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Antique Silver Porringers

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Very likely you know someone who has inherited a porringer, or perhaps you own one yourself. They were such personal pieces of silver that they were usually handed down from one generation to another instead of being sold. Large and small porringers were used during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in almost every home. The people who could not afford silver had them made of pewter. The English porringers had two handles and were supposed to have been used for bleeding bowls by barber surgeons.

Probably porringers were made first in this country by the New England silversmiths. These early specimens had only one handle. No one knows just what they originally were made to contain, but history tells us that porringers were used for almost every kind of food from bread and milk to vegetables. Before sugar bowls were made porringers were also used to hold sugar.

Perhaps you have noticed two sets of initials on some of the silver porringers. This is quite common and is generally the mark of a bride and groom, because nearly every young couple had at least one porringer for the new home. Porringers were also given for christening gifts, and many a small child who lived and died before this country became a nation ate his food from one of the porringers you see today in your museum.

Porringers were made in all sizes and depths. Sometimes the sides flared, sometimes they swelled out and then turned in again at the top. The earliest type had simple handles, almost crude in design. Later handles were more ornate, and the study of their designs is particularly interesting. There are rarely two alike.