( Originally Published 1905 )
THE almost complete disappearance of pewter from the field of household utensils for a space of fifty years or more, and then the attempt to revive it recently for use in country houses, forms an interesting page in the history of antiques. It brings to the front again a set of articles which were graceful in shape and delightful in colour; and which, in addition, were not so valuable as to tempt the cupidity of the burglar.
It is not possible, in the limited space here given to go very deeply into the ancient history of pewter. It was used by the Romans during their occupancy of England; and some of their old seals have been found within the past few years in certain places in England, and melted up by tinkers for solder, a desecration which it is marvellous no one attempted to stop. In fact the presence of mines of tin and of lead are held responsible for bringing to the shores of Britain the Phoenician trader, and had much to do with the Roman occupation of this island. For use at home the Romans transported vast quantities of tin from Cornwall, and France got her share as well as Holland. China, Japan, Italy, Holland, Germany, France, and England were all workers in this metal, and the Oriental treatment of it was extremely ornamental. In the " Old Pewter Book " it has been possible to show examples of these works, but in this chapter I shall confine myself chiefly to pieces made in England and a few made on the Continent.
The composition of English pewter contained different proportions of tin and other metals, the use for which the object was intended governing the amount of lead used. For instance, the highest quality of " Plate Pewter " contained no lead at all, but 100 parts of tin, 8 of antimony, and 4 of copper. On the other hand, " Ley Metal," the cheapest and commonest kind, contained 80 % of tin and 20 % of lead. All the other qualities, and there were many, lay between these two extremes. Common pewter, or " Trifle," from which small objects and toys were made, contained 82 % of tin and 18 % of antimony. The metal used for salts and ewers was composed of 90 % of tin and 10 % of lead.
Tin alone is not so durable or ductile as lead; and when the two metals are combined they will not shrink so greatly as either taken by itself. This shrinking is a quality which has to be considered when the article to be made has to be cast in a mould. The fusibility of pewter made it of great use to goldsmiths in taking the casts of medals or other small articles which they desired their customers to approve before the final casting of the object in gold, silver, or bronze.
The best quality of early pewter was made of tin, with as much brass as it could take up, the proportion being about one to four. This quality, which was known as " fine," was used for many small and choice articles, as well as chargers and church vessels. A less fine quality, in which the proportion was also four to one, consisted of tin and lead; and in this were made candlesticks, bowls, and pots. All public house vessels, such as mugs and tankards, had a still greater amount of lead in them, and were often called " black metal," since they tarnished so easily.
The method of making pewter has always been the same; and upon the nature of the object depended whether it was cast, hammered, or both, and then put upon a lathe and burnished. The first things that a would-be pewterer had to acquire was a set of moulds; and these being made of gun-metal were very costly and out of the reach of many. So, very early, the pewterers came together into guilds or companies; and they owned in common sets of moulds which were loaned to the members without charge, as was the custom in York, England, or were rented for a small charge, as was the usage in most of the English towns. Not only was gun-metal used for moulds, but plaster-of-paris, wood, iron, and sand, even, were used.
If possible the article was cast in one piece; and this was the case with such small articles as spoons, salts, porringers, and bleeding-dishes, tasters, etc. When tankards or large ewers with bulging sides were made it became necessary to cast them in pieces, solder them together, and then finish them off ; but in such pieces the joints are nearly always visible. Handles of all descriptions were generally soldered on, though in the case of small " eared " dishes, as the porringers were called, it was forbidden by the rules of the guild to solder them on; and those who were detected. in this practice were fined and reprimanded.
Not many tools were needed in this trade, and none of them were intricate or very costly. After the moulds, in order of importance came the lathe, the motive power of which was a boy or man known as a " turn-wheel," while the parts of the lathe were a head-stock, tail-stock, and simple mandrel. " The Worshipful Company of Pewterers " in England go back as far as 1348 in their records. The French had societies even earlier, since in 1295 Lyons was famous for the quality and character of her pewter ware; and by 1300 there were many famous men at work in Paris who furnished royalty with their necessary kitchen equipment. In England there was less precious metal and more pewter even among the high and mighty in the land. In both countries the pewter workmen were divided into classes which were known as " Hollow-ware " men, who made pots and vessels for liquids, " Sad-ware " men, who made plates and chargers (large platters), and " Triflers," who made the little objects like salts, medals, beggars' tokens, and toys. Plates and saucers, to be up to the regulations of the guild, were to be hammered, and you will find the mallet marks on the under side.
