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Author Topic:   F.W. Cooper Communion Set
Jenniemorgan7

Posts: 8
Registered: Sep 2016

iconnumber posted 09-25-2016 09:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jenniemorgan7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
[26-2599]

Hello!

My name is Jennie and I am from KS. I'm a college student and haven't had the slightest interest in antiques or silver.. until just recently. I recently discovered a beautiful communion set in the basement of a church. It has proved to be such a fascinating mystery, and I can't get enough. Since then, I have done a lot of research online and have looked at a number of these posts. The communion set was donated to the church by someone long ago and was never really looked at. It was inside in an army locker which belonged to a military chaplain in WWII. (Though the two pieces could have been combined much later and be unrelated.) The chalice is signed by "FW Cooper / Amity St. N.Y." Out of curiosity I started researching the person and discovered it was Francis William Cooper, and was probably made between 1853-1863 (the dates I found listed when he lived at Amity St and was making these pieces), and that he was the leading maker of ecclesiastical silver during that time. The closest thing I can find to it is this listing of a Traveling Communion set at Sotheby's:
[snip ... please read the guidelines]

I have the paten, chalice, and the box. The bottle is missing, but there is clearly a place for it in the case. My question is in regards to a monogrammed "M" that is on both pieces. The chalice has both F.W. Cooper's signature, and the letter "M", where as the paten only has the monogram "M." At first I thought this might refer to the name of the owner or cathedral, as I've noticed that many (or most?) of FW Cooper's pieces were specifically for one cathedral or another. It is also very large; on the paten it takes up the majority of the bottom. For that reason I thought it might be more significant than just another maker's mark. On the other hand, I've come to think that it might be in relation to Edward Moore, also a silversmith, and at one point, a person in charge at Tiffany & Co. The "M" looks like his stamp when he worked at Tiffanys and I did read that FW Cooper had sold pieces through Tiffany & Co. However, I've read that when FW Cooper did sell his works through another company (he also sold through Black & Co.), he did not sign his own name. I haven't been able to find anything that would connect the two silversmiths, though clearly they would have known each other and probably sold pieces to the same company. Another thought was that maybe Edward Moore and FW Cooper worked on the piece before Moore's company was bought by Tiffany & Co. Other questions remaining... if it IS Edward Moore's mark... why would it take both of them to make the chalice? And why would only Moore have signed the paten? And on even closer inspection... why do the two "M"s have pretty obvious differences when they are compared? They are both clearly part of the same set.

I would love to know if anybody can shed light on this, or even has a guess. It's a very fascinating mystery.


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Scott Martin
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Posts: 11377
Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 09-25-2016 09:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Do you now own this set? And is it now apart of your personal collection?

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Jenniemorgan7

Posts: 8
Registered: Sep 2016

iconnumber posted 09-25-2016 09:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jenniemorgan7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Scott Martin:
Do you now own this set? And is it now apart of your personal collection?


No, it is not. After my mom and I found it, she asked me to take pictures, with the intention of sending them out to church members and asking if anybody had information as to where it came from. When I looked up the name FW Cooper, I realized it was really old and could have value. I informed my mom, who is a deacon at the church, and she relayed the information to the higher-ups. There was talk of doing more research and putting the set on display. However now there are some politics are going on, and a former priest in another state is laying claim to it. At the moment it looks like it will be shipped to him. I'm sorry if this is against the guidelines. I just got really into it and want to know if anybody has an idea about the initial.

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Scott Martin
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iconnumber posted 09-25-2016 10:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
others may have more to say...

I suspect the minor apparent differences in the "m"'s is most likly because they were hand engraved; perhaps at different times by different persons.

Are there any church records about the set?

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Jenniemorgan7

Posts: 8
Registered: Sep 2016

iconnumber posted 09-25-2016 10:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jenniemorgan7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Scott Martin:
others may have more to say...

I suspect the minor apparent differences in the "m"'s is most likly because they were hand engraved; perhaps at different times by different persons.

Are there any church records about the set?


