Rhode Island is the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution, boasting a long line of contributions to local manufacturing. Much of the state's industrial past is preserved in the infrastructure of today, immortalized in the sleeping factories and mill buildings of the Blackstone River Valley. But the legacy of one particular manufacturer has withstood the test of time, appearing in the personal quarters of U.S. Presidents and in prized collections around the world - the work of a humble Rhode Island silversmithing workshop that rose to global heights in the nineteenth century.
Starting May 23 at 9 p.m., WSBE Rhode Island PBS premieres a new three-part documentary series that highlights the bold ingenuity, brilliant artistry, and storied legacy of the Gorham Manufacturing Company - one of America's most recognizable silver foundries. Chasing Silver: The Story of Gorham, a Rhode Island PBS Original, follows the company from its small, enterprising origins in 1831, to its rise as a world-class silversmithing titan.
Combining contemporary interviews with archival footage, photographs, and original concept art, the series chronicles how Gorham became synonymous with luxury and unparalleled craftsmanship. Each episode meets with academic experts, former employees, museum curators, and collectors, providing a compelling, firsthand account of the company's local roots and lasting impact on American industry.
The series taps into an extensive collection of Gorham's finest wares. Viewers can also witness Gorham's own techniques as the cameras stop in at a local silversmith workshop for a live demonstration.
Chasing Silver: The Story of Gorham forges a bold, cohesive narrative at the intersection of art, history, and culture. Driven by the characters and events that fashioned Gorham's success and ultimate demise, the series examines the delicate craft of silver design and the crushing toll of mass manufacturing. All the while, the story is fundamentally anchored in Rhode Island, where families and neighborhoods have been indelibly shaped by Gorham just as powerfully as the company shaped its silver.
Chasing Silver: The Story of Gorham premieres on WSBE Rhode Island PBS Sunday, May 23 at 9 p.m., with part two on May 24, and part 3 on May 25. The series will live stream at watch.ripbs.org/livestream. Episodes will also be available on demand at http://bit.ly/ChasingSilverVOD after each broadcast.
EXPLORE THE EPISODES
Part 1–May 23 at 9 p.m.
A small manufacturing company in Providence, Rhode Island makes bold, innovative strides at the height of the American Industrial Revolution. A pioneering son transforms his father’s silver company from a one-horse operation into a multi-million-dollar enterprise. New methods of mass-production lead to prosperity and growth, even as the company weathers the hardships of the Civil War.
Part 2–May 24 at 9 p.m.
After losing its visionary leader, a young, ambitious sales executive guides Gorham into its golden age. A state-of-the-art silver manufacturing plant is built in the Elmwood section of Providence, and the Martelé line is launched to overwhelming critical acclaim. As World War I rages, Gorham adapts to survive.
Part 3–May 25 at 9 p.m.
In the wake of war and economic disaster, Gorham grapples with an uncertain future. As the country prepares for a second World War, the company turns to munitions contracts to stay afloat. New designers leave their mark on the Gorham silver brand, while a climate of hostile takeovers and corporate mergers leaves Gorham grappling with an unstable future.
MEET THE FILMMAKERS
On Wednesday, May 19 at 6 p.m., Rhode Island PBS hosts a virtual preview screening and a conversation with filmmakers Maria and Scott Saracen, the producers, directors, writers, and editors of Chasing Silver: The Story of Gorham.
The filmmakers will show segments from the three-part series and introduce the visionaries, artisans, and world events that shaped more than 130 years of Gorham silver.
The event is free to attend, but registration is required to receive the screening link. For more information or to register, click here.
WSBE Rhode Island PBS transmits over the air in high definition on digital 36.1; Cox 08 / 1008HD, Verizon FiOS 08 / 508HD, and Full Channel 08; Comcast 819HD and Verizon FiOS 18 / 518HD in MA; DirecTV 36, Dish Network 36. The full broadcast schedule is streamed live at watch.ripbs.org/livestream. Segments, clips, full episodes, and digital-only content from Rhode Island PBS productions are available at WSBE On Demand.
[Image courtesy of the Dallas Museum of Art]