The demand for pewter vessels, which crowded out those of wood and horn, and which in their turn have been displaced by pottery and porcelain, grew apace.
As early as 1474 the marking of pewter to `show it was up to the proper standard of purity began, and that which was tested and found below this was marked with a broad, arrow, and consigned to the melting-pot, in which it had to be united with new metal and recast.
All the great prelates had prodigious stores of pewter, jugs, basins, tankards, measures, candlesticks, mugs, and salts. The table pewter came in what were known as " garnishes," and which consisted of " 12 platters, 12 dishes, 12 saucers; and these are either of silver fashion, or else with broad or narrow brims and bought by the pound, which is now valued at sevenpence or peradventure at eightpence." This is what Harrison wrote in 1557, concerning what was found on the tables of the middle classes. As may be inferred, pewter utensils were pretty well distributed over the kingdom where, a century before, they had been confined to the houses of the wealthy. Many regulations as to the exact size and weight of the vessels were also framed by the " Worshipful Company," and those that offended were heavily fined, in some cases being debarred from the privileges of the company. The touch-mark, as it was called, was another method used to keep up the high quality of pewter; and in 1564 the rose and crown had become so well known and important a mark that the following rule was framed regarding it.
" Also it is agreed that euery one of the saide felowship that makith any warre shall set his owne marke thereon. And that no man shall geue for his proper marck or touch, the Rose and crown wt lettrs or otherwise, but only to whome it is geuen by the felowship. Nor that no man of the saide Craft shall geue one anothers marck nother wth lettrs nor otherwise, but euery one to geue a sondry marck such one as shalbe alowed by the maister and wardens for the tyme beinge vpon payne of for-faite and paye for euery tyme offendinge to the Crafte's box xii j s. iii j d."
The pewterers tried hard to keep all the business in their own hands and prevent the sale of goods by hawkers. Any member who sold ware to pedlars or hawkers was to be fined five pounds, a large sum in those days ; and in one or two cases where a member of the guild was detected in this business his shop was closed, and he was not allowed to open it again. No other merchants were allowed to sell pewter ware in their shops, and even the goldsmiths were enjoined from having it. When silver vessels became more common the Pewterers Company petitioned the king to prevent this, and to make all taverns and ordinaries, at least, use pewter vessels only.
One great branch of the business was the putting of lids on pottery jugs; and in 1552 it was agreed that every week the jugs so lidded should be brought in for inspection, and the mark of the pewterer should be put on the inside of the lid. Later this rule was altered, and it was set down that the maker's mark should be set on the outside of the lid, together with the guild mark. Apparently the maker did not have the privilege of marking his own pots, for in 1553 it was ordered by the masters and wardens of the company that John Curtys should have " ffor markyng of every dosyn of stone potte whosesoever brought them to marck one ffarthing."
A stoneware jug with a pewter lid is shown in Figure 284; and although this one is of Delft pottery, the shape is similar to the English ones, and the tall, graceful chalice beside it is of a later period, as is the bell, which was used in church ceremonial. Other pewter lids are shown in the following Figure, 285, where, on an old mantelpiece is gathered a collection of objects suitable to their surroundings.
Almost every household has tucked away somewhere, either " up-garret " or in the buttery, one or more pieces of old pewter ware — scarred veterans it is true, but none the less interesting on that account. It seems a long way to go back to that day when Henry Hudson dropped the anchor of the Half Moon in lower New York Bay in search of the first pewter brought to this country. Perhaps 1609 is a little early; yet I have no doubt that among the stores in that ship could have been found pewter plates, and pewter tankards as well.
It is a matter of history, however, that Director-General Wouter Van Twiller reached Manhattan Island in 1633; and one of his first acts, in order to make his people contented, was to erect a great brewery, and " his colonists were never so happy as when draining their huge pewter tankards." So many other, though less durable, wares have been made for our use and convenience that pewter had rather lost caste. In Colonial days it was one of the most important household items. When the Widow Coytemore married John Winthrop in the Massachusetts Colony, she brought him " household stuff " valued at £640, her share of her first husband's estate. The inventory was long, and among its items is one of £135 worth of pewter.
