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This magnificent presentation set consists of a pitcher, a pair of goblets, a small bowl, and a footed tray. The large pitcher is heavy and massive. It is exceptionally repousséd, chased and engraved with acorns and oak leaves around the neck emanating from an incredible tree branch handle.
Beautifully detailed with knots in the wood, the handle has an acorn thumb-piece and a protruding offshoot on the lower interior which secures ones' grip when pouring. A wonderful presentation is engraved on the front of the pitcher and in the center of the tray and reads:
James E. Russell
A few of his
The pair of goblets and small bowl have complimentary acorn and leaf decoration around the upper rim and are engraved 'J.E.R.'
Artistically executed, the fantastic footed, oval tray is supported by four scrolling feet with pineapple (symbol of hospitality) design. The flat interior, with a raised molded border, is exquisitely engraved with robust swirls incorporating acorns, flowers, leaves, and a pair of winged birds.
Engraved at the top is a stunning scene of a locomotive with smoke billowing from its steam engine chimney with a conductor in the window. The scene at the bottom is of a large structure with the name 'RUSSELL HOUSE.' The details here are also wonderful, with trees, a fence, and a horse-drawn carriage traveling by. There are a few small figures about including a man and woman on the front porch.
This outstanding engraving is very similar to the engraving on two presentation pitchers from Harding's shop in the collection of the MFA, Boston, see here and here. At 13 Court Square, next door to Harding's shop, Boston directories show two engravers, Charles H. Fenno and Daniel Briscoe, worked during this period. Either could be responsible for this wonderful engraving.
James E. Russell, from Springfield, MA, was a clerk in the post office and became postmaster and then postal clerk between Boston and Albany in 1843. He 'was one of the first to occupy a (train) postal car in the country.'(1) In 1846 he was appointed conductor of the Boston & Albany Railroad and was one of the first conductors of the Boston and New York express train.
During those 11 years of service on the [rail]road there was hardly a public man whom Mr. Russell did not meet at sometime, or learn to know well; Charles Sumner, Gen. Banks, Henry Wilson, Rufus Choate and Daniel Webster were frequent passengers on the train....
Daniel Webster once put his head out of the car window at Wilbraham and lost his huge hat. The statesman was in despair for he did not know of another hat in the country large enough. William Child was then station agent at Palmer and conductor Russell knew that his head was nearly if not quite as large as Webster's. During the stop at the station Child received an offer for his hat which he supposed was a joke, but Conductor Russell was in earnest and Webster was not obliged to ride home hatless. It fitted the presidential aspirant from Marshfield, and he looked at Mr. Russell as a sort of conjuror in resources....
Among Mr. Russell's passenger acquaintances was P.T. Barnum, and the showman afterward sent him a personal invitation to attend Tom Thumb's wedding, which Mr. Russell accepted." (2)
In 1857, Russell retired from his railroad service. "When Mr. Russell finally resigned 200 of the patrons of the [rail]road contributed silver pieces and these were made into a rich and heavy silver service which was presented to him. The huge salver has a train of cars engraved across it with a suitable inscription." (3)
After his retirement, Russell purchased the American House "which stood where the Boston & Albany granite building now is" in Springfield, MA (see here), and later was elected Hamden County Register of Deeds. (4)
Bailey, Kettel & Chapman were Boston jewelers working from December 1854 to late 1857. "Messrs. BAILEY, KETTELL & CHAPMAN, (successors to Fessenden Brothers,) No. 205 Washington street, commence their campaign by adhering to the system of low prices, which characterized their predecessors, and have a beautiful and choice collection of Jewelry articles." (5) They were known for impressive presentation silver including a tea service for Postmaster E. C. Bailey, (6) and had been selected for the Charles Sumner Kansas Testimonial before Sumner asked that the proceeds go to the cause of a Free Kansas. (7) Below is an image of the Fessenden shop from Gleason's Pictorial May 14, 1853.
All pieces are marked 'BAILEY, KETTELL & CHAPMAN/ COIN/ BOSTON.' The tray measures just shy of 20.5 inches long by 15.75 inches wide by 1.5 inches high and weighs 74.80 troy ounces. The pitcher stands 10.5 inches tall and weighs 41.40 troy ounces and the cups and bowl add another 30.10 troy ounces bringing the total weight to 146.30 troy ounces. The set is in excellent antique condition.
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