No. The most we know is that a man bought it at a garage sale or auction on the East coast, before moving to KS. At some point he donated it to this particular priest because he knew he was also an army chaplain in the Vietnam war. (Though the initial story was that it was donated for use on picnics and for youth activities.) I haven't found out whether or not the communion set came inside the army foot locker, or if he was the one who put it in. There was another silver communion set inside as well. It has 8 pcs, however that one is plain and has no identifiable markings.

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Roger Nevling

Posts: 58
Registered: Oct 2005

iconnumber posted 09-26-2016 09:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Roger Nevling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi Jennie, welcome to the forum. Hopefully this interest you have in the communion set will spark a lifelong interest in silver and it's history. It's surprising that the church would consider sending the set to the priest. In general, when silver has been donated to a "church" it stays with the church, not to the priest, clergy. But that's part of the mystery here. Well good luck and glad to have you here. BTW, the M has nothing to do with who made the set but whom it was either initially given to or who might have ordered it made. Others agree?

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asheland

Posts: 925
Registered: Nov 2003

iconnumber posted 09-26-2016 10:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for asheland     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Nice looking piece. Appears to be coin silver but that M is just a monogram.

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Jenniemorgan7

Posts: 8
Registered: Sep 2016

iconnumber posted 09-26-2016 02:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jenniemorgan7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you all for the information!

I have become very fascinated with this and think it might be something I'll pursue in the future. I don't know where to go from here though, but I'll peruse this site and see if there are any local resources available where I live. Out of curiosity, do you have a personal collection, or are you just interested in the subject? I remembered that a friend's dad picked up the hobby of collecting antique silver, though mostly antique teapots. I'm not sure how serious or knowledgeable he is, but I'll see if he has anything to say.

Back to the communion set, any guess as to whether the M might stand for a person, or a specific cathedral? I've seen other works of his that were specifically for one or the other, but never saw any monograms. I saw some secular work that he made, but those had the person's full name prominently engraved. I know it's a long shot, but I'm trying to cross reference "M" with cathedrals that the military chaplain spent a lot of time at in NY. My thought process is that maybe the set was for a specific cathedral, and the chaplain used it and brought it along with him? His name was Ernest Sinfield, and I found some interesting articles on him as well. In 1944 he was on the front lines in Germany in WWII. One particular article said that he was the chaplain of a crudely erected church near the front lines, and that battle sounds could be heard while they were inside. It is crazy to think that one or both of the communion sets inside that army locker could have been with him, but again, they could be unrelated. After searching, I found an article a woman wrote on FW Cooper's ecclesiastical silver. It was her master's thesis, published in 1999, and I was able to access the article through my university... The internet does provide some incredible resources. I was able to find her and she is most recently a professor in Boston. I e-mailed her but haven't heard back yet. She may have more information, but I think she'll be interested in the story in any case. Wish I had more information, but the trail may end here.

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Vetdaddy

Posts: 70
Registered: Feb 2016

iconnumber posted 09-26-2016 07:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Vetdaddy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Jennie,

Very interesting and thanks for posting. Sounds like the "silver bug" may have indeed bitten you.

I would agree that the "M" is simply a monogram that may or may not be associated with the original owner. As we know, silver was oftentimes donated to churches, so this could represent ownership prior to the church's acquisition. I am sure if a church removed a monogram, denying recognition to the donor, that would be frowned upon.

Please keep us updated if you find more pieces to this puzzle.

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Kimo

Posts: 1597
Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 09-27-2016 01:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kimo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree with the others that the M is only a monogram. It could have been added by the retailer when the set was purchased, or it could have been added at some later point in time. I would not think that it was engraved on there by the maker, though anything is possible. The date of the engraving is almost impossible to tell other than it does not look like it was done in the past few years. The M could stand for a person's name - either a donor or a priest - or it could stand for the name of a church or even a cathedral, though I would think a simple church might be more likely than a grand cathedral.

My thought about sending it off to the former priest is that your church leaders should do just a bit of investigation as to who is the owner and get a bit of proof before sending it off.

Also, the romantic story of it belonging to a WW 2 chaplain of a rustic church on the front lines with the sounds of battle going on should be taken with a very large grain of salt and perhaps an entire salt shaker of salt. Such stories that are passed down are possible but they are rarely true.

