Fine examples of ice bowls are exceedingly rare and this example features dramatic designs and is made of exceptional quality.
The large, round bowl has its original removable pierced strainer and a polished interior. The rim has an applied band of hanging classical anthemion leaves giving it a lovely decorative edge while also strengthening the rim. This stunning bowl has an overall soft matte finish to the exterior.Beautifully engraved on one side is the following presentation:
Presented to William R. Higby Esq.
as a mark of esteem by
N. A. Baldwin, J. B. Stevens,
Eugene Thorne, H. C. Baldwin,
R. C. Livingston
Feb. 16th 1872
William Riley Higby (1825-1902) was involved in banking and fire insurance businesses and in 1872 was city treasurer in Bridgeport, Connecticut. 'Mr. Higby was one of the most prominent and best-known Masons in the state'.(1)
The conical pedestal uses a larger version of the same banded decoration, however this time the leaves point upwards. These decorative leaves are against a background of horizontal lines. The pedestal acts as a reservoir to hold melted water from the ice.
The base of the bowl has splayed, semicircle designs terminating with rectangular plinths on the ends. Standing atop the plinths are majestic polar bears. The castings are exquisite with expressive faces and details.
It is easy to forget how important ice was in a world before the refrigerator. Unlike Western Europe, North America produced abundant supplies of clean ice. The clean rivers and lakes along with the cold winters allowed for bountiful ice 'harvesting' in the winter and early spring. Americans developed this resource and created markets for it by exploiting needs in tropical areas.
In the early 19th century, Henry Tudor and his Wenham Lake Ice Company (of Wenham, MA) improved insulating techniques so his ice could be shipped afar to the West Indies and even Calcutta, India. Henry Thoreau mentions the 'harvesting' of ice from Walden Pond.(2) An appendix to the 1880 U. S. census notes that 8 to 10 million tons of ice were harvested annually in the United States.(3)
Wenham Lake Ice became popular in Europe because, unlike old world ice, it was clean enough to actually put in drinking water and other refreshments. Queen Victoria was so delighted with the clean ice in her drinks that the Wenham Lake Ice Company received a royal warrant!(4)
This exceptional ice bowl is marked underneath 'TIFFANY & CO/ 2644/ QUALITY 925-1000/ 5913/ UNION SQUARE' along with two gothic 'M' marks for John C. Moore. The bowl measures 9 inches in diameter with the polar bears protruding a bit past the edge. It is just shy of 5 inches high and weighs 39.45 troy ounces and is in excellent antique condition.
- William Richard Cutter, New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of Commonwealths and the Founding of a Nation, Volume 3, (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1913) pp. 1477-1478.
- Gavin Weightman, The Frozen-Water Trade: A True Story, (New York: Hyperion, 2003), pp. 169-70
- Weightman, p. 231.
- Weightman, p.184.