When Governor Bradford died, also of the Plymouth Colony, he left, as specified in the inventory of his property, fourteen pewter dishes, thirteen platters, three large and also three small plates, a candlestick, and a bottle. Peter Palfrey, of Salem, a man of substance in the town, gave in 1662 to his daughter Mary as a wedding gift two pewter platters and an iron pot. Much pewter was made in this country, and the inventory of a Boston pewterer who died in 1675 shows in his shop 2782 pounds of pewter. This with the dishes and " basons " already made was valued at £235118. 4d. He had also for sale " alchemy spoons, spooning pewter, tankards, milk-cans, warming-pans, kettles, skillets, frying-pans, cow-bells, and bellows."'
As late as 1750 a complete outfit of pewter plates, dishes, and spoons was considered a lordly wedding gift. Fortunate was the bride who possessed them.
Most of the pewter to be found in this country is extremely plain, gaining its charm from its solid substantial lines and charming gray colour. But some of the English and much of the Continental pewter had decoration of one style or another, and one of the simplest methods may be noted on the chalice in Figure 284. You will see that there are bands of incised lines in three places on the body of the chalice, and on the front a wreath of leaves surrounding a date and initials.
This style of work was called " wriggled" or " joggled " work, and was very common on the Continent. Owing to the nature of the alloy, engraved work wears off very quickly, since it has to be very lightly done, for deeply cut work weakens the ware. The tool which is used to make patterns is in the nature of a chisel, the blades varying in length, the common size being about an inch wide.
The tool is rocked or jogged along, forming a pat-tern which is never of great delicacy; and, although the Dutch and German pewterers seem to have the greatest fancy for it, you will find that it has been used in all countries. The Dutch used it on church vessels, long stories from the Bible and holy narrative being illustrated in it. For such purposes came special tools with blades as fine as a thirty-second of an inch; and the pattern was made out with dots in places where it was not convenient to use the tool.
Engraved work was also put on pewter, each stroke of the tool removing some of the alloy; and on some pieces both engraving and wriggled work are combined. In Figure 286 some choice specimens of engraved work are shown, and in the cases of the beaker and pitcher there is wriggled work as well. These pieces are of German make, have elaborate coats of arms on them, and the bowl is dated 1735. All three pieces have a rose and crown on them, which emblems may be found on English, French, Dutch, German, and Scottish ware, though it is customary to assign all ware so marked to England. The difference between the engraving tool and the punch or wriggling tool can be easily told. The latter is held in an upright position and then struck with a mallet. This raises a ridge on either side of the pat-tern, while in engraving the pewter is removed.
When modelled and finished with engraving tools pewter may be made very rich and elegant, as may be seen from the beautiful old Jewish lamp shown in Figure 287. This lamp has eight little buckets for holding oil set on a small shelf. There were two others, larger, one of which is missing, at the sides. Observe the beauty of the figures in low relief on the top, and the form of the pomegranate flower in engraved and wriggled work on the plain space.
Two other pieces are shown with figures in the next Figure, 288, and these were also for religious purposes, being Bénitiers, or Holy-water cups. You may find cups hanging in Flemish churches now, perhaps of pewter, more likely of china, but not many will be as charmingly modelled as these. Some-times these cups hung at wayside shrines ; in the case of these shown the one object providing both cup and image, though some of them had a cross in place of the figures.
Many elegant plates or chargers for use on cupboards were cast and then sharpened up with the engraving tool. Such a charger is shown in Figure 289. Harrison writes, in his " Description of England," of the way the farmer set out his cupboard in imitation of the rich lord who had his set with silver and Venice glass. The yeoman had to be content with less, and used pewter as rich as his purse would allow, polished to the brightness of the costlier metal. Sometimes this raised work was punched out from the back and filled with lead so that it would not bend; sometimes it was cast solid. Swiss Kaiserteller, as they were named, were very elegant pieces, showing figures on horseback, knights and insignia, with rich and varied borders ; but such pieces are generally museum specimens.
Another use for pewter in its commoner form was for " garden ornaments," figures, vases, or urns, some of which were of very graceful and elegant shapes, and designed by such masters as the Adam Brothers, who put their skill to anything which could be made ornamental, not even the design for a reticule or a fan being too slight a thing for their notice.
Many of the splendid old gardens in Italy and England had these vases on pedestals, and one such, twenty-five inches high, after Adam Brothers' design, is shown in Figure 290.
Pewter was put to still another use by these same skilful men; and in the next Figure, 291, you may see how rich a mantelpiece of white deal may look with a decoration of pewter upon it. They used the classic shapes to which they were so wedded, and the cold gray of the pewter shows out admirably against the wood. I have never seen one of these mantels in this country, but many of them were taken out of houses about fifty years ago in England, and, luckily, some escaped the rubbish pile.
