Walter C. Vaughan, founder and retired president of the W.C. Vaughan Company of Boston, died March 22, 1961 at his home in Watertown, Massachusetts, in his 93rd year.

He was active in the Builders Hardware Industry for about 70 years.

In 1902, with others, he founded the J.D. Jewett Co., to conduct a general hardware business with Mr. Vaughan heading the Builders Hardware Department. A difference of opinion as to sales policy, large volume of low cost goods vs. smaller volume of high quality hardware at better margins, brought about a change in name to the W.C. Vaughan Company in 1909. Mr. Jewett continued to sell retail hardware under his own name. Mr. Vaughan sold high quality Builders Hardware only.

In this way the W.C. Vaughan became one of the earliest, if not the first, to deal in Contract Builders Hardware exclusively. Many in the industry predicted certain failure. Sargent & Co., whose line he distributed, called the move “business suicide” and limited their credit. Fifty four years later it is evident that the dire predictions did not come true.

Mr. Vaughan instigated many other “firsts” in the industry, including:

  • use of so-called “closed display” rooms, separated from the general sales area, with all samples out of sight.
  • use of attractive display rooms with paneled walls, fireplace and living room furniture.
  • use of individually mounted samples which could be shown one at a time.
  • pioneered the use of prime coated butts for painting.
  • promoted the practice among Architects of purchasing finish hardware under cash allowances, thereby retaining control of quality.
  • fostered the use of Period hardware.

He collected fine examples of Early American and Georgian hardware and about 1910 began to manufacture authentic reproductions of these pieces. In 1918 he purchased the L.S. Hall Co., makers of fine brass door and furniture hardware using patterns, tools and machines taken over from the Enoch Robinson Co. Later patterns of the William Hall Co., and John Tien Co., were acquired. These four firms established their businesses between 1836 and 1883. Many of their designs had been in use prior to 1800. By careful selection from these collections, Mr. Vaughan built a superior line of authentic designs.

In the 1920s examples of European wrought iron hardware were collected by Mr. Vaughan and many reproductions were made. During this period, the reputation of the Company spread. One of the first dealers to appreciate the capabilities of the organization Mr. Vaughan had built was Osterander and Eshleman, of New York. For many years their purchases included custom hardware for a great many of the finest buildings in the United States, of which the Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York City and the Nebraska State Capital are examples.

Also during this period, and later, the company was called upon to make hardware for many restorations of fine old structures the most prominent example being the principal buildings at Williamsburg, Virginia, which Mr. Vaughan handled personally.

Mr. Vaughan firmly believed that no one profited from the sale of cheap hardware. He was very much interested in the aims of the National Builders Hardware Association, having preached them for over a generation before the association was formed.

He was widely known in the industry and among the Architects. His passing will be noted with regret by many.

–Walter C. Vaughan Obituary, 1961

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