about 1730–34
John Potwine (about 1698–1792)

Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts


19.7 x 17.8 x 10 cm (7 3/4 x 7 x 3 15/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View




Silver hollowware

A straight-sided raised vessel with center point on base, the tankard tapers inward toward lip, with applied and stepped base molding, one midband soldered above lower handle juncture, and flared molding at lip. The domed and stepped lid has a reel-turned finial and is scored at lip and once at its downturned edge. It has a cast scrolled thumbpiece, five-part hinge, and molded drop hingeplate. The seamed scroll handle is attached at upper juncture with a broad drop having three horizontal bands; a circular disk has been applied to lower juncture. Prominent dents on handle reveal consistent contact with the thumbpiece. Beneath the domed terminal is a crescent-shaped air vent.

John Potwine, son of a Huguenot physician, may have become apprenticed to William Cowell Sr. due to physical proximity as well as friendship. It is known that the two families lived adjacent to each other; Joseph Cowell, probably William Cowell Sr.’s uncle, witnessed the will of Potwine’s father, and both families attended the Brattle Street Church. Potwine probably began working independently in Boston from about 1719 until his departure in 1734 for Hartford, Connecticut.
In Boston, Potwine enjoyed patronage from South Church as well as area churches in Weston and Charlestown and prominent mercantile families, including those of Ebenezer and Mary (Edwards) Storer and Edward and Abigail (Coney) Bromfield. Potwine also sold general goods, some of which were purchased from merchant Peter Faneuil. Among his political customers were Roger Wolcott (1679 – 1767), governor of Connecticut from 1750 to 1754, and Maj. William Pynchon (1739 – 1808) of Springfield, Massachusetts, for whom he made a sword and cann, respectively.
This tankard descended in the Tolman/Hartt family of Dorchester and Scituate, Massachusetts; it probably dates to the second quarter of the eighteenth century, for it exhibits a somewhat shorter profile and smaller dome than appear in classic Boston tankards made during the middle and latter part of the century. It is similar to several others by Potwine that have been dated to the 1730s. Assuming that the inscription refers to the first owner, the tankard was probably made before Potwine left Boston in 1734.

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.


In later script on body opposite handle " Presented / [arrow toward text] to / Joseph Tolman / by his Father / 1749." Below midband "To Joseph Tolman Hartt / in 1859 / To Joseph Tolman Hartt Jr. / Oct. 23d 1868." Scratch weight of "26 2 0" incised twice on base.


To left of handle, stamped "I:Potwine" in script, within a rectangular cartouche having a shaped top.
Ada Mark * F4729


The inscription on the tankard was added many years after it was made. It identifies Benjamin Tolman (b. 1676) in Dorchester, and later Scituate, Massachusetts, as the donor of the tankard to his son Joseph (b. 1715), who married Bertha May (Mary) Turner (b. 1717) of Scituate in 1738. By descent to their son Joseph (1750-1831) of the same town, who married Bethiah Turner (1753-1846) [ED: NOT SAME AS HIS MOTHER]. The tankard was inherited by their daughter, Mary Turner Tolman (1792/3-1876), who in 1813 married Samuel Hartt (1786-1860). Hartt was the third son of Edmund Hartt (1744-1824)) the noted shipbuilder of the United States Navy vessel Constitution (1812). The tankard descended to their sixth son, Joseph Tolman Hartt (1830-c. 1888), who married Nellie L. Brownell (1847-1925) in 1867; to their son Joseph Tolman Hartt, Jr. (1868-1941) of Scituate, who in 1920 married Mary Agnes Moore (1880-1980) of Norwood. Hartt gave the tankard to his grandson, the donor, Edwin A. Crawford (b. 1934) of Cambridge, son of Alice Mary (Hamilton) Hartt (1906-1987), who in 1932 married Edwin A. Crawford.
Gerald Lee Tolman, The Descendants of Thomas Tolman (1608) (Bountiful, Utah: The Thomas Tolman Family Genealogy Center, 1996), p. 1, 5-6; 14; 29-30; 61-2; 127-28; James A. Hart, comp.,Genealogical Historyof Descendants of Samuell Hartt of Lynn, Mass., 1640-1903, (Pasadena, Ca.: Published by the author, 1903), p. 3, 18, 71-2; 77, 79; Massachusetts Vital Records and Statistics [many members of family -- list each separately?]

Credit Line

Gift of Edwin and Helen Crawford