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Author Topic:   Pierced tongs
ahwt

Posts: 2173
Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 05-10-2004 11:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ahwt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

The pictures show tongs of the pierced style with a solid top that extends to the open work and cast grips on the opposite end of the open work. The hearts and the engraved doves provide a folk art feeling to the work that is very charming. The solid top is long enough to provide spring and the central portion is delicate and appears to have been cut rather than cast. From the limited number of cutout or pierced style tongs that I have seen it would appear that most have central portions that are cast.

These tongs are marked SW. Any ideas on the silversmith would be appreciated as I have never been able to attribute this mark to a silversmith.

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labarbedor

Posts: 353
Registered: Jun 2002

iconnumber posted 05-11-2004 01:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for labarbedor     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I take back my comments on my string about ugly pierced tongs. Yours are great. I can't make out the mark very well, but I would love to see a close up.

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ahwt

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iconnumber posted 05-12-2004 02:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ahwt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

I added some pictures of the engraved dove as it bears a resemblance to an engraving on the gold clasp shown on page 432 (Number 448) American Silver at Winterthur, by Ian M.G. Quimby. That clasp is indicated as ca. 1790. Silversmiths in that general time period with the initials SW were Samuel Warner, Philadelphia c1797 and Baltimore 1810, Samuel Waters Boston c 1803, Simon Wedge, Baltimore c1798, Silas White, NY 1791 and Samuel Williamson, Philadelphia, 1794. The only mark I have found that is at all similar is that shown by Robert Alan Green for Samuel Water, however even that one has doubt as his rendition is not a photograph. I am assuming that it is American and I agree with you Maurice that it is attractive.

I also added some pictures showing sugar tongs with a Basket of Flowers design that appears identical to one shown in Ms Goldsborough's book on Maryland Silver in the Collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art at page 151, cat. No.180. The baskets have a distinctive feature of five vertical lines overlaid on many horizontal lines. These tongs have the mark of William Huntington while the Maryland tongs have the mark of Robert and Andrew Campbell.

In John R. McGrew's article entitled Basket of Flowers, in the March April 1989 issue of Silver, all of the baskets have cross hatching in the body of the basket. His article provides a wonderful review of flowers portion, but does not mention differences in the basket portion. I have followed pictures on the internet of the basket of flowers design and have yet to see one like the Campbell or Huntington design. The Huntington piece is also unusual as it has two baskets on each leg that are slightly different in size. Any information on this basket would be appreciated.

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labarbedor

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Registered: Jun 2002

iconnumber posted 05-12-2004 06:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for labarbedor     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I usually let Swarter cover syles etc, but I guess I will weigh in here. I can't tell from the photos, but it doesn't look like the grips are soldered onto the arms. It would surprise me if they weren't all one piece. I would presume that they be cast in one piece, then the cut out work would be cleaned up, etc. Of course cast silver doesn't have much spring, so either I misunderstood or I am wrong. Do you see a solder join, except of course the ones that attach to the bow part?

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 05-12-2004 07:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My feeling is that the arms should be each cast in one piece, including the grips; cast silver should be too brittle to be bent repeatedly, as Maurice suggests, so the center section should be forged and joined to the arms, as is typical for this type of construction. Well-done silver soldered joints can be difficult to detect.

I have been slow to respond on these cast tongs because I really don't know what to make of them, except to wish they were mine!

The dove and olive branch are symbolic of the events surrounding the end of the biblical flood, and are almost universal in the Western world, so it does not necessarily imply an American origin. If indeed they are American, as we would hope they would be, they most likely would be of Southeastern Pennsylvania origin. The symbol appears most frequently on spoon backs in that area (but also elsewhere - on English picturebacks, for example). The use of doves, hearts and other symbols also appear commonly in Pennsylvania Dutch decorative themes, but these have been traced to European origin (German, Swiss, etc.) I cannot escape the feeling that these might be of continental origin, perhaps Scandinavian (the zig-zag border at the top of the pierced arms may be a significant clue in this regard), otherwise one would think there would be others like them around.

