Thomas Fletcher & Sidney Gardiner - The Magarge Family 6 Piece Tea and Coffee Service, Philadelphia, c. 1815-20
This magnificent 6 piece tea and coffee service is comprised of a coffee pot, two teapots, a lidded sugar bowl, cream jug and waste bowl. Each piece, in the form of a classical urn, rests on a stepped pedestal foot with a band of die rolled cast of classical decoration. Every midsection is adorned with a horizontal band of classically inspired die rolled cast decoration of scrolling grapes, leaves and vines. The lips of each piece are also decorated with a band similar to that on the foot. The three wooden handles are boldly carved with water leaf thumb rests and are held by cast cornucopia devices. The coffee pot measures 12 inches high and the service weighs approximately 192 troy ounces. It is inscribed inside each foot "Magarge" and "F.W.H." on the outside of the foot.
Thomas Fletcher and Sidney Gardiner ran the most important silversmithey of the young republic, receiving commissions to make the most significant presentation silver of their day, including: The DeWitt Clinton Urns (Erie Canal, now at the Met), The George Armistead Punch Service (Commander at Fort McHenry, now at the Smithsonian), The Isaac Hull Urn (Commander of the Constitution, now in the Naval Historical Foundation's collection), etc.
The leading silversmiths of their day, Fletcher & Gardiner looked to both French and English design sources for their silver and combined the two into a unique aesthetic that was all their own. This early service shows the strong influence of designs from the French court. Although the grape motif is more typically associated with Regency England, the strong vertical orientation of the urn form body is monumental and more French than English in derivation. While the English liked to cover the all surfaces with ornamentation, the French preferred a plain surface to offset bold classical ornamentation, like the die cast bands or the striking handles on the sugar bowl. This style of French empire design was mastered and popularized by Odiot, Napoleon's court silversmith. Fletcher and Gardiner's strong understanding of international designs is masterfully employed here (and in much of their other silver). Probably not by coincidence, the elegant plain surfaces fit well with the owner's Quaker beliefs.
Charles Magarge (1804-1883) was a successful businessman and ultimately a paper magnate of the Wissahickon Valley of Philadelphia, his Germantown mansion still stands today and is used as the Settlement Music School. This set descended through a prominent Boston family. While Magarge was very successful at a young age (he entered the business world at the age of 13), we believe there is a possibility that the service was originally owned by the parents of Magarge's first wife, Ann Hicks, hence the initials "F.W.H.".
Six piece services from this period are very rare. Before the discovery of the Comstock Load in the 1860's, silver was an expensive precious metal. This much silver represented a large and important investment.