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Gorham Special-order Antique Sterling Silver New York Yacht Club Trophy Vase, 1900

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Stunning nautical designs embellish this special order yachting trophy by Gorham from Providence, Rhode Island. The shaped pedestal foot is highly decorated with cast and applied seaweed and shells.

A shell-inspired design encircles the main body below a reserve on one side defined with a cast and applied border of flowers, c-scrolls and dolphins holding shells in their mouths. Contained within the reserve is an acid-engraved presentation which reads 'New York Yacht Club Cruise 1900/ Race for Commodore's Cup/ PRIZE FOR SCHOONERS WON BY QUISSETTA'.

Superbly cast dolphins act as loop handles beneath the wavy flaring rim.

The dolphins used here are not typical of 20th century likenesses but are based on renaissance representations of dolphins. Gorham's designers, with access to one of the finest art libraries in the United States, had studied these stylized images. In classical mythology, dolphins were both associated with and meant to represent Neptune, god of water and the seas. Iconography of the god Neptune is certainly appropriate for this championship yachting trophy.

This magnificent sterling silver vase is marked underneath with Gorham's trademark, 'STERLING', the special order mark '536' and with the bell symbol used in 1900. It measures 16 inches high, weighs 68.80 troy ounces and is in excellent antique condition. It appears Gorham made two of these vases for Henry Francis Lippitt, one in 1888 and one in 1900. The report from the Gorham Archives can be viewed at: Samuel Hough, The Gorham Prize Cup #536.

Quissetta was launched July 6, 1896. Allegedly crafted as a 'cruising yacht', she was soon regularly beating Amorita, the well known speediest schooner of the 75 foot class, and the Quissetta quickly became the talk of the New York and Newport yachting world that summer. With a new advanced keel design and slightly smaller and lighter than the Amorita, Quissetta excelled in the light seas common in Long Island sound and less commonly in Nantucket Sound. Amorita, who became Quissetta's rival for the speediest schooner of her class, often did better in heavier seas. 1

On August 7, 1900, Quissetta won the New York Yacht Club's prestigious Commodore's Cup of 1900 by beating the Amorita and eight other schooners of her class. In a field of ten schooners, she bested her closest competition, Katrina, by 12 minutes and 37 seconds.2

At the time, Quissetta was owned by Henry F. Lippitt who became a U.S. Senator and was from an important Rhode Island family. The Lippitts owned the Lippitt Woolen Company, The Manville Company and other textile concerns in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.3 His father, Henry Lippitt, and his brother, Charles Warren Lippitt, were Governors of Rhode Island. His brother Robert, who was more involved in the businesses, was the first person to own a bicycle and automobile in Providence.4 In 1915, Senator Henry F. Lippitt married the widow of Thomas Laughlin (of the Laughlin & Jones Steel Company of Pittsburgh). She was also sister of the former First Lady, Mrs. William Howard Taft.5 His Providence home, where this trophy lived, was the Tully Bowen House at 389 Benefit St. on Providence's beautiful east side. The family also had a home in Washington, DC, at 1739 N. St., N.W. 6


  1. R.B. Burchard, 'Racing Schooners: Part II' in Outing Monthly Record: Amateur Sports and Pastimes, November 1896, pp. 171-173.
  2. 'Mineola Led Seventies', The New York Times, 8 August 1900.
  3. 'Robert L. Lippitt Dead', The New York Times, 27 June 1910.
  4. loc. cit.
  5. 'Senator Lippitt Weds Mrs. Laughlin', The New York Times, 27 April 1915.
  6. loc. cit.