William Wilson & Son Antique Sterling Silver Nautical Tureen, Philadelphia, PA, c. 1880s
An undulating, hammered surface showcases the wonderful sea life on this spectacular large, oval tureen with an under tray. Hammering on the oval body represents a sparkling sea with an array of nautical creatures. Represented are repousséd crabs, octopuses, a skate, and various types of fish and shellfish amongst sea grasses and coral.
Bold handles of growing coral are lovely, as is the wavy cover with swirling water around a magnificent shell handle. The associated under tray has an equally lovely border with a plain interior engraved "CCW" and is deep enough to be used as a separate serving dish.
William Wilson & Son was the successor firm to R. & W. Wilson, the important Philadelphia silversmiths. The timing of the succession is complex because William & Son extensively used the R. & W. trade name well into the 1870s. (1) Brothers Robert and William had died by 1859, leaving the firm to William's son Robert. He was using both trade names when this c. 1860 photo of the manufactory was taken and using the William Wilson & Sons trade name when winning a contract for U.S. Naval Medals in 1862. (2)
William Wilson & Son/ R & W Wilson Philadelphia shop c. 1860 at the corner of Cherry and 5th streets. Photo by Henry B Odiorne courtesy of the Library Company of Philadelphia.
This Robert died in 1863, with his widow Catherine continuing as a partner in the firm(s). In 1883, William Wilson & Son Silversmiths Company was incorporated under the Presidency of Horace S. Woodbury. (3) It was about this time Eugene Ketterlinus became an owner of the firm (and the firm apparently stopped using the R & W trade name). He left after a few years, later working for Gorham in New York, then Boston. The Wilson firm "failed" a few years after Ketterlinus left but continued until the early 20th century. (4)
For a brief period in the 1880s, William Wilson & Son made exceptional aesthetic movement silver, this being the finest example we know.
Provenance: Sothebys, Important Americana, Prints, Porcelain and Silver, New York City, NY, January 15, 1999, lot 55. Private Collection.
This exquisite tureen and undertray are marked with William Wilson & Son's trademark and "STERLING." The tureen and undertray are also stamped '202' and '302', respectively. The tureen measures 17.25 inches across the handles by 9 inches wide by 6 inches tall. The set weighs 107.80 troy ounces and is in excellent antique condition retaining most of its original gilt interior. The rare stand was matched by the previous owner.
Freeman's, American Furniture, Folk & Decorative Arts, November 15, 2017, Lot 406, was an R. & W. Wilson presentation tray to the "Centennial Treasurer of the City of Philadelphia 1876."
MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS - 1863–1963, PREPARED FOR THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS OF THE COMMITTEE ON LABOR AND PUBLIC WELFARE UNITED STATES SENATE. US Government Printing Office, 1964, p. 16
Catherine B. Hollan, Philadelphia Silversmiths and Related Artisans to 1861, (McLean: Hollan Press, 2013), pp. 220-21. Several dates come from this.
"Death of Eugene Ketterlinus" in the Jewelers' Circular and Horological Review, October 16, 1895, p 23.
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