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Silver In The New Nation
After the Revolution the new country was on its own politically and also artistically to a far greater degree than before. During the war there was no trade with England and the Colonists were unaware of new trends across the ocean. Here, there was little opportunity to develop the crafts. As in all periods of stress, only necessities were made and even American silversmiths turned out ammunition. Pewter, brass, and copper were melted down and doubtless many pieces of silver were sacrificed to the cause.
Many men and women who did not approve the break with Britain fled to Canada, and afterward to England. Often they took their silver with them. Some of these pieces, made by Colonial craftsmen, have been found in recent years in England. A beautiful sugar box made by Edward Winslow turned up in England a few years ago. This type of sugar or sweetmeat box was rare even in the early days and only a few of them have been found. This one had been taken to England during the Revolution. It is now back in this country in a private collection. When peace came, there was again interest in the styles of the mother country, for habit is strong and cabinetmakers and silversmiths again wanted to know what was fashionable in London.
Two new cabinetmakers Thomas Sheraton and George Hepplewhite had become fashionable there and were influencing silver as well as other arts and crafts. Both men had published books of designs which found their way to the new nation. By the end of the eighteenth century, silversmiths here were fashioning beautiful pieces in the classic manner with the festoons, urns, and swags introduced by the brothers Adam and included in the Sheraton and Hepplewhite books. Thus began the delicate and dignified period of American design that was to continue into the Machine Age. It is perhaps the type of design that the average person prefers today, if he has not bowed to what is called Contemporary or Modern. It is the style that includes the lovely work of Duncan Phyfe, the celebrated cabinetmaker of New York City. It is also the period of the work of Paul Revere, who skillfully used similar classic designs.