Once a trapeze artist, she became a pioneer female silversmith in Baltimore
Berthe Schofield was a circus trapeze artist and bareback horse rider in the early 1900s. She gave up that life after meeting Baltimore silversmith Frank Schofield while performing a vaudeville show at the Maryland Theater. They married in 1913.
The new Mrs. Schofield went on to learn the trade of silversmithing. Baltimore was a well-established base for several silversmiths; the Schofields worked in partnership with several of them over the years.
The Schofields were a force in Baltimore silverware design for tableware and award presentation pieces, including the annual creation of the Woodlawn Vase replica, the trophy given at the Preakness. They also produced fine silver trophies for other sporting events such as those sponsored by horse and cattle associations. Most memorably, though, sterling silver flatware manufactured by Schofield graced many a well-dressed Baltimore table and has been handed down over generations.
By 1930, the couple solely operated the Schofield Silver Company and opened a new four-story factory and nearby retail store on the corner of Pleasant and Charles streets. (The building has been torn down and is now the site of the Verizon building).
The Schofield Company was best known for its Baltimore Rose pattern. The Stieff Company and Samuel Kirk & Son, two other Baltimore-based companies, produced similar flatware designs. They are often confused and sometimes are mixed together in the same vintage silver collections.
Here are some examples of their work pictured in a meticulously researched website about Baltimore silver by Scott Perkins.
Frank Schofield died in 1947. Though Baltimore silversmithing was largely a man’s world in the mid-century, Berthe kept the Schofield Silver Company profitable. Take a look at this circa 1960s Schofield catalogue that showed the patterns of the era.
In 1965, she sold the business to Oscar Caplan & Sons, Inc., a Baltimore jeweler. The Stieff Company later purchased that company and discontinued the Schofield brand in 1977.
Berthe died on August 24, 1972, while attending an event at the Green Spring Valley Inn. She is buried next to Frank in Druid Ridge Cemetery in Pikesville.
Sadly for those who love its artistic and technical beauty, sterling silver tableware no longer occupies its once-proud tradition in many households.