Not much help, I am afraid, but congratulations on finding an extraordinary piece, nonetheless.

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ahwt

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Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 05-12-2004 09:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ahwt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I looked several times and I think I do see a fine line on one of the legs as it meets top section. I still do not see anything where the grips meet the legs so the legs and the grip may have been cast as one piece.

A Scandinavian origin may be something to look into. Thank you very much for the help.

I would add that considering the short top portion they actually have a fair amount of spring when I squeeze them.

On the basket tongs I miscounted and there are actually seven vertical lined not five. The construction of the basket may be a clue as that basket is not like any my wife collects.

Thanks again for your help.

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labarbedor

Posts: 353
Registered: Jun 2002

iconnumber posted 05-12-2004 09:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for labarbedor     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As usual Swarter points out some very subtle characteristics to look at. I agree on Pa. origin, as I have a pair of tongs similar to those shown in the Lancaster book which show very similar decoration. Also I agree with the possible Scandinavian origin. Some time back I posted a pastry tool, with a heart motif, in the back of my mind I have always had a sneeking suspicion of a similar origin. I rather doubt the German or Swiss origin, only because I have seen a lot of these and don't remember anything similar. A picture of the monogram, if there is one, would help.
I still lean towards their being American. In any case they are great in every respect.

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ahwt

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Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 05-12-2004 10:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ahwt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

Here is a picture of the monogram. The first letter is a T and the last is an M. Not sure about the middle initial and it does have nice feathering. If feathering is what the extra little lines are called.

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labarbedor

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iconnumber posted 05-12-2004 11:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for labarbedor     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I would say that monogram says American or possible Irish. I will do some checking

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 05-12-2004 11:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Regarding the basket of flowers, a unique swage, like the milled bands on the Lownes pot discussed a while ago, could be used to trace items sold in different locations to common source. In this case, a Philidelphia origin is indicated for the tongs because the eagle punch that appears on the tongs marked by Huntington, who is probably only the retailer, is traceable to a Philadelphia origin, although the specific shop, if thete is one, has not been conclusively identified. Much Baltimore retailed silver, even though marked by recognized silversmiths, has been documented as traceable to a Philidelphia origin. In the case of the Campbell spoon, the photograph is small, and in my copy, faint, but I think there are small differences which would indicate they are not from the same swage as either of the two on the tongs, but possibly all three swages will prove to be by the same Philadelphia engraver or die sinker, should the design be demonstrated to be restricted in its geographical occurence to the Philadelphia - Baltimore - Wilmington area.

This discussion seems somewhat rambling - I hope it makes sense.

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t-man-nc

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iconnumber posted 05-13-2004 05:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for t-man-nc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think the middle initial is an "L"...
So "TLM" I think...

I agree with Swarter, I would have loved to have found these myself! Just wonderful!

"Smaug"

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 05-13-2004 05:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Sorry to be contrary, but ordinarily, in this style of script, the upper portions of the S and L are the same, but the lower loop of the L crosses over to the right, while in the S it curls over entirely on the left, so I would read these as TSM. Engravers followed popular London style books quite closely, and only rarely vary from the proscribed fonts.

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ahwt

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iconnumber posted 05-14-2004 12:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ahwt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the great instruction. On the basket tongs I never really thought that someone other that Huntington made the eagle punch. I think what you are saying is that the actual maker of the tongs put on the eagle punch before they shipped it to Huntington. Since the eagle is on other pieces marked W. Huntington, he most likely had a long business relationship with the same manufacturer. Hogan's book on the Huntington family is a little unclear, but seems to say that this mark is not the one most often found on items with one of the William Huntington marks. Perhaps the marks without the eagle were actually made by William.

