Gateway Object: Salesman’s Sample – Brass Handle

brass ring handle on blue background


This is a Newman Brothers’ solid brass sand cast ‘ring handle’ or ‘ring plate’. It was one of Newman Brothers’ most popular ring plates and features in all of their trade catalogues. By the 1960s it was available to purchase in a cheaper diecast finish. It measures 5.58 x 5.58 ” in size.

This design is classically Gothic, which is something Newman Brothers were known for. Many of their Gothic handles remained in fashion well into the 20th century featuring in their final catalogue which was used up until they closed in 1998.


Between 1840 and 1900, Victorian designers started drawing on older classical styles for design inspiration, and the Gothic-revival style took influenced from medieval Gothic architecture. Design elements used in Gothic-revival furniture include trefoil and quatrefoil shapes and pointed arches as exhibited in this handle.


Travelling salesmen were some of the most important staff Newman Brothers employed. Many salesmen went on to be company directors. Each travelling salesman had his own ‘patch’, an area in which he would tour around visiting the local undertakers or. In rural districts salesmen would visit local builders and carpenters, who doubled up as undertakers. The work was demanding and required salesmen to be away from home for days or weeks at a time. Typically they would travel by train, motorcycle or car, spending nights in commercial hotels which specifically catered for salesmen and other businessmen. We know which patches were covered by which salesmen as their expense claims survive in the Newman Brothers’ collection. One of ‘Dai’ Davies’ patches was Wales and the Marches, which is not surprising given his name. Arthur Allen often worked in Ireland. John Kellett (Newman Brothers’ director in the 50s and 60s) looked after London, especially the royal undertakers J.H. Kenyon Ltd.

The job of the travelling salesmen involved finding new business and keeping existing customers happy. The key tool of the trade was the travelling salesman’s bag, full of catalogues and samples. We are fortunate that four of these bags were left at the factory with their contents still inside.  The handles and other fittings are proudly mounted on presentation cards, while funerary gowns and coffin linings sample fabrics are displayed in books similar to a carpet sample book. To announce his visit a salesman would post cards out to prospective clients advising them that a travelling salesman would be coming to visit within the next few days.

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