People of Ontario County: Erma B. Hewitt

Excerpted from Wilma Townsend’s Sept. 2011, “What’s in the Collection” article.  

While researching some of the artifacts in the current exhibit “So Where’s All the Old Stuff?”, we ran across some very interesting people. One of these is Erma B. Hewitt, a fine jewelry designer who grew up in West Bloomfield and taught at Alfred University. Several of her pieces of handcrafted jewelry are in the exhibit.

Erma Hewitt was born in West Bloomfield to Henry and Harriet Humphrey Hewitt in 1882. She and her three sisters and one brother lived on the family farm. After graduating from high school, Erma taught school for a few years in Honeoye Falls.

Awarded to Erma B. Hewitt for the Execution of the Best Original Design of Jeweled ornament in the Jewelry Course of Pratt Institute Brooklyn New York, 1911-1912 by Ludwig Nissen.

Although it is not known how Erma became interested the fine arts, her first love surely was jewelry design. She went on to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY where took she took coursework in jewelry, silversmithing and chasing. She also received training at the Rhode Island School of Design. After working in a studio in New York City for three years, she took a position at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh where she taught metal work and jewelry in the Art Department for nine years.

In 1924, Erma took a position at Alfred University as an Instructor of Metalworking, where she remained until 1938. She also had a private studio in Alfred, published articles, and a small book “Jewelry and Metal Work”. She even had an exhibit in the Craft Building of the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago.

Silver bracelet made by Hewitt

In a 1933 article about Erma, the writer notes: “Miss Hewitt has always enjoyed designing, but her interest goes farther, for she like to carry her idea through to its completion in a finished piece of work. Moreover, she has a feeling for line, form and color, and the infinite patience, precision and accuracy of the true craftsman.”

While Erma clearly was a professional woman at a time when most women remained in the home, she appears to have kept in close touch with her family. She frequently visited her parents and siblings in West Bloomfield and later in life, she returned there to live with her sisters. Erma died in 1970 and is buried in West Bloomfield.