Tankard

1768
Paul Revere, Jr. (American, 1734–1818)


Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts

Dimensions

23 x 18.9 cm (9 1/16 x 7 7/16 in.)

Accession Number

1986.678

Medium or Technique

Silver

On View

Carolyn A. and Peter S. Lynch Gallery (Gallery 132)

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver hollowware

The raised vessel has tapering sides, a center point at base, and a wide drawn base molding with S-curve and two narrow steps at top and bottom; the midband appears above lower handle join. A twisted flame finial appears above domed and stepped lid; the peened pin for finial appears inside flanged lid. A cast thumbpiece descends to five-part hinge with cast drop. The cast, seamed, scrolled handle has rounded drop at upper join; round disk at lower attachment; concave spade-shaped terminal with crescent air vent below.


Gifts of silver to educational institutions in colonial America were first made in the mid-seventeenth century, when student Richard Harris presented an English standing salt to Harvard College. More important corporate gifts included the magnificent two-handled cup by John Coney that was given to Harvard in 1701 by William Stoughton, lieutenant governor and chief justice of Massachusetts, who was a major benefactor and a member of the class of 1650. These infrequent gifts signified affiliations of a varied, but commemorative, nature.
Harris’s gift of the standing salt helped establish his rank among students, a practice based upon traditions at Oxford and Cambridge. As early as 1655, those who provided silver for Harvard valued at £3 or more were entitled to privileged treatment as Fellow Commoners. With this status came attendance at a special Fellow Commoners table, preferential listing in classes, and exemption from errands and physical tasks, all of which made them in many ways the near equal of faculty. The gifts, called commoner silver, were to be engraved with the donor’s name, used while attending classes, and given to the college upon graduation.
The gift of tutorial silver was also a Harvard tradition, in this case a class gift by undergraduate students in honor of the assigned tutor responsible for their studies. Unlike the English practice, in which the school retained all silver, tutorial silver at Harvard was considered a gift to the tutors, as a form of compensation. The custom ended sometime after 1767, when college laws assigned an additional student fee of “one shilling and nine pence lawful money quarterly” to compensate the tutors for the loss of these valuable gifts.
This Revere tankard was given by the Harvard class of 1768 as an expression of their gratitude to Stephen Scales, a 1763 Harvard graduate and a law student while serving as tutor. He taught Harvard students from 1767 until 1770, when he left to practice law in Concord, New Hampshire.
With its tall profile, high dome, and midband decoration, the tankard is a solid, if unexceptional, example of a standard form that was produced by many Massachusetts silversmiths of the period. The Scales tankard was accompanied by a pair of canns by Revere with a similar motif and the same inscription; they are the only known examples of tutorial silver made by Revere. The elaborately worded Latin and English dedication and its personalized emblems symbolize the significant reform that took place at Harvard in 1767. Formerly responsible for teaching the complete curriculum to the students, after this date tutors were assigned to one of four specialties: Greek; Latin; natural philosophy, mathematics, and geography; or logic, metaphysics, and ethics. Scales taught the last group, as evidenced by the engraved books depicted in the cartouche: Price’s Mor (Richard Price’s Review of the Principle Questions in Morals, 1758) and Locke’s Essay (Thomas Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 1690).

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

Text appears in a large, squared cartouche on body on opposite side of handle. Within scrolled, foliated decoration in the rococo style apprears "Stephano Scales / HARVARDINATES / A.D. MDCCLXVIII / Conscripti, / Bienno sub ejus Tutela [hat/cidela over a] peracto / Hoc Poculum / Grati Animi Monimentum, DONANT". (Presented to Stephen Scales by his students at Harvard in the year 1768. Having passed two years under his tutelage, they give this drinking vessel as a symbol of their gratitude) Engraved in the position normally reserved for the torse are a pair of books that are lying on their side, with spines facing away from the viewer. "Price's Mor," is the title of the topmost book, while beneath it is "Lockes's Essay."

Markings

"REVERE" within a rectangle on base of tankard, above center point.

Provenance

Presented to Stephen Scales (1741 – 1772), along with a pair of canns also made by Revere, from his students, the Harvard class of 1768. According to family history, the tankard descended to Mary G. Lamson (1883 – 1982), and thence to her children, the donors.

Credit Line

Gift of Edward N. Lamson, Barbara T. Lamson, Edward F. Lamson, Howard J. Lamson and Susan L. Strickler