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Samuel Kirk & Son 11oz Silver Footed Salver or Tray Bearing the arms of John Hanson Thomas, c. 1859

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S. Kirk & Son 11oz Silver Footed Salver or Tray Bearing the arms of John Hanson Thomas, c. 1859

A wonderful, large footed waiter or tray, this example has a lovely raised edge decorated with large repousséd classical acanthus leaves against a stippled background. Attached to the underside of the rim are four cast and applied pierced scrolling feet with floral details. The flat surface is covered by diaper work – an engraved surface of repeating squares and fine beading. This particular technique makes the surface sparkle. (And acts to hide scratches – quite practical!)

The central reserve is framed by rococo inspired floral and foliate engraving which surrounds the central crest, coat-of-arms and motto of the Thomas family of Maryland.

The underside of the tray bears the inscription:

'Dr. J. Hanson Thomas/ from his Mother in law/ Mrs. Basil Gordon/ xMas 1859'

When John Hanson Thomas (1813-1881) married Anne Campbell Gordon (1819-1886) on the 15th of November 1837 it was a big deal. He was from an important Maryland family and she was the daughter of one of the richest merchants in Virginia, Basil Gordon.

John Hanson Thomas was the great grandson of John Hanson, one of this country's founding fathers from Maryland. John Hanson was the presiding officer of Congress under the Articles of Confederation and the first person to be titled 'president' of the Congress in 1781, leading some to call him the first president of the United States. In this capacity, Hanson started the US mint, the foreign department -predecessor to the State Department and instituted the bank of North America – our first central bank. He negotiated the peace treaty with Great Britain and declared the fourth Thursday of November as the first national holiday - Thanksgiving! (See: for more information on Hanson.)

John Hanson Thomas continued in his family's political footsteps. He served as mayor of Baltimore from 1850-1852 and also served in the Maryland legislature. In this capacity, he was a leader of the secessionists in 1861. He was arrested and imprisoned at Fort Warren. Hanson was the president of the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Baltimore and officers of the bank tried to secure his parole from prison. After obtaining his parole from Secretary of State William H. Seward, Hanson declined release three times!

Anne Campbell Gordon was the daughter of Bazil Gordon, a merchant from Falmouth Virginia. Bazil Gordon emigrated from Scotland with his brother Samuel in 1786. He started a store which, due to the tobacco industry, grew into a large import/export business and he became one of the richest men in the United States - some claim he was the first millionaire on this continent. Anne's uncle Samuel Gordon purchased Kenmore, the Falmouth Virginia plantation built by Fielding and Betty Washington Lewis, George Washington's sister.

The Thomas's lived in Baltimore and in 1849 commissioned noted architect J. Rudolph Niersee to build them a home at 1 West Mount Vernon Place, on Baltimore's most fashionable square. This classical mansion, known today as Hackerman House, still stands and is now part of the Walters Art Museum. Hackerman House is where this antebellum Kirk tray lived.

This lovely piece of Kirk silver is stamped 'S. KIRK & SON/ 11.OZ'. It measures 18.25 inches long by 13 inches wide, weighs 45.20 troy ounce and is in very good antique condition.