Executed in an Indo-Persian style, this tray is exceptionally beautiful.
The rectangular shape is remarkable with its shaped, undulating border and fine details and design. Reserved engraving around its interior really shows off the exotic, robust and complicated chased motifs of various flora against a shimmering, stippled background.
This rare tray is an artistic achievement executed by extremely accomplished artisans. According to the costing slips from the Gorham Archive, the net costs for this 'waiter' was $333- quite a sum of money in 1896. It also notes that the tray was gilt, however we see no indication of gilding on this tray. It took 64.5 hours to hand-raise the tray and another 165 hours to chase (or decorate) it - an exceptional amount of highly skilled work.
Another note of interest on the Costing Slip is that this tray was ordered from 'Mrs. Houghton' and was part of a 3-piece coffee set with waiter. The back of the tray is engraved 'CSH/ October first 1896'.
After much research, I found out that Clement Stevens Houghton married Martha G. Colt on October 1st, 1896 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The wedding was at the First Church and was attended by nearly 1000 guests.(1) This tray must have been ordered by Clement's mother for his and Martha's wedding. Martha's father, James Denison Colt, was a Massachusetts Supreme Court Justice from 1865-66 and 1868-81 and her great, great grandfather was one of the early settlers of Pittsfield.(2) Clement Stevens Houghton was the son of William Stevens Houghton who, at the age of 19 in 1832, purchased a small shoe store in Boston which led to a shoe manufacturing and sales businesses being the 'largest wholesale shoe house in New England.'(3) Clement Houghton was also a shoe tycoon, investor and philanthropist. In 1896, he and his sister donated $100,000 in memory of their father to build the William S. Houghton Memorial Chapel at Wellesley College(4) and he also built, in 1906, a 8,200 square-foot mansion on 26 acres in Chestnut Hill, MA.(5)
For a Black Coffee Service in this line, see here.
This rare tray is stamped with Gorham's trademark and 'STERLING/ 18in.' It also has the special order mark of '6092' within a rectangle and a date mark for 1896. The border measures 18 inches by 15 inches and 23 inches long across the handles, weighs an impressive 83.60 troy ounces and is in excellent antique condition with very slight wear to the interior.
HOUGHTON-COLT, Boston Post, Friday, Oct 2, 1896, p.4, Ancestry.com.
James D. Cold Associate Justice memorial, www.mass.gov/person/james-d-colt.
Charles H. McDermott & others, A History of the Shoe and Leather Industries of the United States, vol II, John H. Denehy & Co, Boston, 1920, pp. 346-347.
Houghton Chapel and Multifaith Center, Wellesley College, www.wellesley.edu/religiouslife/houghton
"A Fixer-upper for 3.4 Million," in The Boston Herald, July 25, 2014.
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