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Table Furnishings - Plate, Tankards, Punch Bowls And Candlesticks

( Originally Published 1902 )

WROUGHT silver was always highly prized. From the first settlement of this country, every prosperous householder possessed pieces of plate. In New York, before 1700, examples occur in numerous inventories of English, Dutch and French homes. Thomas Eaton in 1668, bequeathed to Mrs. Abigail Nicolls, " my silver boat., my silver meat fork, and a silver spoon." George Cook's silver, in 1679, was worth £40. John Sharpe, in 1681, owned 730 oz. of silver plate valued at £219.

At that date, wrought silver was worth six shillings and eightpence an ounce. It may be mentioned here that its value averaged about seven shillings an ounce for the next two hundred years. Col. Lewis Morris (1691), had 900 oz. of silver plate, which at 6sh. 9d. per oz. came to £303–15.0. Five years later, 185 oz. belonging to Margarita Van Varick was valued at 7sh. 9d per oz. Besides this 185 OZ., which was probably in the form of cups, beakers, salvers, etc., she had a lot of miscellaneous articles in silver.

These comprised two pairs of scissors, two brushes lined with silver, a spice-box, an egg-dish, a thimble, a wrought East India box, a small knife and fork, three wrought East Indian cups, two wrought East Indian dishes, two knives, five wrought East Indian boxes, a tumbler marked R. V., a fork with studded handle, a wrought East Indian trunk, a salt-cellar, a china cup bound with silver, and eighty-three play-things, or toys. All these items were separately specified as silver. Some of the individual prices of plate of this period may be of interest. In 1690, it is expressly stated that six large and three small spoons together with six forks, belonging to Madame Blanche Sauzeau, cost 10. In 1686, a silver beaker belonging to Derick Clausen was appraised at L3 ; and the 295 oz. belonging to Sarah Jacobs were valued at seven shillings per ounce.

Asser Levy, a butcher in 1683, was evidently fond of plate. His pieces comprise twenty-two silver spoons, one fork, three goblets, one tumbler, one tankard, one mustard pot, one cup with two ears, five small cups, one ditto, one gob-let, two salt-cellars, one cup, one spice-box, a cornelia tree cup with silver and two ditto dishes, weighing in all 10 lbs. and valued at £48. His total estate was £553–15–0-.

William Cox (1689), owned a case of silver hafted knives, silver tankard, cup, plate, sugar-box and spoon, salt-cellar, two porringers, tumbler and twelve spoons.

It is thus abundantly evident that, at the opening of our period, the chests, kasses and cupboards of the New York traders were well supplied with plate. But before going further in our examination of the Eighteenth Century silver, it will be well to recapitulate those articles most commonly found already. These are the dram cup, the caudle cup, the salt, the beaker, the salver, the tumbler, the goblet, the tankard, and the porringer. In addition to these, there were boxes for spices, pepper and sugar, besides knives, spoons, forks and candlesticks. It must be remembered, however, that even in 1700 the fork was not yet universally used. The voider was a dish or tray into which crumbs and fragments of food were swept from the table after a meal. The " voyder knife " used for this purpose is frequently mentioned in the inventories. The voider soon came into general use : families that could not afford one of silver, had one painted, or japanned, or made of mahogany.

The " salt " still preserved its massive Medieval character in many cases, though the low circular, or octagonal, form was rapidly driving it out. Twenty ounces was not an excessive weight for one of the high chased and carved " salts " used here in 1700.

A great water-pot with its cover, belonging to James Laty, in 1692, was, perhaps, one of those fine ewers employed for pouring water over the hands after every course at meals in an age when forks were not in general use. They were accompanied by basins, similarly ornamented. The description, however, would rather fit the " tankard " that came into general use during the Seventeenth Century. The word was originally applied to a receptacle for water,—tub, bucket, or jug—and gradually restricted to mean a silver or pewter mug with handle or cover. From the accession of Charles II. to that of George I. this article was usually plain in form and design, with fiat hinged lids and heavy handles, the latter sometimes terminating in a whistle. The later " Queen Anne " tankards, however, had a swelling drum and domed lid, some-times ending in a knob. Their ornamentation principally consisted of the arms and monograms of the owners. Sometimes silver coins were embedded in the lids of these tankards. Thus, in 1733 :

