The Weeks Coffee Pot Mystery

Middletown Plate Company of Middletown, Conn., began business in 1864. They made a variety of metal and silver household items, and one of those items wound up in the collection of the Fenton History Center. The metal used to make this item is referred to as “hard white metal” which is an alloy made of at least two metals. Pewter and brass are two examples of an alloy. White metal often has a lead or tin base with other metals added. The alloys usually have a lower melting point and are easier to pour and harden faster. According to the mark on the bottom of the stand it was quadrupleplate which should be silver plate.

This item is maybe a coffee pot or at least a vessel that would contain a liquid. This pot was suspended on the stand so that it could swing forward to pour out the liquid. This made it easy to pour from such a large pot, about 14 inches tall. This item has a few signs of use in that the “ears” that hold the pot on the stand have been broken, and there is at least one small dent on the side. There is some tarnishing and some bubbling on the surface.

But it is the story that about this artifact that makes it of interest to keep it in the collection. Engraved on the front of the pot is “Walter J. Weeks from his Boarders of the Weeks House, Jamestown, N. Y. Aug. 25th, 1877.” Located in Brooklyn Square, the Weeks House opened to the public on Christmas Day 1873. By the mid-1880s it had become the Humphrey House. Walter J. Weeks, proprietor of the Weeks House, was the son of James and Betsey Jennings Weeks and the brother of Andrew, Henry and Charles. Beside the Weeks House, Walter and at least some of the brothers operated a flour and feed store in Brooklyn Square. Besides the transient boarders that found the Weeks House to be an excellent hotel, others were long-term boarders there, and others rented the store fronts that were part of the Weeks House.

Just why the boarders presented this item to Walter J. Weeks is unknown. How Weeks used this item is also unknown. Maybe the boarders were tired of lifting a large coffee pot to pour themselves a cup of coffee and this one on a stand would make it easier. Did this pot stay at the Weeks House until, or even after, it became the Humphrey House.

At some point in time, an antique dealer in Florida somehow acquired this item and noticed the engraving on the front. He wrote a letter to Jamestown inquiring about the Weeks family. This letter eventually made its way to Stanley Weeks, who was an attorney in town and was Jamestown’s Mayor in the early 1950s, as was his father, James, in the early 1900s. Stanley’s grandfather was Charles, the brother of Walter J. Weeks, who had been given this coffee pot. At some time, Stanley went to Florida and was able to retrieve the item and in 1966, he donated it to the Fenton History Center.

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The purpose of the Fenton History Center is to gather and teach about southern Chautauqua County’s history through artifacts, ephemeral and oral histories, and other pieces of the past.

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If you would like to donate to the collections or support the work of the Fenton History Center, call 664-6256 or visit the center at 67 Washington St., just south of the Washington Street Bridge.