Colonial architecture in America can actually be traced back to the early 1600's with the first English settlements at Jamestown and Plymouth. More commonly however, Colonial is considered to have spanned the time from the first colonies in the 1700s, through the Georgian period, and ending in the early part of the 19th century. While broadly applied, the term "Colonial" actually encompasses many sub-styles, including French, Spanish, and English Colonial, as well as the popular Georgian period. Architecture was austere and simple. It was a time of village communities and agrarian economies, consisting of small businesses and factories. Hardware was usually produced by the local blacksmith, or cast in brass by a small foundry in England or, in later years, America. As always, the hardware reflected the architectural style, with simple, elegant forms, smooth rounded shapes, and plain ornamentation. Slightly out-of-round and primitive casting details often reflected the individuality of the maker. Rim locks, thumb latches, strap hinges, and heavy, iron butt hinges had a pleasing simplicity and function. The unembellished, rounded knobs used in both door and cabinet hardware, originating in the time of our Founding Fathers, have remained favorites to this day.
Early American Colonial architecture varied considerably from region to region, its influences depending on the nationalities of the settlers. The uncomplicated styles of American Colonial architecture and decoration are distinctive for their multiple influences and diverse regional application.
Whereas much of 17th century English Colonial architecture was rural and included the familiar New England Saltbox and Cape Cod styles, Georgian homes incorporated characteristics of the well-known English Colonial homes along with paneled doors with ornate crowns and support pilasters. Georgian homes were designed to be high-style formal dwellings, and the hardware was therefore significantly more formal as well.
Because casting was expensive, hardware in the Colonial Era was commonly made of forged cast iron. Each piece was individually created by the local blacksmith, hand hammered, then fired to give the piece its distinctive appearance.
Few hardware pieces were made from brass or bronze. Hardware common to this era includes the Suffolk latch, strap hinge, H or HL hinges, hand-hammered nails, shutter dogs, andcast iron furniture pulls. Innovations include the thumb-latch, the first machine-made nails, and the elaboration of shutter hardware design.