; Hattie E.; Henry L., of Wallingford; Adella C., the wife of J. W. Sissen, of New York; George W., late of Chicago, who has departed this life; and Frank A., of Wallingford.
     The death of Mr. Wallace occurred June 1, 1892. He was plain and unassuming to a marked degree, declined all public honors and dreaded publicity. He took the keenest interest, however, in public affairs and while he would never accept public office, his business activities constituted a most important element in the development, upbuilding and progress of Wallingford. His life work was indeed of great worth to the world and his memory is revered and honored by all who knew him.

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Modern History of New Haven
Eastern New Haven County


Volume II

New York Chicago
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company 

pgs 374 - 377

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pages / text are copyrighted by
Elaine Kidd O'Leary & 
Anne Taylor-Czaplewski
May 2002