Was it customary for the retailer to stamp on his own name or would Huntington have had that done by the manufacturer? I have only seen a limited number of items marked W. Huntington with the eagle, but I have never seen one that has W. Huntington without the eagle. Perhaps the manufacturer also put on the rest of the mark.

Also, I have seen some pieces where retailer's name is spelled differently and have wondered if the manufacturer put on the name of the retailer and just did not get it right.
I think you are right in that there are differences in the basket of flowers of Campbell and Huntington although the baskets of both do seem the have the upright members without any obvious cross hatching. I have been looking for that feature for a long time and just have not found it.

Thanks again for the wonderful observations.

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 05-14-2004 01:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Your interpretation is correct. That particular eagle punch apoears on pieces marked with the names of literally dozens of other resellers, in and around Philadelphia, and even a few farther removed. The practice of wholesale makers trademarking their silver which was then remarked by resellers, and even in a few cases using a unique punch to supply a reseller with silver premarked with the reseller's name, has been well documented in the literature. This is not to say that a reseller could not not have made other silver himself, but only that his trade volume may have exceeded his ability (or desire) to produce enough himself.

I should also add that the absence of a trademark - or a second unassociated name - on a piece does not guarantee that it was made by the one whose mark appears alone, as all suppliers did not mark their wares provided for resale by others. It is well documented by surviving day-books of earlier silversmiths that it was not uncommon for them to contract for silver to be made for them by others whose marks never appear on ony known examples marked by the smith who resold them. Two better known examples: (1)Joseph Richardson imported extensively from England, and either resold hallmarked pieces without his mark or received export pieces not hallmarked but marked only by himself. Some may have even been sold unmarked, as he is known to have complained to at least one of his suppliers of receiving a shipment of inferior quality. (2) Although owners or sellers of Revere silver do not like to hear it, not everything bearing Paul Revere's mark was necessarily made by his own hand, nor even a product of his own shop, as he is known to have obtained items from one or more neighboring silversmiths otherwise well known in their own right, but whose marks have not been found to apear beside his.

In addition any number of teasets are known which have matching items marked by unassociated silversmiths, or with one or more pieces unmarked. It is often assumed that these pieces were separately obtained, but unless the working dates of the makers fail to overlap, they cannot be assumed to have been provided to the purchaser by more than one of the makers involved. In other words, the seller of a set may have made the teapot, but contracted out the sugar bowl and cream pot.

Both buyers and sellers of American silver need to understand that there are few guarantees that canbe made in this regard (or even in many attributions of marks). Unfortunately, some people cannot abide this uncertainty, but that is just the way things are. I know one well respected dealer who has had some very nice holloware in the past, but who will no longer deal in Anmerican silver, because so msny buyers demand guarantees that he cannot give. For me, it is these challenges that make this field of study so interesting and attractive.

[This message has been edited by swarter (edited 05-14-2004).]

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ahwt

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iconnumber posted 05-17-2004 10:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ahwt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

Your comment about the number of eagle punch marks is really accurate. I visited a couple of antique stores Friday and found a tablespoon marked R & A Campbell (mark b in Maryland Silver page 151) combined with the same eagle that is on the Huntington piece. The Campbell tablespoon is also marked 10 15. The spoon is a fiddle, reverse tipped with a round drop and pointed shoulders. This would seem to confirm that the Campbell brothers brought silver from the same source as Huntington and it may be that the basket of flowers spoon was also brought from the same manufacturer. Of course it could be that the firm with the eagle trademark made blank objects and some second source created the final product.

With regard to whether or not a piece can be guaranteed as American, or for that matter any other country or silversmith, I agree with you. However, people buy silver or other decorative art objects for different reasons and collecting signature objects is very important too many people. I actually heard a lecturer on silver state that unmarked silver meant that the silversmith was not proud of his work and one should avoid it. That just is not right and leads one away from looking for the beauty first and realizing that everything else can be interesting and maybe even important in determining the value of the object, but does not actually affect the inherent beauty of the object. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge.

