H3109

Obadiah Rich (attr.) 6-piece Antique Coin Silver Coffee and Tea Service, retailed by Lows, Ball & Company, Boston, c. 1840, owned by Charles L. Wilson


This spectacular service is a rare example of early American silver from Boston. It is of exceptional craftsmanship, quality and weight. It consists of a large coffee pot, teapot, creamer, covered sugar bowl, waste bowl and a rare hot milk pot.

The rare tapering octagonal paneled form from the 1840's is one of our favorite styles of the 19th century. Referred to as the 'octagonal' style when made, it was the most expensive style available at the time due to the hard work involved in crafting the shaped body and parts. On applied stepped octagonal feet, the octagonal bodies rise to molded rims. The stepped covers, also of octagonal panels, feature dynamic 18th century inspired octagonal finials. Flat surfaces are extremely difficult for silversmiths to execute and this service is a testament to exceptional silversmithing skills.

Not only are the individual pieces classical and elegant, the decoration is also outstanding. Each panel is beautifully hand-engraved with floral and foliate swirls, scrolls, birds and romantic scenery. Even the shaped handles and spouts are decorated. The spout opening on the hot milk is shaped like a heart (see below).

The cartouches decorating the panels of the pots and creamer consist of swirls and foliate engraving, some also incorporate birds.

The covered sugar bowl also has two panels with romanticized scenes. One is of a solitary man fishing with a small boat, bridge and mountains in the background.The other panel depicts a chinoiserie styled house on a hill overlooking a river with a sailboat.

This example is large and beautifully decorated. It also incorporates the fine engraved foliage and birds. One of the panels has a lovely depiction of swans and another has a bird eating fruit emanating from a large flower.

All of the pieces are monogrammed on one side in a cursive style 'CWF', for Caroline Farrar Wilson, the wife of Charles Lush Wilson.

Charles Lush Wilson, publisher of the influential Chicago Daily Journal, was a founding member of the Illinois Republican Party and a friend of Abraham Lincoln. He nominated Lincoln to run against Stephen Douglas for Senate in 1858 as the ‘first, last and only choice’ of the party. Some credit Wilson with proposing the Lincoln-Douglas debates. During Lincoln’s administration, he served as Secretary to the Legation in London until he returned to his paper in 1863. It is likely that Lincoln used or was served from this set.

Obadiah Rich was the most important silversmith working in Boston from 1825-50 and his work can be found in important museum collections. Unfortunately, Rich marked little of his work but sold most of it through other retailers. This rare piece was sold by Lows, Ball & Co., one of the predecessor firms to the venerable Boston jeweler Shreve, Crump & Low. Rich's most important commissions came from these firms.

All of the pieces are marked 'LOWS, BALL & COMPANY'. The hot milk pitcher is also marked 'Pure Silver Coin/ Boston'. The coffee pot measures 9.5 inches across the spout and handle by 8.75 inches high and weighs an impressive 29.35 troy ounces. The total weight of the service is 112.45 troy ounces and it is in excellent antique condition.

Provenance: Charles Lush Wilson and by descent in his family.
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