the tarnish R coming!

Paul Revere’s day job was silversmith.  He was very successful.  His products were more functional than ornamental, vessels for preparing and serving food and drink.  We know his role as a patriot, and he applied his metal working talents to the war effort, during and after the war using the profits from his expanding business to finance his work in iron casting, bronze bell and cannon casting, and the forging of copper bolts and spikes. In 1800, he became the first American to successfully roll copper into sheets for use as sheathing on naval vessels.

Mid-20th century American cooks knew Paul Revere and his copper very well.

How we got there goes way back to the end of the Revolutionary war (1).  Revere focused on copper, starting his own company.  He brought in his son Joseph in 1804, the company becoming Revere and Son. Paul died in 1818 at age 84.  10 years later Revere & Son merged with James Davis & Son of Boston Brass Foundry to form the Revere Copper Company.  Joseph died in 1867 succeeded by his nephew, Frederick Walker Lincoln. Several Revere family members (John Revere followed by his two sons William Bacon Revere and Edward H.R. Revere) remained active in the company.  In 1881 John Revere, Paul Revere’s grandson, became company president. Subsequently, Revere Copper Company merged with the New Bedford Copper Company and the Taunton Copper Company, to form the Taunton-New Bedford Copper Company. Revere retained its name as a separate division.  In 1928, six companies – Rome Brass & Copper Company, Michigan Copper & Brass Company, Baltimore Copper Rolling Mill, Dallas Brass & Copper Co., Taunton-New Bedford Copper Company (Revere’s company), and Higgins Brass & Manufacturing Company were merged and incorporated as the General Brass Corporation on December 1, 1928. The merger produced the second largest fabricator of copper & brass products in the U.S. with 25% of the country’s rolling mill capacity. Four days later, the name was changed to Republic Brass Corporation.  The next year, on November 12, out of respect to the founder of the American copper industry, the name of the company was changed again, this time to Revere Copper and Brass Incorporated. 

About that time began a 10-year effort that would find the Revere brand in America’s kitchens as well as its shipyards.  At the time home cooking was done in cast iron pots, with finer cooking, as in restaurants, in vessels of pure copper or copper lined with tin, delicate and expensive alternatives to cast iron.  In 1931 Revere introduced a line of cookware with chrome plating the copper instead of tin.  The product failed, as potatoes cooked with salt caused the chrome to flake off.  By 1934 the team investigating this product’s failure found that only stainless steel could effectively replace chrome, but this material conducted heat unevenly.  The leader of the team judged that a heavy layer of copper bonded to the stainless steel would solve the problem, copper being an excellent and even heat conductor.  Such bonding was thought to be impossible.  In 1938, after 2 years’ time and considerable expense, the objectives were reached: A 2-step electroplating technique was developed which could deposit a thick layer of copper plate (1 1/2 times the thickness of the underlying metal) on 18-8 stainless steel at production speeds. This thickness was more than sufficient to overcome the burning problems of regular stainless-steel cookware.

The newfangled cookware was introduced at the 1939 Chicago Housewares Show and was an immediate hit.

World War II halted Revere Ware’s march into America’s kitchens, as all copper went into the war effort rather than consumer products.  In 1942, Revere was issued Patent No.US2272609, covering their new copper cladding process as used in the Revere Ware product line, which they would later stamp onto every pot and pan produced.

Postwar sales boomed, the sales of Revere Ware limited only by the production capacity of the Rome, NY plant.  The decision was made in 1948 to establish a second plant on the west coast. Subsequently, an abandoned manufacturing plant in Riverside, CA, was acquired and equipped for production.  In 1950, a third plant, in Clinton IL, came online.

Even in the heyday of Revere ware’s popularity, signs of the company’s eventual demise could be seen, such as new product lines and a foray into aluminum (even foil pans!).  As the copper cladding patent expired in 1959, the company attempted a relaunch, with modernized styling and accompanying utensils. Enthusiasm for the new/old copper clad products was blunted by near simultaneous introduction of Teflon clad cookware, a bandwagon Revere would later jump on.

