K552

Gorham Antique Sterling Silver Aesthetic Movement 'EX' Water Pitcher or Beer Jug, Provi., RI, 1879

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This unusual pitcher by Gorham is in a rare and striking design. An applied collar with applied wire borders is chased with geometric vertical designs.

Bold in design and look, the applied 'c'-scroll handle is partially reeded in a design which incorporates banding.

The body has a delightfully textured surface with very unusual irregular hammering that resembles the surface of 'Hamburg' pattern flatware. It is very organic in shape and decoration. Repousséd against the background is an exquisite design of a single branch flowing from the handle and branching out with leaves and buds. The flora resembles hops and this may have been intended as a pitcher for beer.

The 'EX.' designation is very interesting. No one has learned the precise meaning of the 'EX.' marking.

According to Charles Carpenter, Jr in Gorham Silver 'The EX... may represent Extra or Experimental' (p. 287). This pitcher has 'extra' (exceptional) chasing. This designation may also have been briefly used to indicate a 'sample', or internally generated special order, before Gorham developed a unique numbering system for 'samples'.

Gorham's costing record for the number 995 pitcher, entered on November 11, 1879, indicates 1.25 hours of chasing to the handle, but no other decoration. The chasing on this - likely 60 to 80 hours - is unrecorded and extra. (Or exceptional.)

The costing record shows the undecorated model was assembled for 8 hours after the body had been spun for 4 hours. The handle was cast (3 hours) and then chased for 1.25 hours. Finishing took about 9 more hours. Including the overhead fee (10%) and profit (30%), the final labor cost for the plain pitcher was set at $40.00 to which the cost of silver, $29.39, was added for a net factory cost of $69.39 for the undecorated model.(1)

We believe the additional chasing on this one would have added about $45.00 to that cost, making this pitcher cost about $115.00, wholesale, or about $190.00, retail.

In 1879, $190.00 was a lot of money. The $190.00 price in 1879 dollars represents about $4,650.00 in 2014 dollars when adjusting for consumer inflation.(2)

This rare pitcher is marked underneath with Gorham's trademark and 'STERLING/ 995'. It is also stamped with the 1879 date code 'L' and scratched with the 'EX' designation. This pitcher measures 7.25 inches across the handle by 7.25 inches high, weighs 23 troy ounces and is in very good/ excellent antique condition with light wear to the highlights.

Endnotes:
  1. Gorham Mfg. Co., Cost Book V. 4 Silver Ware 1875-84, Gorham Archives, John Hay Library, Brown University.
  2. http://www.measuringworth.com (accessed 12/28/15).
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