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Jenniemorgan7

Posts: 8
Registered: Sep 2016

iconnumber posted 09-27-2016 10:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jenniemorgan7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ha.. yes I have been known to get a little carried away with things occasionally. I know the chaplain was there, but it is somewhat of a stretch to think that this set - or the other plain one - was with him. (Ok, maybe a bit more than a stretch.) Thank you for the information about the monogram! It never occurred to me that someone else would have engraved it later, possibly much more recently. Next week I will hopefully be able to talk to the man who brought these from the east coast. The story I've heard is that he bought them at a garage sale or auction. I don't know how much he remembers, but I think a few simple questions could shed some light on it at least.

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Jenniemorgan7

Posts: 8
Registered: Sep 2016

iconnumber posted 09-27-2016 10:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jenniemorgan7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Vetdaddy:
Jennie,

Very interesting and thanks for posting. Sounds like the "silver bug" may have indeed bitten you.

I would agree that the "M" is simply a monogram that may or may not be associated with the original owner. As we know, silver was oftentimes donated to churches, so this could represent ownership prior to the church's acquisition. I am sure if a church removed a monogram, denying recognition to the donor, that would be frowned upon.

Please keep us updated if you find more pieces to this puzzle.


I'm afraid you're right about the silver bug! I've been reading a book from the library about early Tiffany silver. It's also interesting because I am taking a history class and studying the same time period. I'll let you know if I find more information. Hopefully next week I will be able to talk to the man who bought them at a garage sale or auction on the East coast. I don't know if he remembers anything specific, but I really have some questions to ask him.

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Jenniemorgan7

Posts: 8
Registered: Sep 2016

iconnumber posted 09-27-2016 10:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jenniemorgan7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Kimo:
I agree with the others that the M is only a monogram. It could have been added by the retailer when the set was purchased, or it could have been added at some later point in time. I would not think that it was engraved on there by the maker, though anything is possible.

Is it common that the silver maker would only put his mark on one of the items? FW cooper is stamped on chalice, but not paten.

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asheland

Posts: 925
Registered: Nov 2003

iconnumber posted 09-27-2016 10:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for asheland     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Welcome to the forum, you'll find this hobby is fun indeed!

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Vetdaddy

Posts: 70
Registered: Feb 2016

iconnumber posted 09-27-2016 11:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Vetdaddy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Jennie,

As to the makers mark missing on one of the items- I would say that this does occur, especially on older pieces. I have a tea set from the 1820's where one piece is missing the makers mark and one piece has two marks. Some coin silver items that I have from the Civil War era have no makers mark, but the attribution to a particular maker would be universally accepted. Let your eye be the judge rather than rely solely on the mark. Your eye should tell you if the pieces are likely from the same maker and from the same era.

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Kimo

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Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 09-28-2016 01:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kimo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Unlike some other countries, in the US there is no requirement that silverware be marked. US makers mark their products for several reasons - to show pride that they made it, for advertising/marketing so others will seek out and buy their products if they like something that they have come across, sometimes for internal inventory control, to give the impression that their work is equal to work done in other countries where some markings are legally required, etc. Some US makers are careful to mark anything coming out of their factory/workshop and some are a bit more relaxed about it especially if they make a set that they think will be sold as a set, marking every piece, or using a less than complete set of markings of every piece of the set is sometimes seen. Though, there is always the possibility that one of the parts of a set might get lost, damaged or stolen and the owner decides to get a replacement. If they cannot find a single replacement item from the original maker for some reason such as it being many years later and the original maker is no longer in business or something, then they can either find something that will go with their set from another maker, or they can commission any competent silversmith to make a replacement. In such cases there may or may not be markings on the replaced items, though if there are they would be different from the ones on the remaining original parts of the set.

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Jenniemorgan7

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Registered: Sep 2016

iconnumber posted 09-29-2016 09:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jenniemorgan7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you for the information!

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middletom

Posts: 467
Registered: May 2004

iconnumber posted 11-09-2016 09:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for middletom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is only a side to the main subject, but at ONC we once sold through a store called F W Cooper. Perhaps it was located in New York, but that was before my time at the company. I believe we still have the stamp for "FWCooper", but I don't know when we stopped making silver for them. It was, obviously, long after Cooper himself made silver.
Geoff Blake

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