J. E. Caldwell (retailer) Pair of Coin Silver Presentation Ewers, Philadelphia, PA, c. 1851

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These magnificent, tall ewers are hand-raised, repousséd, and chased to a stunning level of beauty. Exceptional handles decorated with clusters of grapes and leaves terminate at the bottom with hairy-paw animal feet. The large, bulbous body, neck, and base of each ewer exhibits outstanding quality and design of various flowers and leaves. The elaborate cartouche surrounds an engraved presentation to Governor Johnston.

On January 28, 1852, the Lancaster Examiner and Herald records that on the day Johnston left office:

Testimonial to Gov. Johnston

A number of the friends and admirers of Governor Johnston, having provided an elegant service of plate, at a cost of more than a thousand dollars, the presentation took place, last Friday evening, at the America House in Philadelphia. The manufacturers are Messrs. Caldwell & Co. and the work does them infinite credit. The service consists of a silver waiter, two splendid pitchers, a tea-sett of six pieces, a pair of goblets, cake basket, twelve napkin rings, fish knives, butterknives, forks, etc. The several articles are elaborately chaste [sic.], and the workmanship on each is exceedingly neat and beautiful. On each Pitcher is the following inscription:

"Presented by The Citizens of Philadelphia as a Testimonial of their Admiration and Gratitude to his Excellency Wm. F. Johnston." (1)

William Freame Johnston (1808-1872) was an abolitionist governor of Pennsylvania. In 1829 at the age of 21, he was admitted to the Westmoreland County bar and then became a district attorney of Armstrong County. He was elected to the General Assembly in 1835, 1838 and 1841. In 1848 he became Senate Speaker and shortly after became governor after the resignation of Governor Francis Shunk. He won a very narrow victory in 1848 and lost a narrow defeat in 1851. (2)

Johnston is best known for opposing the "Fugitive Slave Act," the 1850 federal law that required states to assist in the apprehension and return of slaves. He believed slavery was "an infraction of human rights" and refused to let state officers help the federal government enforce the law. His abolitionist views were well respected nationally, and he was nominated to be John Fremont's vice-presidential candidate on the first national Republican ticket in 1856 (although he ultimately withdrew his nomination in favor of William Dayton). (3) 

These spectacular ewers are stamped by the Philadelphia retailer 'J.E. CALDWELL/ PURE COIN/ PHILAD.' They measure 17.25 inches tall, weigh a combined 97.15 troy ounces, and are in excellent antique condition. Finding a pair of ewers of this size and quality, with a great historical presentation and in such wonderful condition, is just amazing.


  1. "Testimonial to Governor Johnston" in the Lancaster [PA] Examiner and Herald, January 28, 1852, p. 1.
  2. "Governor William Freame Johnston" on Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission website, http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/portal/communities/governors/1790-1876/william-johnston.html, last accessed 8/27/2020.
  3. Ibid.