As has been mentioned already, the composition of pewter varies greatly. The very finest pewter is simply tin hardened by the addition of copper and antimony. Ordinary pewter is tin alloyed with lead, which ingredient is added on account of its cheapness, and is often, therefore, present in excessive amount.
It was this lead which made pewter such a very valuable possession in Revolutionary days. All records of those hard-fought times have frequent references to the scarcity of bullets. In 1777 Madam Smith, wife of the minister at Sharon, Connecticut, invited all her friends and neighbours to come to spend the evening with her, and to bring every pewter article with them which they could possibly spare.
Before the evening had passed " several gallons of good bullets had been cheerfully run through bullet-moulds, the good ladies sacrificing without a pang the much-prized pewter. This destruction of household utensils necessitated the making of others, so there were " trencher-bees " instituted, and held from house to house for many evenings. At these the young men of the village whittled and shaped enough trenchers of maple and poplar wood to supply the housewives' needs. The women smoothed down these rough wooden vessels with broken glass, and polished them with a sand made of powdered limestone.
Figure 292 shows what was called in old lists " a bason and ewer." Our wash-stand set, while evidently much used in its day, is in a fine state of preservation. It is a good-sized pitcher for those days, holding more than a gallon, even more than the blue and white Staffordshire pitchers, which were so highly esteemed a little later in the century.
Writing about this ewer and basin some time ago, I mentioned the fact that it was the only one I had ever seen. 'I have since heard from the possessors of two others, one of them in the far West, who says that his was brought there many years ago by Father Ravillac, a Jesuit priest. It was marked Thomas Boardman, London. Boardman was a well-known pewterer in the last half of the eighteenth century.
Ewers this size — " guinea basons " we find them called in the pewterer's records were a subject of much importance to the company. It was duly set down just how much they should weigh, and what quality of pewter should be used in them. But while it was possible to hold the London craft up to the mark by means of " searches " (that is, sending the officers to look for unlawful pewter) and fines, it was impossible to have the country members of the craft under control. For that reason they stinted the amount of tin, made the articles under weight, and in 1726 a letter from Philadelphia was read complaining of the bad quality of the pewter sent to the Colonies from Bristol, England.
Why there are not more of these " basons " and pitchers left it would be hard to say. Perhaps they were melted up, as were the utensils in Connecticut. It was not only the pewter in daily use which was put in the melting-pot, but every scrap which could be found.
Sir John Johnson's house, which is still standing in the Mohawk Valley, had in 1770 a roof of lead. This was ripped off and found its way into bullets. So did the lead tablets set into monuments and gravestones. You will see some stones with the vacant spaces left in the old graveyards in and near Boston. On July 9, 1776, the equestrian statue of George III, on Bowling Green, New York City, was pulled down, sent to Connecticut and moulded, so the story runs, into forty-eight thousand bullets.
Fortunately not all the pewter was sacrificed to the god of war. Figure 293 shows a kitchen dresser set out " with shining pewter all arow." Such a complete set was the end and aim of every good housekeeper. When the pewter had been once gathered together the keeping of it bright was quite a serious matter. This duty fell to the children's share, and on Saturday mornings they were sent bright and early to the meadows for a supply of " horse-tail " or scouring-rush, the rough stems of which polished the pewter without scratching it. The mothers kept an eye to the use of much " elbow-grease," and there was no escaping for play till the task was well accomplished.
There were more articles of pewter than is generally supposed. Besides plates, platters, tankards, porringers, spoons, pitchers, and basins there were buckles for shoe and knee, coffee-urns, hot-water dishes, lamps, and candlesticks.
In Figure 294 is a variety of these articles. The coffee-urn is a solid old piece, and belonged to the grandfather of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who built the " Old Manse " at Concord, Massachusetts, in 1765.
The owner of the coffee-urn was a sturdy and loyal patriot, and we love to think he had a good strong cup of hot coffee before he went out on that historic 19th of April to encourage his parishioners to fight for their liberties and homes.
The coffee-urn is a good piece in itself, for the lions' heads which hold the handles are clearly modelled. The tankard standing in the large trencher is what is known as a " tappit-hen." It is a Scotch piece, and they were generally sold three in a set. There is a very small one seen just in front of the urn. These " hens " are hard to find and rare.
