In earlier years, the finest clubs and inns, hotels, and forms of transportation such as railroads, steamer ships, paddle-wheel steamers and even airlines, had silverplate made for their own use for those dining in style. It had to be durable to withstand heavy use and repeated washing. Instead of the usual 1 to 4 layers of silver plating, club, hotel and railroad silver usually received 10 to 12 layers. That is why it retains its beauty through the decades, even centuries, of use.
The “hospitality” and “transportation” silver pieces tend to be used primarily for dining with the range from flatware (knives, forks, spoons) to hollowware (serving bowls, trays and tea sets). These along with fine china and good linens let the guest or passenger dine with the elegance they were accustomed to. Most bear the name of the club, hotel or railroad, the manufacturer, like Reed & Barton, International or Gorham, and the process, “Silver Soldered”. Much is also dated in numbers or by a symbol.
Collecting this kind of silver is wildly popular. Small dents, dings, scratches and minor imperfections are expected due to its constant use. Small flaws add to the charm and character. Well known establishments are highly sought after and can be historically and aesthetically pleasing. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has identified 213 quality hotels that have faithfully maintained their durable silver. Some of the most highly sought after collectibles are from The Palace Hotel (San Francisco), The Palmer House (Chicago), Astor House (NYC), The Willard Hotel (Washington, D.C.), and The Brown Palace Hotel (Denver). The silver of the Georgia Pacific, Great Western and New York Central railroads is considered collectible. You can find this silver at antique stores, estate sales, garage sales and on e-Bay.