"Stole at Flatbush on Long Island One Silver Tankard, a piece of Money in the Led of King Charles II. and the Led all ingraved, a Coat of Arms before (in it a Man on a Waggon with two Horses) marked in the handle L P A. One Silver Tankard plain with a piece of Money in the Led, mark'd on the Handle A P or A L. One Cup with two twisted Ears chas'd with Skutchens mark'd L P A. One Tumbler mark'd L P A. One Dutch Beker weighs about 28 Ounces Engrav'd all round mark'd L P A. All the above was made by Jacob Boele, Stamp'd I. B. One large Cup with two cast Ears, with Heads upon them and a Coat of arms Engrav'd thereon. One Cup with two Ears, a small Hole in the bottom. Whoever can inform Peter Lefferts of Flatbush on Long Island, or Abraham Lefferts in New York, so that it may be had again, shall have Fifteen Pounds Reward and no Questions asked."

A very fine authentic example of this style is owned by Frederic J. de Peyster, Esq. and appears on page 134. Another that belonged to William Beekman is represented on page 179. A later form of tankard appears on page 156. The hall-mark shows that this was made in 1749-'50. It belonged to James Alexander and is now owned by Mrs. Ed-ward Parke Custis Lewis of Hoboken, N. J. An-other early Eighteenth century tankard appears on page 153. A fifth is shown on page 371 ; it belonged to Maria Crooke who gave it to her daughter, Catharine Elmendorph in 1768 when she was married to Rutgers Bleecker of Albany. The tankard is en-graved with the Crooke arms.

A sixth tankard, shown on page 138, is marked on the handle R. S., the initials standing for Richard and Sarah (Bogert) Ray whose pictures appear on pages 195 and 202. This piece of silver was bequeathed to their son Cornelius Ray (1755-1827), whose initials with crest (Ray) are engraved on the front of the tankard. The large mug has the same initials, and the small mug contains the crest, but not the markings on the handle. The soup-ladle, which is an unusually fine specimen, is also marked with the Ray initials. These are now owned by a descendant, Mrs. Natalie E. Baylies of New York.

The slop-bowl with cover, in the same illustration, belonged to Elizabeth Elmendorph who married Cornelius Ray and is now owned by their granddaughter, Mrs. Natalie E. Baylies. The large silver salver hanging above these smaller articles has the date letter of 1784—'5 and is engraved with the arms of the English family of Sands. It was given by Comfort Sands to his daughter, Cornelia, in 1797 when she was married to Nathaniel Prime. She gave it to Rufus Prime and it passed from Temple Prime to Mrs. Natalie E. Baylies.

The two silver mugs standing on the tea-table (page 312) are excellent specimens of the period. They were owned by Thomas Barrow and brought by him to New York. They are dated H, the letter for the year 1763—'4, and are ornamented with scroll-work, flowers and pavilions in the Chinese taste.

Tumblers are often found. These received their name from the fact that no matter how you laid them down, they were so balanced as always to assume an upright position, swaying from side to side till they came to rest on their own base. These round-bottomed acrobatic cups, or tumblers, were sometimes called bowls in the inventories, and were of different sizes ;—the larger for beer and the smaller for wine.

Caudle-cups, which frequently occur, were also known as posset-cups or posnets. At the present time they would probably be designated loving-cups. They had two handles and a cover, and sometimes stood on a tray. They were wider at the base than at the top and were used for drinking posset, which was a concoction of milk curdled with wine, and other ingredients. Bowls, also with covers and handles, but wider in the mouth than the candle-cup, were called porringers. Instead of being circular in form, they sometimes had eight or twelve sides. The Queen Anne fluted porringers were often used as beer cups. Earlier specimens were ornamented with acanthus and other leaves and floral devices in reopusse work. As time went on, the porringer became taller in proportion to its diameter and the handles more slender and graceful. Another important piece of plate was the punch-bowl. This occurs in innumerable inventories during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries from Salem to Charleston.

The handsome silver punch-bowl on page 140 now belonging to Frederic J. de Peyster, Esq., is of English make as its hall-marks show. It dates from the year 1704, and is almost identical with one in possession of the Vintners Company, London, which is of the year 1702. The fluted bowl, the large rings depending from the lions' heads, and the gadrooned base are characteristics of this period.

