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Table Furnishings - Pewter, Glassware, Cutlery And Brass

( Originally Published 1902 )

ALTHOUGH silver was universally employed and highly prized, as we have seen, pewter was a necessity even in the kitchens of the wealthy. Of course, among the lower classes it took the place of silver in all parts of the house. The number of pewterers in New York show how much in demand this ware was. Early in our period, people could buy pewter articles from James Leddel at the Sign of the Platter in Dock Street, but in 1744 he removed to the lower end of Wall Street. Another pewterer was Robert Boyle, who in 1755 lived at the Sign of the Gilt Dish in Dock Street. William Bradford, in Hanover Square, made and sold " all kinds of pewter dishes, tankards, tea-pots, and coffee pots."

In the homes of the rich and middle-class New Yorkers, the place of pewter was in the kitchen, where it was arranged on the dresser as shown in the illustration on page 160. This interesting piece of furniture came from the Skinner house in Perth Amboy. It is now in the kitchen at the Museum of the Colonial Dames at Van Cortlandt. Upon it stand some good pieces of blue and white china.

A great deal of pewter was in use in the early part of the century. Some of the wealthy citizens who owned plate, china, earthenware, copper and brass possessed also many pounds of pewter. In 1705, Captain William Smith's pewter was valued at no less than Z20; and, as Cornelis Jacobs in 1700 had fifty-six pounds of pewter worth Z2, we can form some idea as to the quantity owned by Captain Smith. Governor Burnet's pewter was worth as much as L100𦍂 ! Pewter dishes, plates, spoons, tankards and basins, were constantly imported all through our period.

The kitchen of a New York home frequently contained a mixture of English and Dutch utensils. A portion of the kitchen in the Van Cortlandt house appears on page 49. Although this is now a museum kitchen, a colonial cook would feel perfectly at home here, and would not be embarrassed in preparing a dinner with the utensils provided. Among the miscellaneous kitchen articles imported from time to time, we find " wafel irons," 1750 ; coffee mills, 1751 ; sugar-cleavers, 1752 ; corkscrews, 1752 ; bread baskets, 1760 ; polished copper chafing-dishes, 1760 ; copper tin kitchens with stands, 1763 ; baskets for plates and baskets for knives, 1765 ; and after 1760, japanned plate-warmers, " very necessary in this frigid climate." Then, too, we occasionally find some novelties. For example in 1779

" Joseph Rose at No. 104 Water Street, a few doors east of Peck's Slip has just purchased a quantity of tinware amongst which are a large parcel of Despatches, very suitable for gentlemen of the army or navy and private families: they are worthy of the name of Despatches, as they will cook a beef-steak in about four minutes sufficiently to put on the table, having made the trial myself."

Braziers were numerous, as was natural enough when one remembers the great use of brass hearth-furniture and the various utensils of copper and brass that were used in the kitchen, to say nothing of warming-pans, candlesticks, bird-cages, etc. Most of the artisans came from London, and notwithstanding the fact that articles of brass, iron and copper were constantly being imported, a great deal of work was done in New York. For instance, in 1743 :

" John Halden, brasier from London, near the Old Slip Market in New York, makes and sells all sorts of copper and brass kettles, tea kettles, coffee potts, pye pans, warming pans, and all other sorts of copper and brass ware; also sells all sorts of hard metal and pewter wares."

Notwithstanding the increasing demand for grates and stoves as the century advanced, the open wood fire never lost its popularity. We find another brazier as late as 1770, Jacob Wilkins at the Sign of the Brass Andiron and Candlestick, in the Main Street, offering " a few brass fenders plain and open work of different patterns."

An excellent specimen of the brass hearth furniture of the period appears on page 266. Nothing of its history is known except that it belonged to Betty Washington Lewis, the sister of Gen. Washington, and was in her home at Kenmore, Fredericksburg, Va. The shovel and tongs are placed on a stand with a marble block grooved for their accommodation. They are owned by Mrs. Edward Parke Custis Lewis of Hoboken, N. J.

Boxes of glass, containing wine-glasses, salt-cellars, sugar-dishes, cream-pots and tumblers were sold by Edward Nicoll, on the New Dock in 1757. An advertisement of 1762 gives a good idea of the variety of articles of this nature that were to be seen on the tables of well-to-do citizens. This new importation consisted of " neat flowered wine and water-glasses, glass salvers, silver top cruet stands, a few neat and small enamelled shank wine glasses, flowered, scalloped and plain decanters, jugs and mugs, salver and pyramids, jelly and silly bub glasses, flowered, plain and enamelled wine glasses, glasses for silver, salts and sweetmeat, poles with spires and glasses, smelling bottles, sconces, tulip and flower glasses of the newest patterns, finger bowls and tumblers of all sorts." Drinking-glasses of the period are shown on page 348.

