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Author Topic:   A Philadelphia triumph
Ulysses Dietz

Posts: 1265
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 01-30-2010 03:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

This amazing object has been acquired by a major museum (not the Met, nor, alas, Newark), but I'll be discreet enough not to blab yet, only to comment that it is just the kind of thing that makes sense in a museum, where it can be interpreted and shown off. It was only overshadowed at the Sotheby's winter Americana sale because of the Kierstede punchbowl, that blew everybody's mind in its pristine condition and its hammer price (see silver before sterling...). Not every beautiful piece of silver needs to be in a museum, but some things just cry out for public display. Now this great object will forever be safe and accessible to all.

Made by Fletcher and Gardiner in Philadelphia in 1829 (or Fletcher at least) it was only marked by a New York retailer, who was related to the silversmiths. A political gift, it was also a political hot potato, since no NY silver maker of the day could produce it, and that fact was a deep secret.

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Posts: 4121
Registered: Apr 99

iconnumber posted 01-30-2010 04:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A political gift, it was also a political hot potato, since no NY silvermaker of the day could produce it, and that fact was a deep secret.

Especially as the funds for its making were raised among NYC merchants who presented it to District Attorney Hugh Maxwell for his successful prosecution of Jacob Barker. To quote from Silversmiths to the Nation, where it is illustrated and detailed:

A conspiratorial aspect of these vases was the role undertaken by Baldwin Gardiner, Sidney's brother and owner of the store in New York to which both commissions came. Baldwin directed Eckford's vase [given to investor Henry Eckford by the same merchants] to local silversmiths and secretly wrote Thomas Fletcher to arrange for Maxwell's. His letter to Fletcher reveals the competitive silver trade between cities:
"Dear Sir: I have been applied to, to make a Splendid Vase & a pair of Pitchers, intended to be presented by the Citizens of new York to Mr. Maxwell (The District Att'y) as a token of their respect and approbation of his course of persecuting the late conspiracy cases, so called – The price to be paid of the Vase & Pitchers, from $800 to $1000. These are the particulars.

If you are disposed to make them, and in such a way as will answer my just expectations of profit, I shall be glad to have you undertake...– and I am ready to say I shall be satisfied with a very small profit; the more so to enable you to bestow the greater pains in their elegant execution, for I shall look as much to the honor of [the] thing, as to the profit. Of course, I shall expect to have my name stamped on the bottom. In order, however, to let you see that I am frank and open on this point, I hold Mr. Cary that I would apply to you, by name, to make them; and have told him that within a week, I would show him your drawings for such as is proposed to make. Mr. Cary told me that he had 'the say' in the business and that I should make them. None of the silversmiths here know that I have the order, as several of them would drop the hammer for me if they knew that I sent to Philad. – and as soon as I am ready for such as course on their part, I shall be very glad to have them. Please let me know your answer and if you intent to undertake them. Let me know how soon I may expect your drawings... N.B. I am now having made besides the 'opposition' vase for Mr. Eckford"

Maxwell, who died in 1873, left this piece in his will to the President of the Law Institute of the City of New York and his successors. It eventually made its way to the New York Historical Society on loan. I suppose the Institute, if they were still the owners of record, felt the need to raise a bit of cash now -- $494,500.00

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