Recently I have learned of two sets in this country. One of them, owned in Bangor, Maine, is shown in Figure 295. The smallest hen of all does not rightfully belong in the set, but probably from its size was used for hot milk or treacle. I was sorry to hear from the owner of this set that a portion of them had been buffed. It is a mistake to have your pewter, subjected to this process, as it takes off a portion of the surface, and removes those marks of time and wear which no really antique pewter should be without. In fact, it is not pleasant to record that these sets of tappit-hens are being reproduced both in the country of their origin, Scotland, as well as in Belgium. They are being scratched and marred, and in some cases are buried for some months to obtain the proper degree of patina on them. Some are even eaten slightly with acids to give them a corroded look. There is no limit to the devices of the makers of spurious goods.
The Scotch pewterers generally marked their pieces, for all reputable makers belonged to the " Incorporation of Hammermen," which included goldsmiths, black-smiths, saddlers, cutlers, locksmiths, lorimers, armourers, pewterers, and coppersmiths.
This guild was incorporated as early as 1483, and in its records is the following:
" December 24th, 1681.
It is ordained by consent to ye hail brethren, that each member shall have one stamp of their owne and present ye same yor to ye house betwixt this and the 2d of February, to ye effect, everie one's work may be known, and that under ye pain of Three Pounds Scots per piece. Whereupon this act is made."
The thistle is the distinguishing mark of Scotch pewter, which has in addition the smaller marks, like hall-marks, and sometimes the maker's name besides. Notwithstanding the fine of " Three Pounds Scots," much pewter is entirely unmarked, and one has to rely largely on its characteristic shape to identify it.
The English tankard in the same Figure, 294, is the shape with which we are most familiar. The lid is cone-shaped, showing that it was not one of the very early pieces, in which case it would have been flat.
The thick dish with handles is a nice piece. It is to be filled with hot water to keep a meal warm. A little slide in the top of the dish can be taken out, and slipped back when the under part is filled. A pewter spoon lies beside it, and a gruel basin to the right. One of the housekeeper's yearly duties was to mould a fresh supply of spoons. They were made of soft metal, and consequently were easily broken or bent. Spoon moulds were metal affairs and not owned by every family. If one was possessed by a village the hardy pioneers thought it was ample. In a certain Massachusetts village a family whose name began with L, to add a touch of elegance to their table furniture, had the spoon mould made with this initial in the die. It did very well for them, but the whole village also had their spoons marked " L," for they promptly borrowed the new mould the first time they needed to make " a running." Consider the confusion which must have ensued at every sewing-bee or husking when individual possessions were to be sorted out!
A pewter spoon is given in Figure 296 and is a fine one. It is not home-made, nor very old, being made by Reed and Barton, a firm of New York silversmiths, in 1823. Few old spoons are to be found, for they were so easily bent, at least the home-made ones, that they were among the first things cast into the melting-pot to be run over. I have some spoons, notably one of Belgian make, which is remarkably stiff in the handle, but this is an unusually fine specimen. An amateur, who is a busy literary man, writes me that he has been amusing himself with running pewter spoons in an old mould which somebody gave him. He has great difficulty in arriving at just the proper quality of metal to make them with any degree of stiffness, and some old spoons which he sacrificed had in the handles a bit of iron which gave them the desired body. The formula for spooning pewter takes a large proportion of lead which is the cause of the brittleness. I have also an old home-made pewter spoon which came from Maine. I have never been able to bring myself to use it, for I am quite sure that any strain on the handle would be fatal to it.
A pewter spoon does not seem a thing which would survive centuries, even though buried in the mud of a river bed. Yet within the last year one has been recovered from the Thames, at London, in a quite perfect condition. The handle of the spoon bears on the end the head of a woman with the head-dress which was worn in the time of Henry V, that is from 1413 to 1422. Three more spoons of this period are known; one is in the British Museum. The bowl is what was called the "plover's egg" shape, larger at the end than at the place where the handle joins the bowl. Nearly all pewter spoons have what is called a rat-tail running up the back to give added strength, and the top of the handles varied as did the patterns of the silver spoons of cor-responding periods.
