Rogers and Wendt Sterling Silver Classical Ewer, Boston, retailed by J.E. Caldwell of Philadelphia, c. 1855-60
This wonderful classical ewer features a fluted body with die rolled oval decoration around the waist and rim, with a graceful lip. The neck is decorated with bright-cut classical paterae-based engraving and two cartouches, one of which is engraved 'CCW' in a beautiful foliate script style. The base of the foot is lobed around the edge. Boldly cast, the applied classical handle is reeded with classical acanthus leaf decoration at each terminus.
The underside of this wonderful ewer is marked 'J. E. CALDWELL & CO./ PHILA./ STERLING.' It is also marked with three pseudo hallmarks: a female bust facing left, a device similar to the London leopard's head, and a lion passant. It measures 13.5 inches high, weighs 38.7 troy ounces and is in very good/ excellent antique condition.
John Rudolph Wendt is well known today as Ball, Black & Co.'s independent master silversmith, working much in the same way John & Edward Moore did with Tiffany & Co. before they were subsumed by Tiffany in 1869. However very little is known of Wendt's formative years in Boston. After arriving from Germany, he quickly gained a reputation as a highly skilled designer and chaser(1) and soon was a partner with Augustus Rogers, a seasoned silversmith who wholesaled his silver to many local retail firms.(2)
In Leading Pursuits and Leading Men (1856), Edwin T. Freedley notes that Rogers and Wendt: 'are said to be the largest exclusive manufacturers of hollow silver-ware in Boston, and probably in the Union…they are prepared to receive orders from all parts of the United States, and execute them with fidelity and dispatch.'(3)
Although rare marked examples of their work exist that were retailed in Boston, until now there has been no evidence of wholesale trade throughout the United States. While this ewer does not bear a documented Rogers and Wendt mark, it is the same pattern, with nearly identical engraving, as a marked tea service in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, dating to 1857. It bears previously undocumented pseudo-hallmarks which must now be identified with Rogers and Wendt. (While there must have been exceptions to this rule, it is traditional in the silversmithing trade for a maker to mark items with the retailer's mark. By the early twentieth century, Gorham was charging a nominal fee for this service which before had been included in the price of the silver.)
Further information on the Museum of Fine Arts Coffee Service can be read here.
The implications of this piece when analyzing the budding career of John R. Wendt are enormous. When Wendt moved to New York in 1860, he did so with many business connections he had already made in Boston during his partnership with Rogers. He was not starting anew. His relationship with J.E. Caldwell was very important; Caldwell retailed many pieces made by Wendt during his later years in New York. This ewer documents the origins of that relationship to Wendt's early days in Boston.
Edwin T. Freedley, Leading Pursuits and Leading Men: A Treatise on the Principal Trades and Manufactures of the United States, showing the Progress, State and Prospects of Business…, (1856, Philadelphia: Edward Young), p. 397.
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