Chocolate Pot

1715–20


Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts

Dimensions

24.1 x 22.2 x 8.2 cm (9 1/2 x 8 3/4 x 3 1/4 in.)

Accession Number

1976.771

Medium or Technique

Silver

On View

Burton A. Cleaves Gallery (Gallery LG27)

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver hollowware

The raised, tall, gourd-shaped vessel has a splayed molded foot with foot ring. Circular tapered sockets hold a replacement scrolled, carved wooden handle with thumbgrip. Opposite the handle is the cast and chased panelled spout, with the head of a collared serpent at its tip. A domed multistepped lid rises to a spherical finial and has a small hole, now filled with a cupped device with a protruding pin on reverse. The lid has a wide rim, scored several times; inside, a deep flange sets the friction-fitted lid. A section of chain, about 4 inches (10 cm) and probably replaced, has rings at each end that encircle the finial and upper socket. The decorative elements consist of cut-card ornamentation that rises from the spout and engraved triangular mantling with an oval reserve, which contains the later owner’s initials.


John Coney is considered the first New England silversmith to make both teapots and chocolate pots for the newly fashionable, imported beverages. His domed teapot, made about 1710 – 20 for the Mascarene family of Boston (MMA), is among the earliest of its kind. Along with Edward Webb, Peter Oliver, and Edward Winslow, Coney produced chocolate pots during the first fifteen years of the eighteenth century; Zachariah Brigden created two during the 1750s, for a total of eight known chocolate pots. This gourd-shaped example and another in the shape of a ginger jar made by Coney that is in the Museum’s collection are unique forms of this rare vessel.
The 1749 union of Elizabeth Edwards and William Downes Cheever brought together a quantity of silver that predated their marriage by more than twenty years. In addition to the chocolate pot, the heirlooms included a porringer by Coney, a chafing dish by Winslow, a child’s porringer by Thomas Savage, a cann by Nathaniel Morse, and a tankard possibly by Timothy Dwight.2
William Downes Cheever was a successful sugar refiner who had inherited a fortune and was well able to purchase silver of his choice. Yet it is more likely these older pieces were inherited from the Edwards side of the family. Elizabeth was the daughter of Thomas Edwards (1701 – 1755) and hence part of the Edwards silversmithing dynasty. She was also the great-niece of John Noyes and the sister-in-law of Zachariah Brigden. Thus, the chocolate pot, along with these additional pieces of silver, may have been received as wedding gifts from her family.

This text has been adapted from “Silver of the Americas, 1600-2000,” edited by Jeannine Falino and Gerald W.R. Ward, published in 2008 by the MFA. Complete references can be found in that publication.

Inscription

Mantling on vessel to left of handle engraved with the later initials "C / W D [tilda] E. Scratch weight of "27 oz 10 dwt 0 g" incised on base.

Markings

Marked below rim near spout, on flange, and on bottom with "I C," having a crown above and a coney below, within a shaped cartouche.
Ada Mark * B20962

Provenance

William Downes (1720 – 1788) and Elizabeth (Edwards) Cheever (1729 – 1802), m. 1749; by descent in the matrilineal line (1) to Mr and Mrs Robert Soutter (Helen Whiteside); February 1907, lent by Mrs. Robert Soutter to the MFA; May 1907, returned; 1911, re-lent; 1925, returned; May 1926, re-lent; Nov 1926, returned; Dec 1926, re-lent; 1934, returned; 1935, re-lent; Jan 1941, returned; Feb 1941, re-lent by Lamar Soutter; Nov 1941, returned; Dec 1941 re-lent; 1976, purchase and gift of Dr. Soutter to the MFA. (Accession date: Nov 18, 1976)

1: William and Elizabeth's daughter Eleanor Cheever (1749/50 – 1825) m. 1787 the Hon. Caleb Davis (1738 – 1797); their daughter Eliza Cheever Davis (1790 – 1828) m 1811 Dr. George Cheyne Shattuck (1783 – 1854); their son Dr. George Cheyne Shattuck Jr. (1813 – 1893) m. 1840 Anne Henrietta Brune (1809 – 1894); to their daughter Eleanor A. B. Shattuck (also called Elizabeth) (1842 – 1918) m. 1871 Alexander Whiteside (1825 – 1903); their daughter Helen Whiteside (1876 – 1940) m 1904 Dr. Robert Soutter (1870 – 1933); their son Lamar Soutter (1909 – 1996).

Credit Line

Gift of Dr. Lamar Soutter and Theodora Wilbour Fund in memory of Charlotte Beebe Wilbour