This kind of punch-bowl was usually called a Monteith, from a scalloped or battlemented rim that was placed on the top of the bowl for the purpose of carrying the glasses. The name was given to it on account of its association with a gentleman of fashion who was noted for wearing a scalloped coat. The glasses were arranged in the scalloped rim with their bases outward. The bowl was brought in empty, for every gentleman took pride in mixing punch. The various ingredients and the ladle were brought in with the bowl. When the bowl was placed on the table, the glasses were first lifted out of the rim and then the rim was removed. Punch ladles were of silver, or horn tipped with silver. One, of silver with a twisted ebony handle, appears on page 388. Punch-strainers were also used.

Ewers and basins became plentiful before 1700, the absence of forks, as has been said, rendering them very necessary at meals. The great number of napkins in every home of wealth is thus accounted for also. The salvers that accompanied the helmet-shaped ewers were usually quite plain. The other salvers, about 700, were plain circular dishes with en-graved ornamentation. The engraving as a decoration had taken the place of the, repousse work of the earlier styles, some of which are very beautifully wrought. A magnificent specimen is shown on page 394. The De Peyster arms are stamped in the centre.

The " Queen Anne" salvers have their edges both chased and shaped, and they stand on three and some-times four small feet. The plainer ones are often gadrooned around the edges.

The succeeding style of salver had a beaded edge, and instead of being circular, or shaped, was a plain oval tray with a handle at each end. One of these appears on page 156 with one of older date above it. The lower one was given by Gen. Washington to Eleanor Custis. The hall-mark shows that it was made in England in 1797. The Lewis arms are en-graved upon it. It is interesting as showing how long this style lasted,—at least, till the end of the century. The small salver, above it of very handsome design, has the hall-mark 1743. It belongs to Miss Garnett of Hoboken, N. J. On the same plate are shown two coffee-pots, one of which belonged to James Alexander (see page 76), a tea-pot with hall-mark of 1749–'50 ; a tankard (1749–'50) and a sugar-dredger.

Candelabra, candlesticks and sconces of silver were found in fashionable homes very early in the history of New York. The big " standing candle-stick " often had two or three arms or branches. The candlesticks in the form of fluted columns were the favourite form in the reign of Charles II. They lasted for many years. The bases were generally square, but sometimes octagonal. At a certain height above the base, these candlesticks had a projection that served as a knob by which they could be conveniently held or carried. This simple form remained. in fashion through the reigns of William and Mary, and Anne, but the fluted columns changed to baluster stems with square bases having the corners some-times cut off, and sometimes set back and rounded.

During the reign of George I. the florid ornamentation and twisted work of the Regency and early Louis Quinze style came into vogue, especially the designs of Meissonier. Good examples are the candlesticks on page 136 and the very beautiful tea-kettle and stand on page 36, both of which belonged to the Ver Planck family. The candlesticks are part of a set of six originally owned by Samuel and Judith Crommelin Ver Planck. The hall-mark shows that they were made in 1762. These are now owned by Mr. William E. Ver Planck of New York. The tea-kettle on page 36 has the same hall-mark, and is now owned by Mrs. Louis Fitzgerald, of New York.

At the beginning of the reign of George III., the fashionable pattern for the candlestick was the Corinthian column, and this was the first style that in-variably had a removable socket-pan. Fine examples are shown on page 150. These bear the hall-marks of 1766 and belonged to the Waltons (see pages 19 and 69). Four candlesticks of the same period, owned by Frederic J. de Peyster, Esq., appear on page 270.

Every home that had any pretensions to wealth or fashion was supplied with silver candlesticks for at least one room. Glass was also very fashionable for sconces. In 1729, Governor Burnet owned twelve silver candlesticks weighing 17 2 oz., two branches for three lights and two large glass sconces with glass arms.

Like the china, the plate was often kept in cupboards made for its display. Among the possessions of George Duncan (1724), who owned 258 oz. of silver, we find a plate case with glass doors valued at £3-5-0. These cupboards did not afford much protection against theft, and rendered the burglar's task easy. We find many advertisements of stolen plate, with rewards for its recovery. In most cases it bears the arms and almost invariably the initials of the owner. Several contemporary engravers found plenty of employment in New York. In 1755, Henry Dawkins, engraver, lives opposite the Merchants' Coffee House. In 1763, " Joseph Simons seal-cutter and en-graver from -Berlin, cuts all sorts of coats-of-arms, cyphers etc. in stone, steel, silver, or any other metal, also engraves coats-of-arms, crests and cyphers on plate &c."

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