One of the most famous and rare forms in Gorham's coffee and tea line is the tête-à-tête set owned by Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, now at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. This extraordinary service consists of a tea pot, sugar and creamer.
The spherical bodies are decorated with stunning repoussé flowers and foliage with textured backgrounds. The upper edge of the body has applied ball decoration and the hinged dome cover has a teardrop finial. Each side of the body has a blank shield with classical engraving. One side of each piece is engraved with an elaborate 'HFB' monogram.
The opposite side is engraved with the date 'Octo. 22d./ 1862'. The pot handle has an applied leaf thumb-piece and retains its original screws and ivory insulators to keep heat from conducting onto the handle. The sugar and creamer are also quite striking. The rims and shaped handles are adorned with cast and applied silver balls. Each piece is supported by 3 feet in the form of chicken legs with detailed castings of the hocks, shanks and toes.
The naturalistic design of this service whimsically celebrates the agricultural nature of our society at the time.
Finding a complete set of this rare design is amazing. For more information on the Mary Todd Lincoln's 'chicken-leg' tête-à-tête set, see Gorham Silver, p. 46. Click here to see the Smithsonian's picture of her set. Gorham's records indicate the 0110 set (they spell it 'sett' in the 1860's) is an 1859 design so Mrs. Lincoln was buying the most up-to-date fashionable silver available.
This rare coin silver set is marked underneath with Gorham's trademark, '0110' and 'COIN'. It also bears accession codes from the Strong Museum which deaccessioned the set. (They became a museum for toys) The tea pot measures 7.5 inches across handle and spout by 5.5 inches high. The combined weight is 22.5 troy ounces and they are in very good/ excellent condition.