This stunning tankard is beautifully executed and of very high quality. Made from heavy gauge silver, the tapered body has a plain surface with an applied band at the mid section.
The molded base matches the applied border around the top of the body. A stepped dome cover has a beautifully shaped thumb piece and hinge with a drop at the top of the handle. The bold s-scroll handle is engraved under the drop 'T' over 'A*M' and terminates at the base with a convex disc.
James Woolley's handmade silver is rarely seen on the market today. A highly talented silversmith, Woolley is one of only eight silversmiths to win the 'Medalist' designation, the highest honor bestowed by the Boston Society of Arts & Crafts. His work was featured in the Society's 1907 exhibition.(1)
Trained at Gorham, Woolley was an early convert to the movement and worked as a silversmith and jeweler. Early in his career, he shared bench space with the important arts and crafts silversmith George J. Hunt and set up his own shop in 1908.(2) Many of his best pieces are adaptations of colonial models.
In 1906, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts held the first ever exhibition of colonial American silver. The handmade pieces in this exhibit inspired many of the arts and crafts makers in Boston, including Woolley. In fact, this tankard bears a striking resemblance to the circa 1740 Saltonstall family tankard by Jacob Hurd, catalog number 160.(3) In the past we have had arts and crafts silver copied directly from pieces in this exhibit. While we have no evidence of that close a tie here, the inspiration is clear.
This rare arts & crafts tankard is marked underneath with Woolley's trademark 'JW' and 'STERLING/ WOOLLEY'. It measures 6.5 inches across the handle by 8 inches high, weighs an impressive 27.45 troy ounces and is in excellent antique condition.
- Karen Evans Ulehla, Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston Exhibition Record 1897-1927, (Boston: Boston Public Library, 1981).
- Allen H. Eaton, Handicrafts of New England, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1949), p.241.
- J. H. Buck, American Silver: The Work of Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Silversmiths, (Concord: Joslin Hall, 1990 – facsimile reprint of the 1906 edition), p. 69 and plates VIII & XIV.