Tankard

about 1760–80
Elias Pelletreau (American, 1726–1810)


Object Place: Southhampton, Long Island, New York

Dimensions

16.9 x 20 x 20.2 cm (6 5/8 x 7 7/8 x 7 15/16 in.)

Accession Number

1993.128

Medium or Technique

Silver

Not On View

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver hollowware

The raised body has a center point in the base and slightly tapering sides. A large stepped molding is soldered to base, and a smaller molding with score markings appears at lip. The lid, with center point appearing on both sides, has broad brim with scored edge and a crenate lip opposite and flanking handle. The flat-top lid has a wide and narrow step rising from the rim. A cast scrolled thumbpiece and five-part hinge lead to an extended baluster-shaped cast decoration on a seamed scrolled handle, which is attached to body with a rounded drop having a U-shaped air vent. The handle ends in a plain oval terminal, beneath which is an X-shaped air vent. The base is scored with concentric circles evenly spaced at quarter-inch intervals. A spout was added at an unknown date but later removed. The spout has been retained as an artifact of the passing fashion for making pitchers out of tankards. New solder on the base was probably added when tankard was despouted.


According to the donor, this tankard descended in the Winthrop family of Massachusetts, in the line established by John Winthrop (1588 – 1649), first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. If so, the family crest was probably engraved about the time the tankard was made, when such devices were popular. The Gothic letter W, presumably for Winthrop, was probably added sometime in the mid- to late nineteenth century. The sprigged script initials “TSB” or “TLB” have yet to be explained; also unknown is how the work of a Long Island silversmith found its way into a Massachusetts family with no evident ties to that region. The Winthrop family ownership can be supported only by the fact that the population of eastern Long Island was of English stock, much of it by way of New England.
Dating the tankard sylistically is hampered by Pelletreau’s preference for making silver in a generally conservative style to suit his Long Island patrons. The majority of his known tankards had flat-topped lids; domed examples are noted only four times in his meticulously maintained account books. Therefore, this example was conceivably made between 1760 and 1798, the years during which he recorded orders for such forms.
A possible aid in dating the tankard is found in the scratch price of $37. Written in an eighteenth-century hand contemporaneous with that of the scratch weight, the inscription could be interpreted as an indication that the tankard was fashioned sometime after 1792, the year in which the Coinage Act established the dollar as a standard monetary unit, although that date seems late.

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

An engraving of the Winthrop crest, centered on the vessel to the right and left of the handle, is displayed on a mound vert, a hare courant ppr. "TSB" or "TLB" conjoined in sprigged script engraved on lid. "W" in shaded Gothic letter engraved on body, opposite handle.

Markings

To left and right of handle, "EP" in Roman capitals within a rectangle.

Provenance

According to donor, descended in the Winthrop family of Massachusetts.

Credit Line

Gift of Ada Belle Winthrop-King