Ulster American Folk Park

Pattison’s Tinsmiths

American Street, building number 27

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One of America’s first tin men

Inexpensive, lightweight and durable, in 1700s America tinware became popular for making household goods such as funnels, colanders, basins, pastry molds, teapots, graters, convection ovens, lanterns, snuff boxes, and needle cases.

Edward Pattison was one of the first tinsmiths in America. Pattison’s Tinsmiths is an exhibition of tinware and tinsmithing equipment from our museum collection.

According to family tradition Edward Pattinson’s father had an ambition for his family to move to America. Although his death prevented him from seeing it happen, in 1740 his son left County Tyrone for Connecticut along with his family including his brother William and sister Anna.

It is likely that Edward had some metalwork training in Ireland or England before he set up his business. He may have worked making pewter. He established a small business in tin manufacture in Berlin, Connecticut and the Pattison family travelled as peddlers throughout the countryside selling their tinware.

When Edward died in 1787 his sons Edward Jr. and Shubael took over the business. Edward Jr died in 1809 but Shubael continued in the business until his death in 1828 – nearly 100 years of American tin-making.

Look out for the tinware boxes painted with flowers and garlands. These are ‘toleware’. Tole is the name used for small objects of hand-painted tinplate, from the French ‘tole peinte’ meaning painted tin.