American Silver and Plate

American silver was made first in the mid-seventeenth century, and for a considerable time after showed strong foreign influences: Dutch, French and Scandinavian clearly being discernible in many instances. Further, the earliest silversmiths were two Englishmen, John Hull and Robert Sanderson, of Boston, Massachusetts. While makers' marks are found, either in the form of initials or the full name, date letters were not used. Pieces can be dated only by their style, by the known working-period of their maker or, if there is a dated one, by an inscription. Early American silver is very rare, and most of the important surviving specimens are in museums in the major cities or in the art galleries of colleges.

Among the earlier successful Boston makers were John Allen and John Edwards, Jeremiah Dummer, Edward Winslow and John Coney. The latter took as apprentice the famous patriot and silversmith, Paul Revere (1735-1818), whose ride from Charlestown to Lexington in 1775 was immortalized with due poetic license by Longfellow. Revere is not only an American hero, but his craftsmanship has earned him the appreciation of collectors.

New York boasted a group of Dutch makers together with others of French descent. Other centres of silver-making were Philadelphia, Connecticut, Baltimore and Annapolis in Maryland, and Newport, Rhode Island. The variety of pieces made was much smaller than that of European countries. On the whole, large pieces were either never made or have disappeared; a Baltimore soup- tureen is believed to be unique.

In view of its rarity and the zeal with which it is sought, American silver has been faked. Ingeniously, English and foreign pieces have had marks removed, leaving only one or more that might be interpreted as those of an American maker.

Collectable Antiques: