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tline3open  Lion Passant on American Colonial Silver

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Author Topic:   Lion Passant on American Colonial Silver
Fitzhugh

Posts: 136
Registered: Jan 2002

iconnumber posted 08-07-2007 07:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fitzhugh     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I would appreciate the input of the form readers on their experiences encountering the lion passant, or a pseudo thereof, on early American silver. I have seen such on Baltimore silver, and I've referenced it on some early Charleston spoons. Thoughts??

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 08-07-2007 07:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
How strictly do you define "Colonial" and "early American?" These terms are often used loosely -- too loosely in my opinion.

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Fitzhugh

Posts: 136
Registered: Jan 2002

iconnumber posted 08-08-2007 07:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fitzhugh     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, I agree entirely. I'm thinking more generally of pre-1800 American silver, though also I'm curious about the marking standards of smiths working in America as British citizens during and before the Revolution. So, a two-part question I guess. I'd always wondered what the guidelines were for a British silversmith working in Colonial America where there was no guild to oversee and assure quality and date marks were never regulated and used. Wasn't the Lion Passant utilized alone with the maker's mark to assure purity, as least by some smiths?

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 08-08-2007 03:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In Colonial (= prerevolution) America, silversmiths would have been expected not to use pseudohallmarks, just as they would have been prohibited in England. A few appeared in New York in the years around 1800, and their use increased until reaching a peak in the 1840's where they were used as manufacturers' trademarks. Most lions passant that appear on smaller early silver along with a maker's mark only, are in fact English imports (until an added duty mark was required in 1784), and some later ones could be Canadian. I recall that there was an earlier thread in which the use of the lion passant as a phm was discussed. This may be the one.

[This message has been edited by swarter (edited 08-08-2007).]

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Fitzhugh

Posts: 136
Registered: Jan 2002

iconnumber posted 08-08-2007 08:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fitzhugh     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I would have to disagree, in theory, about most silver bearing the sterling hallmark being British imports. I'm speaking of Colonial to early Federal period American silver with an American silversmith's mark and the Lion Passant only, no city marks and no date marks. Honestly, I can't remember a real thread on this subject before. Think of it a moment, any silversmith in this country working during or before the American Revolution would have been working on British soil. One would expect some duplication in marking procedures as found in Great Britain, as least the purity standard of the Lion Passant. Was it never used by Colonial smiths? I'd be surprised. My feeling is that we have failed to document the use sufficiently to be commonly aware of the practice. My thoughts only, in hopes that someone can lead us to a published treatise on the subject which could shed further light on the period.

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wev
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iconnumber posted 08-08-2007 08:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
One would expect some duplication in marking procedures as found in Great Britain, as least the purity standard of the Lion Passant

I don't see why one would. There was no statutory demand to have one and no established assay office to officiate its use. What would a lion punch guarantee? Anyone with the talent to cut one (or the means to have one made) could strike it on whatever they liked, so why bother?. It is apparent from the testing done at Winterthur that smiths used metal with a wide range of purity, sometimes of necessity, sometimes of opportunity. Personal reputation was surely the greater measure of the day.

[This message has been edited by wev (edited 08-08-2007).]

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 08-09-2007 01:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Theory and logic aside, it was simply a matter of British law: silver could not be hallmarked anywhere outside of a recognized Guild Hall - there were none in the Colonies - nor could any marks be applied that imitated the official marks. Counterfeiting was severely punished when caught - In 1765, Connecticut silversmith and engraver Samuel Buell was imprisoned by the Colonial Government, fined, had his property confiscated, was branded on his forehead, and had an ear cropped for counterfeiting currencey; for counterfeiting coins Obadiah Mors also had his ears cropped, Edward Hunt was hanged, and Samuel Casey escaped from prison before a hanging sentence could be carried out; the penalty for faking hallmarks would undoubtedly have been no less severe! Silver, with its maker's mark stamped on it coule be directly traced to the offending smith, so without the anonymity of counterfeit money there would have been no hope of escaping detection.

[This message has been edited by swarter (edited 08-09-2007).]

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Fitzhugh

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Registered: Jan 2002

iconnumber posted 08-09-2007 06:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fitzhugh     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Interesting stretch, but we would need to document the recognition of purity standards as counterfeit marks in 18th century America. Plausible conjecture, but let's find where it was put into practice. I'd also point out the period after 1784 when duty marks were required. Articles bearing only a lion passant and maker's mark from after this date could more easily be attributed to American smiths. A colleague just e-mailed to remind me also of the weight limits (minimums) for full hallmarks, which answers a part of my question. Some small articles pre-1770 with only the two marks certainly are likely British, unless bearing a well documented American mark. That still leaves open the contention that articles from the last quarter of the 18th century at least, with maker's punch and lion passant, can be attributed to American craftsmen using some form, even if not "legitimate" by British standards, of a purity mark. I think the contributing posts make good points, though, about the lack of likelihood of pre-1770 silver with a lion passant being American. I thank all for their participation and time in scrutinizing my question. It helped me sort out the use of marks greatly, but it also helped me put into context the lion mark I have encountered in private collections that date from the 1775-1800 period on clearly American made silver. (All Maryland and south, however. Could be an interesting future research project for MESDA.) Thanks again to all.

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