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ahwt

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iconnumber posted 02-20-2005 01:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ahwt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here is an update on the basket of flowers and “cutout” tongs discussion. I took a better picture of the B of F (both the large one and the smaller one) on the tongs marked Huntington. As you pointed out Swarter, the eagle on these tongs is from a manufacturer in Philadelphia and 46 retailers are listed in McGrew that sold silver with this eagle. Huntington is listed in McGrew up until 1833 when he was still in North Carolina and as often happens his move to Marion, Alabama in 1834 is not mentioned. I was hoping that McGrew had located the name of the manufacturer of the Philadelphia eagle, but such is not the case as it is still “unidentified”. Perhaps Mr. Soeffing’s book will have the name of this manufacturer when it is published. I have also included a picture of a plate that shows the same vertical and horizontal basket construction used on the Huntington B of F. It may be that this was a common type basket in the early 1830s and 40s as the plate is English, although this design is rarely used by silversmiths to depict baskets. Perhaps I should say die makers instead of silversmiths because as I understand, most of the B of F were designed and made my die makers.



The other updates are some more cutout or pierced tongs. The one already posted and marked SW may not be American at all, but rather the work of Stephen Walsh from Cork, Ireland. I do not have any reference book for Cork except Jackson’s and he does not actually have photographs so making an attribution is difficult. Are there any books that show actual photographs of Irish silversmiths’ marks?

One of the new tongs I am posting is marked PS and I would hope it is Philip Syng, Jr., but with my track record of reading marks I am hesitant to really say. Belden show several marks attributed to him and none look to me to be exactly right. These tongs are marked right at the bend of the two legs rather than on one on the legs. The curve may make the impression look different so I took two pictures from opposite sides. The engraving, R C, is attractive and a little leaf like design separates the two letters.





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argentum1

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Registered: Apr 2004

iconnumber posted 07-11-2007 08:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for argentum1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The joint used to connect the cast arm to the bow is a scarf joint. These photos may help to explain this joint.


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ahwt

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iconnumber posted 07-11-2007 04:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ahwt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the explanation argentum1. A joint of this type would be quite a bit stronger than a butt joint.

Cast Sugar Tongs [castsugartongs.co.uk - link gone from the Internet] is an interesting web site showing quite of number of tongs from the 18th century and providing an informative history of this form.

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DB

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Registered: May 2006

iconnumber posted 07-12-2007 08:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DB     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Best book re Irish silver and marks is (in my opinion) Douglas Bennett: Collecting Irish silver.

I have collected many sugar tongs over the years - and most American sugar tongs are marked on both arms with the same mark.

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FWG

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iconnumber posted 07-12-2007 11:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for FWG     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree with Dorothea as to the value of Bennett, but for the cost of a copy you can have a pretty nice piece of silver! His Irish Georgian Silver is also excellent, but even harder to come by. The latter shows a mark (drawn) for Samuel Walker (Hoey's Court, Dublin; apprenticed to John Taylor 1726; Quarter Brother 1731; Freeman 1752; died 1769 and in street directories to that year) that may be a match for your SW above.

Two newer books include photographs of marks: Beth Carver Wees, English Irish & Scottish Silver at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (1997), an excellent, huge volume that may still be available online at a dramatic discount; and John R. Bowen and Conor O'Brien, Cork Silver and Gold: Four Centuries of Craftsmanship (2005), an equally excellent catalogue of an exhibition. The latter gives a mark for Stephen Walsh (an SW mark along with a full name WALSH mark), but the S looks different from the one here, being rather open at top and bottom.

Unfortunately (?) I did not see a likely candidate for the PS mark in any of the above.

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wev
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iconnumber posted 07-12-2007 11:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Beth Carver Wees, English Irish & Scottish Silver at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (1997), an excellent, huge volume that may still be available online at a dramatic discount

The Clark Art Institute is offering it at a pittance.

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