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William Gale & Son Pair of American Coin Silver Presentation Goblets, New York, c. 1852, of Southern Interest

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These lovely goblets feature floral and foliate repoussé work in the rococo revival style (or the 'French Style' as it was known then), popular around 1850. The undulating rims have cast and applied bands of scrollwork and the pedestal feet continue the repoussé decoration. These important goblets measure 6.375 inches high and weigh a combined 16.85 troy ounces. They bear the trade mark of William Gale & Son along with the retailer's mark of Mitchell & Tyler.

Retailed by Mitchell & Tyler of Richmond Virginia, these presentation goblets are unique artifacts of the antebellum South. One is inscribed:
H. M. Nelson
The Va. Agl. Soc.
The other is inscribed:
H. M. Nelson
The Md. Agl. Soc.

Major Hugh Mortimer Nelson, M. A., was an important Virginian and famous agricultural innovator. In 1842, he purchased Long Branch plantation in the Piedmont town of Millwood from his uncle Philip Nelson, who ran a girl's school there.(1) Before long, he upgraded the plantation to the most modern agricultural enterprises. He was known throughout the region for progressive and successful farming.(2)

In this capacity [as a farmer], too, he was eminently successful, and made for himself a state reputation, rarely returning from agricultural fairs, so frequent before the war, without almost an undue proportion of premiums [prizes]. His hospitable [side]board was enriched by handsome goblets and silver services obtained in these civic contests.(3)

This quote is taken from The University Memorial; biographical sketches of alumni of the University of Virginia who fell in the Confederate War, published in 1871.4 It is exceptionally rare to find contemporaneous written documentation of American decorative arts objects such as these goblets being used, making these extremely well documented antiques.

Grandson of General Thomas Nelson, signer of the Declaration of Independence and Governor of Virginia during the Revolutionary War, Hugh M. Nelson was one of the first people to receive a Masters degree from the University of Virginia.(4) When the 'Confederate War' began, Nelson raised a volunteer cavalry brigade. He served under Major (later General) J. E. B. Stuart and General Ewell. In 1862 he died from typhoid fever.(5)

William Gale was one of New York's leading silversmiths of the 19th century and some of his silver was retailed in the South. Most of what we have seen was sold in Charleston, SC, where he was in a partnership with Nathaniel Hayden.

Condition: Very good/ excellent. These goblets retain their original interior gilding and show light wear to some highlights.

Provenance: By descent in the family.

Our Price: SOLD

Item code: K43

  1. Historic Long Branch Web-site.
  2. John L. Johnson, compiler, The University Memorial; biographical sketches of alumni of the University of Virginia who fell in the Confederate War, five volumes in one. (Baltimore: Turnbull Brothers, 1871), p. 208.
  3. loc. cit.
  4. Ibid., p. 206.
  5. Ibid., p. 216.