Virginia Metalcrafters was founded on October 6th, 1890, as the W.J. Loth Stove Company. Located in Waynesboro, Virginia, on the western slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, the company manufactured cast iron stoves and wood and coal heaters. The company’s motto at the time was, “Loth Stoves Make Happy Homes”.
Loth, together with his son Percy, made the decision in the late 1890’s to add frying pans, waffle irons, tea kettles and other cookware to the company’s product line. Some of the tools used to make those original cooking products are still in the company’s archives.
When Mr. Loth died in 1904, Percy ran the company until failing health caused him to seek help. At the end of World War I, he invited his paternal cousin, retired Army Captain Richard Clemmer, to take control of the business. Clemmer realized that the future was not in wood and coal heating and in 1922 hired a Canadian electrical engineer, Mr. Fred Cuffe. Together they designed an electric stove and by the mid 1920’s the company was marketing what Clemmer named the Hotpoint Range.
In promoting the cast iron stove business, “Captain Dick,” as he was known, used a small cast iron frying pan as his calling card. Upon presenting his “card” at a local resort hotel, Clemmer was asked if he would make a quantity customized for the hotel. It is said that this marked the beginning of the company’s gift sales.
In 1938, the company installed equipment for melting brass and other non-ferrous metals and began to market products under the name Virginia Metalcrafters.
Although World War II halted the casting of brass products, immediately after the war, Clemmer continued developing the gift line. In 1946 he met and retained the services of artist Calvin Roy Kinstler and commissioned him to do a carving of the great horse Citation. Kinstler completed his work in 1949, shortly after Citation had won the Triple Crown. That carving, along with other pieces carved by Kinstler are still actively sold by the company.
Similarly, Clemmer worked with an internationally known sculptor, Oskar Hansen, whose works included the huge angels seen today at either end of the Hoover Dam. Hansen settled in Nelson County, just east of the Blue Ridge Mountains and carved may patterns for Captain Dick, among them, dozens of leaf shapes. Modeled directly from nature, these leaves range in size from 3 inches to 40 inches and many were actively sold until 2005.
Continuing the development of the gift line, Clemmer signed a license with Colonial Williamsburg in 1951 to produce brass and iron reproductions. The company’s hand casting and finishing methods were the same as those used to form the original antiques. Williamsburg was just the first of many museum licenses. Virginia Metalcrafters manufactured licensed products for Colonial Williamsburg, The Smithsonian Institution, Mount Vernon, Monticello, Historic Charleston, Winterthur, Historic Newport, Old Salem, Old Sturbridge Village and The National Trust for Historic Preservation. See the Museums page for more information on these institutions.
In 1953 Charles Eckman purchased the company’s assets and formed “Virginia Metalcrafters”. Eckman rapidly expanded the company’s operations and, in addition to making such diverse products as lawn mowers and tractors, Eckman acquired the E.T. Caldwell Company (makers of Williamsburg reproduction chandeliers) and the Harvin Company of Baltimore, makers of decorative accessories and fireplace equipment.
Until they went out of business in 2005, Virginia Metalcrafters manufactured a broad line of gifts and decorative accessories including tabletop items, table and floor lamps, chandeliers and sconces, fireplace accessories, plus a rapidly growing group of garden accessories including garden animals, birdbaths, sundials and fountains as well as stands to mount them. Products were hand cast in brass, iron, aluminum, bronze, “White Bronze”, and pewter using the same methods that had been employed since the company was founded over 100 years ago. Colonial Williamsburg bought some of the Virginia Metalcrafters’ molds, and still uses them to produce items today. Not all of their inventory, however, is still being produced.