The larger one, a goblet, standing on a square base, and cut with a festoon for ornament, belonged to Brigadier - General William Livingston (1723-1790), Governor of New Jersey. This is owned by his descendant, Mrs. W. A. Walker of Nyack, New York. The other, a wine-glass, which also has a square base, is owned by Miss Anne Van Cortlandt, of Croton-on-the-Hudson, New York. The two glass salt-cellars in the illustration on page 164, are in the Museum of the New York Colonial Dames at Van Cortlandt. A group of glass articles of this date on page 232 are owned by Mrs. Edward Parke Custis Lewis of " Castle Point," Hoboken, N. J., and consists of decanters, sweetmeat glasses, so frequently mentioned among the importations of the day, four wine-glasses and a tumbler. The five last articles belonged to Gen. Washington and descended to Col. Edward Parke Custis Lewis. The tumbler in the centre is delicately engraved with deer sporting in a forest glade.

Glassware was used in New York very early. It frequently appears in the inventories, but is seldom described. Col. William Smith in 1709, had a case of Venice glasses worth Z3 ; a large case and bottles, worth 3, and 3 large cases and bottles, 3. Joseph Bueno (1709), owned 3 glass cups. On Oct. 7, 1754, the following notice appeared in one of the newspapers :

"Thomas Lepper, storekeeper to the Glass House Company, sells all sorts of bottles from quart to 3 gallons and upwards, as also a variety of other glassware. . . . All gentlemen that wants bottles of any size with their names on them . . . may have them made with all expedition."

This advertisement is interesting in connection with the illustration on page 348, upon which are represented three bottles of the kind that Mr. Lepper was able to furnish. These, however, were made ten years later. The large bottle on the left bears the name and date " Sidney Breese, 1765." This is owned by the Museum of the Colonial Dames at Van Cortlandt, New York. The madeira bottle, on the right, has the inscription " F. V. C. 1765" enclosed in a heart raised on the glass, and standing for Frederic Van Cortlandt.

The constant importations of decanters, castors with silver tops, " cruet " or " cruit " stands and "frames," tumblers and glasses for water, wine and beer, cream-jugs, syllabub and sweetmeat glasses, prove how abundantly glass was used on tables. A set of cruets in a plated stand now owned by Mrs. F. H. Bosworth appear on page 321. On the same page is a perforated cake-basket and an old soup-tureen.

The table furniture not only consisted of rich silver, china, and glass, but we note many small articles of luxury, such as nutcrackers in 1750; ivory nutmeg graters, 1753 ; tea-tongs and punch-strainers in 1759 ; finger-bowls in 1762 ; table-bells, 1767 ; and " steak-tongs and sugar-hatchets " in 1779. The fashionable New Yorkers thought it necessary to keep up with London styles in everything, even in such a small matter as cutlery. Cutlers' advertisements in the papers are many. They always make a point of assuring customers that they have, or will make, articles according to the latest London fashion. We find one Thomas Brown removing in 1743 from Hanover Square to Broad Street, corner of Stone Street, near the Long Bridge ; and in 1752 " Edward Andrews, cutler, who served an apprenticeship to the famous Mr. Henry Jones of Sweethings Alley, by the Royal Exchange, London, arrived in this place last week in the Irene." He offered to serve people at his shop near the Merchant's Coffee House, and " sells and makes all kinds of Cutlery work in the newest fashions now in vogue in London." Among his choice goods, he calls attention to " the noted Constantinople Razor Cases and Strops." Specimens of the black-handled knives and forks ordinarily in use are shown on page 164.

Knives, forks and spoons were kept in shagreen cases, generally green, but sometimes blue ; some of the handsomest of these were lined with red velvet from which the ornamental handles of silver, silver gilt, white or green ivory, or decorated china were shown off to advantage. The shagreen case came in very early in the century and- continued in use until it was supplanted by the mahogany boxes of the same general shape. If we may judge from the following advertisement the latter began to appear about 1767:

" John Clark, shagreen case maker from London, next door to Mr. Seckell's, Cooper, in Ferry Street, near Peck's Slip Market, makes and sells all sorts of shagreen cases for knives and forks, both in shagreen and mahogany, and cases for Plate, Lady's Dressing-Boxes, Necklaces and Jewel Cases, Buckle cases and Razor Cases of all Sorts."

These cases, of course, contained a series of compartments, as shown in the example to the left on page 166, which also shows one closed and an urn-shaped spoon-case. The knives were placed with their handles upward. Cutlery was constantly changing in fashion ; ivory-handled knives and forks, white split bone, buck and black handles were imported in 1750 ; china-handled knives and forks mounted in silver, in shagreen cases, were sold by Reuben W. Thompson, in Smith's Fly, in 1752 ; "newest fashioned silver and ebony-handled table knives and forks in shagreen cases," in 1760 ; camwood-handled knives and three-pronged forks, in 1768 ; sets of knives, forks, and spoons complete in cases, in 1771 ; knife, fork, and spoon in a shagreen case for the pocket, in 1771 ; knife-trays in 1772 ; knife-cases of fish-skin, in 1774.

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