The 60s found Revere trying to make a go of it with aluminum cookware, still producing the copper clad classics.  With the aluminum products failing, management sought to squeeze some profit out of the copper clad line by making it more cheaply.  The electroplating process was gradually shortened – reducing the thickness of the cladding while simultaneously increasing the production line speed. Ultimately, the thickness of the cladding was reduced by 50% (which unfortunately caused the cladding to lose much of its ability to dissipate heat). This change passed unnoticed by consumers (at first) – as there was little change in the appearance of the product. The changes allowed Revere to lower retail prices, leading to a rebound in sales through the mid 1970’s. 

After that, it’s a sad story of cutbacks, consolidations, selloffs, mergers & acquisitions, and bankruptcies.  The last company to own rights to Revere Ware, World Kitchen Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May 2002.  The next year found them emerging from financial restructuring, and all Revere Ware production was transferred to far-eastern plants, and the product imported to the US.  You can still find Revere Ware on Amazon, but it’s all used.  A Google search finds a mishmash of historical sites and purveyors of used cookware.  World Kitchen was a successful outfit, featuring the popular OXO (“Good Grips”) line.  They sold out in 2004 to Helen of Troy Limited for over $273 million in cash. In 2018, Corelle Brands discontinued all production of Revere Ware and Bakers Secret.  So that was, as they say, that.

While I love my mother’s Revere Ware and have fond memories of her using it, I’ve never used it myself, at least regularly.   I’ve accumulated my own collection of more modern cookware (mainly Chantel), a couple woks, and some ancient cast iron pieces and am very happy with their performances.  Part of the problem with Revere Ware is that copper bottom.  Essential for heat transfer to the pan, and a major part of the eye appeal, it starts tarnishing the moment you take it off the stove, maybe sooner.  While the tarnished copper will still do the heat transfer thing, it just doesn’t look as pretty as it could.  From ages 0-10, I never paid much attention to what Mom did in the kitchen, just what she brought out of it.  I got to observe my dear Grandma Slater much longer, and I enjoyed sitting at her kitchen table watching her work her magic.  That extended to cleanup.  Her Revere Ware always gleamed, never put away without a good sprinkling of Copper-Glo carefully applied by her full arthritic hand, palm included.  It’s a motion I know well but am too lazy to apply, at least regularly   Had to be Copper-Glo, as nothing else came close (2).  They’ve stopped making it so it’s good I was able to read about Kleen King in an online comment and get some in Amazon. The guy at the hardware store swears by Barkeeper’s Friend for copper, and that works too.  And it’s well worth it to get ‘em all polished and shining, as the before and after pictures below show.

So, this last restoration to gleaming copper of my Revere Ware’s bottoms will be their last roundup, at least by me.  I’m gathering them up hoping they can find a home where they are appreciated and used.  Vintage Revere Ware sets are going on eBay for $100 and up.  The memories are of course worth much more, but I’ll still have them even when these pots and pans I never use are gone.  Sorry Mom and Grandma, but I did get to be a pretty good cook with your start.


1. Revere Ware Parts.  Revere Ware History.

2. Alice.  Stain Removal 101.  Copper Glo Review: Gets Rid Of Dullness & Spots On My Copper Pots & Pans.


Published by rike52

I retired from the Rheumatology division of Michigan Medicine end of June '19 after 36 years there. Upon hitting Ann Arbor for the second time (I went to school here) it took me almost 8 months to meet Kathy, 17 months to buy her a house (on Harbal, where we still live), and 37 months to marry her. Kids never came, but we've been blessed with a crowd of colleagues, friends, neighbors and family that continues to grow. Lots of them are going to show up in this log eventually. Stay tuned.

2 thoughts on “the tarnish R coming!

  1. Interesting history. Sad though to see consolidation after consolidation needed to stay big enough to survive.


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