This large ewer is a magnificent example of early American classical silver. A stunning handle is decorated with reeding covered with leaves. Die rolled bands of beading and classical ornament border the top rim and shoulder of the body respectively. The lower area of the body is exquisitely chased with palmettes and leaves of varying design. An interwoven design incorporating flowers decorates the ball above the stepped, pedestal foot decorated with acanthus leaves.
A slightly later inscription is engraved on one side:
from his sister
Frances F. Dwight
Jan 4th, 1848
and the other:
A token of gratitude.
In 1824, Frances Fowler(1797-1886) married Henry Williams Dwight of Stockbridge, MA. Dwight was a Colonel in the War of 1812 and a lawyer who served as Massachusetts State Representative in 1818 and then in the US Congress (from 1821 to 1831 and again in 1834. He bred purebred sheep and cattle. (1)
Her brother, James Lyman Fowler (1789-1873), was a Yale graduate and lawyer in Westfield, MA.(2) who also served as both a state Representative and Senator from 1820-30. In an 1839 letter to abolitionist Amos A. Phelps, Fowler states: 'As to being an officer of the [newly founded Massachusetts Abolitonist] society, I am not as yet a member of this or any other Abolition or Anti-Slavery society, preferring to do for the cause of human freedom what duty seems to require of me....'(3)
A pair of identical model ewers marked by Baldwin Gardiner, with different ornamentation, are in the collection of the New York Historical Society Museum. (4) They were a presentation to Commodore Isaac Chauncey in 1833. The Museum of the City of New York also has a pair of slightly smaller ewers with identical decoration. (5)
Baldwin Gardiner trained in the famous shop of his brother, Sidney Gardiner of Fletcher & Gardiner. He worked for them in Boston and then after their move to Philadelphia. About 1830, he moved to New York City and set up a retail shop advertising as a "Manufacturer of Silverware, and Importer of Lamps and Chandeliers..." (6)
It is unclear how much of his silver was made in-house and how much was obtained from other silversmiths including his late brother's business partner Thomas Fletcher, from whom he sourced the famous Maxwell Vase. He also sold silver from other New York makers as well as making his own. (7)
This spectacular ewer is marked underneath with pseudo hallmarks associated with Gardiner's shop, and an obscured mark we believe is 'B. GARDINER' within a rectangle. It is also marked by the Boston retailer 'GEORGE B. FOSTER' on the outside edge of the foot. It measures 17.25 inches tall, weighs 50.15 troy ounces and is in very good antique condition.
- Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_W._Dwight.
- Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Fowler_(Massachusetts_politician).
- Letter from James Fowler, Westfield, to Amos Augustus Phelps, June 17. 1839, Boston Public Library, Digital Collection, Anti Slavery (Collection of Distinction) https://www.digitalcommonwealth.org/search/commonwealth:5h740569f.
- Margaret K. Hofer with Debra Schmidt Back, Stories in Sterling, Four Centuries of Silver in New York, (London: D. Giles Limited, 2011), pp. 145-146.
- Deborah D. Waters, Elegant Plate: The Centuries of Precious Metal in New York City, (Hanover & London: The University Press of New England, 2000), vol. II, p. 344.
- Waters, vol. II, p. 343.
- Waters, vol. II, p. 343.