Porringer

1719–20
John Burt (American, 1692/93–1745/46)


Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts

Dimensions

Overall: 4.7 x 20.8 x 13.5 cm (1 7/8 x 8 3/16 x 5 5/16 in.)

Accession Number

1992.270

Medium or Technique

Silver

Not On View

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver hollowware

The raised vessel has a center point on bottom, a domed base with convex sides, and a small everted rim. The cast keyhole-style handle is soldered at a right angle to the rim.


The remarkable survival of this porringer in the Gibbs family adds to our knowledge of not only the possessions of an early and prominent American family but also the occasions they chose for making gifts of silver. The Gibbs family is well known to historians of colonial New England. Henry Gibbs, whose name appears on this porringer, was a minister of First Church, Watertown. He was the son of Boston merchant Robert Gibbs (about 1634 – 1674/75) and the namesake of his paternal grandfather, Sir Henry Gibbs, a knight from Homington, County Warwick, near Stratford on Avon.
Having limited financial prospects as the younger son in his family, Henry Gibbs’s father, Robert, chose to establish himself in New England. He married Elizabeth Sheafe (1644 – 1718) of Cambridge, whose inheritance from her grandfather Henry Webb (d. 1660) was substantial. The couple built an impressive stone residence in Boston valued at £3,000 by John Josselyn, author of New England’s Rareties Discovered (1672). It is likely that the mansion was graced with portraits by the Freake-Gibbs painter of Gibbs’s children Margaret, Robert, and Henry. The children’s gentrified dress was no doubt intended to demonstrate their wealth and elevated social status, as was the silver that Robert received from his father in England. His wife, Elizabeth, who later married Jonathan Corwin (also spelled Curwen and Curwin) of Salem upon Robert’s death, enumerated many of these objects in her will of 1717. To their son Henry she gave a “Grate Silver Tankard which his Grandfather Sir Henry Gibbs sent me as a present also my Grate Silver Salt seller,” and to Henry’s daughter Margaret (1699 – 1771) she gave a “silver mustard pott & a silver knob’d spoon.”
The porringer’s engraving suggests that it was given by Henry Gibbs to his daughter Margaret either on her marriage to Rev. Nathaniel Appleton in 1719 or for the birth in 1720 of her daughter and namesake, Margaret. The Gibbs tradition of inscribing silver with the names or initials of donor and recipient is also recorded on an Edward Webb tankard that was given by Henry’s mother, Elizabeth, to her granddaughter Mary Gibbs sometime after the latter’s birth in 1699. The couple also owned a pepper box and chafing dish by John Coney, the former received by inheritance.
The crest displayed on the porringer handle is probably a variant of one found on the tombstone carved for Samuel Appleton (1653 – 1725) of Ipswich.

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

"M * A" engraved in shaded roman letters on handle facing bowl. The Appleton crest, a pineapple on a torse, appears below initials. On base of porringer within dome is inscribed "H [cross] Gibbs / to / M [cross] A" in shaded roman capitals.
Sources:
Bolton, p. 5.

Markings

"IB" crowned in a shaped shield stamped on back of porringer handle, with a second fragementary strike inside bowl on center point.
Ada Mark X

Provenance

The porringer was purchased from Burt by Henry Gibbs (1668-1723) (Harvard College 1685), pastor of East Parish, Watertown, 1697, who married Mercy Greenough (1674/75-1716), the daughter of William Greenough about 1707. A largely matrilineal line of ownership to the donors can be established, beginning with its likely gift from the abovementioned Henry Gibbs to his daughter, Margaret (1699-1771), who married Rev. Nathaniel Appleton (1693-1784) (Harvard College 1712) of Cambridge in 1719. It may also have been given to commemorate the birth of his granddaughter, Margaret Appleton (1720-1768), who would marry Rev. Joshua Prentiss (c. 1719-1788) (Harvard College 1738) of Holliston, Massachusetts, in 1755. The porringer descended to their daughter, Margaret Prentiss (1759-1839), who married Rev. Timothy Dickinson (1761-1813) in 1789 of Holliston; to their son, Thomas Dickinson (1794-1844), and his wife Rhoda Adams (1794-1833), who were married in 1817; to their daughter, Annie (Nancy) Louisa Dickinson (1827-1912) of Holliston, Massachusetts, who married Henry Woods (1820-1901) of Barre in 1851; to their daughter, Helen Margarett Woods (1864-1941), who married David Rankin Craig (1854-1918) in 1891; to their son, James Wallace Craig (1893-1973), m. Margaret Crane (1897-1972) in 1927; to their daughter, the donor: Margaret Oliver Craig Locke (b. 1928).
Sources:
John Appleton, Monumental Memorials of the Appleton Family, (Boston, privately printed, Edward S. Coombs & Co., 1868), p. 18; Vital Records of Barre, Mass. to the end of 1849 (Worcester, Ma.: Franklin P. Rice, Publisher, 1903), p. 199; Vital Records of Holliston, Massachusetts (to the year 1850), (Boston: New England Historical Genealogical Society, 1908), p. 52, 127, 199, 259, 309-10, 344; Mrs. Mary Isabella Gozzaldi, History of Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1630-1877; Supplement & Index Comprising a Biographical and Genealogical Record of the Early Settlers and their Descendants (Cambridge, Ma.: The Cambridge Historical Society, 1930), p. 19; Hamilton Perkins Greenough, Some Descendants of Captain William Greenough of Boston, Massachusetts and Notes on Related Families (Santa Barbara, Ca.: privately printed, 1969), p. xxvi; Edward W. McGlenen, comp., Boston Marriages from 1700 to 1809, 1752-1809 (Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1977); Dr. Elinor V. Smith, comp., Descendants of Nathaniel Dickenson, (no.pub, city.; Dickenson Family Association, 1978), p. 205, 223, 241; Dorothy Drinkwater Rees, Holliston Massachusetts 1724-1974, The Story of New England Town (Holliston, Ma.: Town of Holliston, 1974?), p. 52, 199, 259, 309, 344; Lucius Page, History of Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1630-1877, with a Genealogical Register (Boston: H. O. Houghton & Co., 1877, repr. Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, Inc., 1986), pp. 482; 633; City Document #101, p. 10; Massachusetts Bureau of Vital Statistics, microfilm (James Craig Vol. 1, p. 51); death certificates (James Wallace Craig, Sr. (Vol. 65, p. 121); Margaret Crane Craig (Vol. 39, p. 330); Helen Margarett Craig (Vol. 10, p. 10); David Rankin Craig (Vol. 126, p 152); Annie L. Woods (Vol. 10, p. 697); Sibley's Harvard Class of 1685, Vol. 3, pp. 327-32; Sibley's Harvard Class of 1712, Vol. 5, pp. 599-605; Sibley's Harvard Class of 1738, Vol. 10, pp. 312-14;
[Note to Ed: 1974 recorded as "?" in Eureka too]

Credit Line

Gift in memory of Helen and David Craig