Pitcher

about 1863–68
Gorham Manufacturing Company (active 1865–1961), John Gorham (American, 1820–1898), Retailed by Newell Harding & Co. (American, active 1851–1889)


Object Place: Providence, Rhode Island, United States

Dimensions

26.5 x 22 x 15.8 cm (10 7/16 x 8 11/16 x 6 1/4 in.)

Accession Number

1986.85

Medium or Technique

Silver

Not On View

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver hollowware

The vase-shaped spun body of the pitcher sits on a splayed ring base. A band of large beads ornaments the seam between the body and neck, under the beaded rim. The set-in spout with scrolled edge is adorned at its base with a stylized catfish head set against a group of repoussé-chased cattails with stippled background. The hollow ear-shaped handle features a long applied acanthus leaf that curls at the top to form a thumbpiece and continues down the length of the handle. A band of flat-chased leaves stretches around the middle of the body and frames a circular reserve below the spout, within which is a stylized strapwork design embellished with vines.


This Gorham-manufactured pitcher was retailed as part of a set by Newell Harding & Co. of Boston, a well-known manufacturer of flatware; only the salver is marked by Harding. The firm’s hollowware production, especially works dated after the 1862 death of Newell Harding Sr., remains unclear. The relationship with Gorham may have developed from Harding’s early association with H. L. Webster of Providence. Webster worked with Jabez Gorham in that city in 1831 and invested in Harding’s firm in 1841.
By the 1860s, Gorham offered hollowware in a wide variety of styles. The Harding firm may have purchased the water pitcher and then further embellished it, along with a salver of their own or another’s manufacture, to create a marketable set. Both pieces have central engravings of a complex strapwork design entwined with a sprigged vine within a reserve, which resemble the elaborate entwined monograms popular in the later nineteenth century. The newly fashionable Renaissance-revival-style strapwork and portrait medallions may have been engraved in Providence or Boston. Harding & Co.’s letterhead was embellished with a similar strapwork-style ornament.
The delicately modeled and cast catfish mask at the base of the pitcher’s spout is set against a grouping of cattails, providing a dramatic contrast to the smooth, highly polished surface of the body. The mark includes the pattern number “430,” although Carpenter has noted that these numbers seem to have been assigned arbitrarily and not sequentially; nor do they always indicate the same form. The exact date of the first use of the “lion-anchor-G” logo is unknown, but it was in use by the mid-1850s. Silverware such as this pitcher, bearing only the logo and a pattern number, was known to have been made by Gorham from 1863 through 1865.3 Gorham sold mainly to the trade during this period, and solid silver hollowware from the region’s largest wholesaler stocked many shops, such as Newell Harding & Co. on Court Street in Boston.

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

None.

Markings

lion passant in an octagon, "430", anchor, G in an octagon "N.HARDING & CO." The style number and retailer's name are struck incuse, the name in uppercase Roman letters.
Ada Mark * F4356

Provenance

Early history unknown. Purchased in 1986 from the Boston shop of J. Herbert Gebelein and presented as a gift to the Museum by Mr. and Mrs. Henry L. Mason.

Credit Line

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Henry L. Mason