A unique piece of pewter is shown in the next Figure, 297, and bears on the front the words " Mudge's In-haler." It is in the nature of a trick mug, for the handle is hollow with holes near the top, and if you do not put your finger over them, the liquid spills. The name of the maker is on the bottom, but inquiries at the number on Fleet Street have failed to find the date of his being there, the tax rolls for the nineteenth century not bearing his name. It has had a strange history, this old mug, and at last was found on a rubbish pile by a collector who adds to his gatherings all the things of interest which he meets with in his travels. It is a good piece, and a puzzle in more ways than one.
Barnes is not a name to be found in the list of masters and wardens given by Mr. Welch in his transcription of the records of the Pewterers Company, but there were many names of workers which did not appear therein. There are often names on old pewter, and though in many cases it is nearly obliterated, there is often enough to enable one to piece it out. There was Townsend and Compton, who were at work in 1750, and the Jacksons, father and son ; Lucas was another familiar name, Fly and Thompson, 1740, John amid William Fasson, Henry and John Appleton, Joseph and Samuel Barker, Bennett and Chapman, Thomas Board-man, 1746, and hundreds of others. These men, besides the rose and crown, added their own names and often a large X which denoted " best quality."
Paris marks varied, sometimes an angel with the word " Paris " in a crown, more often a fleur-de-lis, and the inevitable crowned rose all are to be found. The Brussels rose is six petalled, crowned, and there is a figure of St. Michael and the Dragon in a beaded circle, and also a gothic B to be found too. Antwerp has the rose alone or crowned, and an arm and hand. There is a large amount of Belgian pewter to be found in this country, particularly near the early Dutch settlements.
In Figure 298 we show a Dutch tankard, dated 1747, and marked with the flying angel of Brussels. It is a handsome piece with an ornamental incised pattern, and a motto in Dutch on the front. An English hot-water kettle faces it, and between the two is a small English creamer with a fine band of repoussé work surrounding the top.
The little two-handled bowl is a rather unusual piece also, on account of the carved work in the bottom.
The worn old plate at the top has a personal history of its own which makes each scar and dent of extra value. It belonged to the Rev. Samuel Kirkland, who took up his residence about August 1, 1766, at Kanonwarohale, the chief village of the Oneida Indians, about twenty miles west of the Mohawk River.
Mr. Kirkland went as missionary to the Indians, and lived among and with them. He built a house for him-self, " through constant and very hard labour," he writes, " digging the cellar, hewing and drawing the timber with his own hands."
He married Jerusha Bingham in September, 1769, and now deemed it expedient to enlarge his house, making it sixteen instead of ten feet square. By 1770 his salary had been raised to £130 a year, and he was able to buy a sett " of pewter. Through all the Revolutionary troubles he stayed among the Indians, endeavouring to prevent their taking part in the war. During more than thirty years he laboured among them, his house being open to all the Indians who were constantly coming and going. It was no uncommon thing for him to feed sixty or seventy during a week, and his whole salary was often devoured during a year in hospitality.
any a painted and feathered savage has eaten off this plate, which is greatly cherished by one of Mr. Kirk-land's descendants.
The old newspapers of Colonial times furnish a good index of what were the manners and customs of the people at that time, and what were the articles in use. By 1777 New York was filled with officers and soldiers, and apparently with a number of light-fingered gentry, as well. There are numberless advertisements of lost articles, stolen goods, and many rewards are offered and "no questions asked." This notice appears in several issues of the " New York Mercury ":
" Stolen out of a room, a small red leather trunk, with several small articles, two razors, a pewter shaving-box with soap."
I have recently heard from the owners of two pewter shaving mugs. In one case the mug has become a receptacle for buttons, while in the other it is still intact in its red leather box with all the other fittings.
In Figure 299 are two nice tasting bowls (you rarely find these called porringers in any English list) and two covered boxes. For just what purpose the latter were used it would be hard to tell, unless it was for soap. They are twisted, and so are the pieces in the next Figure (300) , which are old and interesting. This twisted effect was seen on very early pieces, particularly candlesticks, and was made about that period which is called, with more or less inaccuracy, Queen Anne." At any rate I have seen candlesticks, made about 1700, in this twisted pattern, and, besides the twist, the objects themselves betray great age. The two salt cellars on either side of the jug are of the form and size common at that period, when a person's rank entitled him to sit above or below the salt.
In the records of the Pewterers Company are set down the prices for many different patterns of salts, from the " grete Staundyn Sault on Bawles to those of smaller size and less weight. Besides all the valuable information concerning the methods of the pewterers in their work, these records tell much history, and give many glimpses into the ways of the times. For in-stance, all the great guilds furnished service in time of war, did duty at all great city and civic festivals, and duly are set down in these books whatever was paid, even for such things as ribbons for the hats of the members who walked in procession, when Queen Anne went to church at St. Paul's to give thanks for the victory at Ramilies.
