Thomas Warner - The Hollingsworth/ Morris Family Large Round American Silver Tray, Baltimore, c. 1805
One of this finest Federal era pieces of silver that we've had the privilege to offer, this fine salver features wonderful neoclassical bright cut engraving inside the reeded border. Very large for its time, it measures 18 inches in diameter and rests on four reeded feet. It was raised by hand from an ingot with the border drawn and applied. Hand raising such a large flat piece like this is very difficult, and only the most skilled silversmiths could accomplish such a feat. Engraved in the center is the crest and cypher of the third owner, John B. Morris.
Thomas Warner and his brother Andrew Ellicott Warner were very important Baltimore silversmiths. Thomas opened his shop on Gay Street in 1803 and was in partnership with his brother by 1805. Pieces from this period are found with his mark and a mark in partnership with his brother. Silver from Thomas Warner's shop rarely comes on the market today and this is the largest single item we know bearing his mark.
In 1815, Baltimore set up an assay office where all silver made in Baltimore had to be tested for purity – the only place in the United States to do so (testing silver became optional in 1830 and the assay office closed in 1842). After serving in the war of 1812, Thomas Warner became the first assay master in Baltimore – a role of great trust and responsibility.
Thomas Hollingsworth (1747-1815), the original owner of the tray, was a successful Baltimore merchant. His daughter, Ann, married John Boucher Morris (apparently unrelated to the Philadelphia financier) in 1817. During a period of great economic expansion, Morris became one of Baltimore's leading citizens. Active in politics, business and finance, Morris was one of the founders of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1827. He served on the city council and in the state senate.
Active in the banking world, Morris was the president of the First Bank of Maryland. Matchett's Baltimore Directory for 1827 notes: "Morris, John B president of the Bank of Maryland, South St. E side 1 door N of the Bank". Not only did he run the bank, he lived next door.
When U.S. President Andrew Jackson withdrew Treasury deposits from the Second Bank of the United States in 1833, he precipitated a banking crisis during which many banks failed. In August of 1834, the First Bank of Maryland failed. After a year of investigations (discovering no criminal activities by Morris) and no return of funds, protests and riots against the Bank and its officers broke out in August of 1835 and lasted for 5 days and nights.
The Baltimore 'Bank Riots' were big news throughout the country. To quote the New Hampshire Sentinel of August 20, 1835 (page 2):
[after ransacking the bank and the homes of other bank officers] The mob have now left Johnson's house, and gone to that of John B. Morris, in South Street, who is one of the trustees, who holds the books for the Bank of Maryland. They have broken into the house, thrown out all the elegant furniture, and are now burning it in the street in front of the dwelling….Wherever they go, they find wine in abundance; they drink, and become more devilish and hellish in their deeds….While I write, the engines are rushing by and "Fire!" is cried loud and long.
Family history adds to this account that Morris fled to the country leaving the house unprotected. A servant from a neighbor's house saved the family silver by concealing it in a pit in the stables. This round tray has led quite a life!