C961

Fletcher & Bennett Antique Coin Silver Cup, Philadelphia, PA, c. 1838


This beautiful cup, of bulbous form with a cast scrolled handle and resting on a single stepped pedestal foot, is decorated with gutsy wheel engraved and bright cut floral decoration that flows from a central cartouche inscribed "CAR. Sept. 18th 1838." A band of foliate chasing is under the drawn band applied to the rim. The foot terminates with a die rolled cast band of anthemion leaves and berries.

The engraving on this mug is remarkably similar to one at Winterthur by Taylor & Lawrie of Philadelphia c. 1840 given to Henry A. DuPont, Henry Francis DuPont's father, at birth. See American Silver at Winterthur, p. 456 - this engraving could easily have been done by the same hand.

Thomas Fletcher was one of the foremost of all American silversmiths. In partnership with Sidney Gardiner (Fletcher & Gardiner - of Boston 1808-11, Philadelphia, 1811-36), Fletcher & Gardiner made some of the most important American silver ever. Their presentation pieces include: The DeWitt Clinton Urns (Erie Canal, now at the Met), The George Armistead Punch Service (Commander at Fort McHenry, now at the Smithsonian), The Isaac Hull Urn (Commander of the Constitution, now in the Naval Historical Foundation's collection), etc.

While Fletcher's career with Sidney Gardiner is well documented, his later partnership with his nephew Calvin Bennett, is not well know. The partnership (active 1837-39) did not fare well in a poor economy, ultimately ceasing operations and liquidating in bankruptcy.

We believe this is the first time this mark has been identified and published. While other F&B partnerships have worked in this country, no others worked in Philadelphia at this time. While the fluid naturalistic bright cut engraving is not typical of Fletcher & Gardiner's earlier work, styles were changing and the rococo revival was beginning. The cast band of anthemion leaves on the foot is classic Fletcher & Gardiner banding. Attributions cannot usually be made on the basis of die cast rolled banding. Major urban centers had specialist die makers who sold the banding to local silversmiths. (If no local banding was available, silversmiths purchased it from larger cites, sometimes even from England.) Fletcher & Gardiner's was different in this respect. They may have made their own dies, they may have had them custom made, but they definitely used some banding found on no other company's silver. This banding, while not particularly distinctive, may be able to pull together these two related partnerships.

This cup measures 5 inches high, 4.5 inches across the handle and weighs approx. 7 troy ounces. It is in good condition - the handle has been reattached at the lower join and a there is a small stress fracture in the rim at the join to the handle.

Bibliography:

Quimby, Ian. American Silver at Winterthur. Winterthur, DE: Henry Francis DuPont Winterthur Museum, 1995.

Warren, David, et al. Marks of Achievement: Four Centuries of American Presentation Silver. Houston, TX: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1987.

Wood, Elizabeth. "Thomas Fletcher: A Philadelphia Entrepreneur of Presentation Silver." in Winterthur Portfolio, Vol. 3 (1967), pp. 136-171.

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