Besides buckles and watch cases of pewter, many buttons were made, and they had to frame a rule with regard to the quality of metal put into candle moulds. In 1703 Thomas Greener " appeared upon Sumons to this Court to give account of what metal he makes Candle Moulds. And declared he made them of a mixture of Mettle something worse than pale, and that they may be better of fine. But that he has experienced that they cannot be made of Lay. Thereupon this court considering That the makeing of any new sort of Pewter Vessel or Ware of any sort of mettle than perfectly fine, or at the Assize of Lay maye be of a very dangerous consequence, and that there is great quantities of Candle Moulds now made of mettle worse than pale, though the same Moulds were made at first of fine Pewter."
In Figure 301 we show some of these old moulds, for making two, four, or eight candles. The tubing part is made of pewter, and very rough and crude they are.
Two candles made in similar moulds are shown in Figure 802. The pewter sticks which hold them have seen long service. They were brought into this country by the Hite family, who were among the first settlers in the Valley of Virginia, about the year 1730.
The snuffers and tray are of lighter and more orna-mental make, and are probably of a later period. Some-times these candlesticks are a straight column with a band of rude work around them. Queen Anne pattern has a straight stem, but it swells out into quite a bulge about the middle.
People often inquire, " How shall I clean my old pewter? " We cannot do better than recommend the good old method of scouring-rush and elbow grease. If, however, the rushes are unobtainable, there are substitutes, but there is no way to get along without abundant rubbing. While some collectors prefer to allow their pieces to stay dull and discoloured, it was certainly not the way they looked when in use and proudly displayed in livery or court cupboard, or on a fine old Dutch Kas. Neglected pewter will be found to be corroded, or covered with a coat of oxidation. The removal of this is slow, and must be accomplished by patient, hard scrubbing with a hard brush, and plenty of hot water and soap. The addition of soda, borax, or ammonia will help somewhat, but hot soap and water will do, and is less hard on the hands. When this crust of dirt is somewhat loosened, with a woollen cloth, kerosene, and any good metal polish, rub and rub, and then rub some more. When your arms are rested begin and rub again, and gradually in spots and lines the silvery surface will appear, slowly broadening as you work on. Of course, specimens which have not been cleaned in years will be the only ones requiring such labour, and when once bright can easily be kept so. A final brilliant polish can be given by whitening and a woollen cloth. Dents and bends can sometimes be removed by means of a wooden mallet and pad of leather, but one will be much more likely to damage a piece still further, for as it is a soft metal, pewter is easily knocked out of shape.
Small scratches and lines will often wear away with frequent cleanings, and any way seem a hall-mark of antiquity and respectability.
Quite a contrast to such elegance as these candlesticks in Figure 302 can be seen in the group of stout little pewter lamps next shown (Figure 303). They were made before 1763 without doubt, for at that time the flat-wicked lamp was invented, and was most popular since it gave such a superior light to the round-wicked one. All of these you see have round wicks. 1 do not doubt that the owner of the pair of tallest ones felt very well satisfied with them, and thought them most "genteel." The lamp to the left has a bull's-eye of glass which concentrated the light for sewing or reading. Cannot you see the eager circle which gathered about of an evening, while the latest news of the war and of General Washington's movements were read from the broadsides which came so infrequently and were so badly printed?
Another means of procuring light was by what were called " whale-oil lamps," like the two shown in Figure 304. They were made of pewter, and sometimes of glass, but the pewter were more highly considered on account of their less perishable character. They were poor things at best, smoky and ill-smelling, and candles were used at all elegant entertainments, even if they did drip from chandelier or sconce and ruin the dresses and spot the coats of the dancers or diners. Whale oil was procurable as early as 1712, for by that date the Nantucket whalers were voyaging to distant seas in pursuit of the sperm whale. The oil boiled at sea was a pale yellow, and quite odourless. It was also the highest priced on that account, and so was not as commonly used as an inferior grade. These lamps are doubtless American made, for they are not marked, but were found in Massachusetts in a family whose oldest member could not recollect when they had not been called " old lamps."
Other humble lamps are shown in the next illustration, Figure 305, of pewter also ; the swinging one was able to do duty as a hand-lamp when not wanted on the wall. The little lamp in the foreground was for bedroom use, and may have been used to burn " camphine," as spirits of turpentine was called when used for lighting purposes; this gave a very white light, though extremely volatile and inflammable. It is not so very many decades since camphine was used in towns and villages; for only the other day a man in middle life told me that he remembered well being sent by his mother to buy camphine when he was a small boy, and of her particular injunctions not to spill it. He lived in Utica, New York, which considered itself quite a town. The earliest use of camphine was in 1834.
It was rather fortunate that our ancestors generally followed the custom of " early to bed and early to rise," or their eyes must have suffered from such poor and insufficient light. However, they were not bothered with a multiplicity of books, nor a dozen daily newspapers; and a single candle was enough to spin by, or to sit at rest on the settee and watch the fire crackle on the hearth. Indeed, this same candle would give light enough to compound a " night cap " of flip, to see when the logger-head was red-hot, and that there were proper proportions of sugar and spice, pumpkin chips and beer, or whatever other personal touches went to the mixing of this favourite brew.
An unusually fine piece of pewter of German make appears at Figure 306. There has been a very large and very handsome mark on the bottom, but some parts of it have become quite obliterated. It is a soup tureen and tray, the tureen being capable of holding three or four quarts. The design on the cover, the knob, and the handles are not common in this material, except in such pieces as are of the very choicest quality of plate pewter. This is a very rare and extremely choice example, and one rarely comes across a piece like it that is not a museum specimen. In fact, this specimen comes . under that heading, as it belongs to that small and choice museum of antiques which is being gathered by the Misses Hewitt at Cooper Union, New York City.
Most of the early churches in this country had for their first communion sets those made of pewter, and it was generally all they could do to buy two tankards, a laver, and a round trencher. The cups were contributed by such of the congregation as were able to afford it. There are the remains of such a service at the Con-cord Antiquarian Society, and another at Deerfield, Massachusetts. As soon as possible the congregation obtained silver services, and the old pewter ones were turned adrift. We have heard of portions of such services, marked, turning up in a pedlar's wagon, and being rescued from oblivion by a good churchwoman of another creed.
It is rather safe to buy old pewter, if the price is moderate, for it has not been made to any extent during the last seventy years. Even the very method of mixing the metal and handling it seems quite forgotten, and cheap china, earthenware and glass have taken the place of a rich and silvery metal.
In Figure 307 is shown a set of platters and plates, the oval shape of platter to which we are accustomed coming in with chinaware.
The stew of meat and vegetables which composed the principal dish at the family dinner was put into one of the big trenchers, and all dipped in with their spoon or two-pronged fork (but these were a later fashion), and felt no worse for the community of interests.
The parents sat at the table, but children stood, as was considered only respectful; or, if they were much coddled, three-legged stools were provided for their use. They grew up straight backed and sturdy in those days, and woe betide the child that complained of feeling sick! A good dose of treacle and sulphur, catnip tea, or rhubarb, and an extra rub on the pewter, were the remedies applied.
Of the amount of pewter made in this country it would be hard to make an estimate. We began at it early, too, and in 1754 the London Pewterers appointed a committee to see if the exportation of moulds, tools, and utensils into "fforeign Markets " could not be pre-vented, since " they would soon render it impracticable for very little if any English Pewter to be vended in fforeign Markets."
Pewter was on sale in all the large cities here. About this same date Mr. Kirby, a well-known pewterer, advertises that he takes " bees-wax and old pewter in exchange for new."
Another merchant sells " Cork Rose butter, Albany planks, and pewter of the first quality."
Peter Faneuil, who gave the historic old hall of that name to Boston, Massachusetts, died in 1742. His inventory was so long and elaborate that it is classed under one hundred and fifty-eight different heads. He had large quantities of brass, copper, and pewter goods, valued at over £200.
Pewter cisterns for holding water are also mentioned in these old inventories, but they are seldom met with. Boardman and Company made much pewter in New York. Fifty years before this, in 1743, John Halden advertised that he made and sold pewter ware of all kinds at Market Slip, New York. There was Robert Boyle, 1745, William Bradford, Francis Bassett, Henry Will, and Malcolm McEwen, all to be found in New York, and all ready to make pewter utensils to order or to sell you from their stock. By 1841 the last men who had retained this trade no longer advertised them-selves as pewterers, but were ready to show Britannia ware of the newest patterns, and fresh from Birmingham or Sheffield.