Teapot

about 1760
Samuel Minott (1732–1803)


Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts

Dimensions

19 x 22.6 cm (7 1/2 x 8 7/8 in.)

Accession Number

1991.655

Medium or Technique

Silver

Not On View

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver hollowware

The globular apple-shaped teapot was raised upside down and tapers to a flat inset base with cast, molded, splayed foot. The low domed lid has a circular air vent; pinecone finial is riveted to lid within a small depression. A three-part hinge is set flush with the lid; an applied hingeplate is soldered underneath lid and body. The cast upper-handle socket is squared at shoulder and has leafy decoration, whereas the lower socket is round, tapering toward vessel. The wooden handle is a replacement. Chased and hatched leafy decoration appears on underside of cast S-scrolled spout having foliated, retracted upper lip; spout is affixed over strainer holes. Decorative engraving of scallop shells, fish scales, diaper patterns, and broken scrolls encircles the lid; a draped mask points toward the spout. Overlapping leaves are engraved at base of the finial; a border of stippled scrolls appears on edge of lid.


Merchant Thomas Hancock and his wife, Lydia, daughter of bookseller Daniel Henchman, were wealthy Bostonians in the eighteenth century. Much of their silver was probably purchased abroad, but some pieces, such as three elaborate chafing dishes made by Jacob Hurd, were gifts from Lydia’s father prior to her marriage in 1731. At Hancock’s death, he bequeathed two silver cups to the church in Lexington where his father John was minister, and two silver flagons to the Brattle Street Church. The three communion plates that Hancock gave to the Brattle Church in 1764 were made and engraved with the family arms by Minott shortly after he made this teapot.
Hancock’s name and the announcement of his gift are engraved on the teapot, yet the identity of its intended recipient remains uncertain. Family history maintains that the pot was a gift from Hancock to his nephew Ebenezer, who worked for his uncle upon graduation from Harvard College in 1760. That may have been one way in which the elder Hancock occasionally bestowed gifts upon Ebenezer, whose brother John had been adopted at the age of nine into the merchant’s household. The teapot may be the same as one recorded with a value of $15 in the 1819 inventory of Ebenezer Hancock’s estate.
Similar in form, detail, and engraving to the Hancock teapot is a second example made by Minott in 1763 for tutor William Kneeland of Harvard College. The symmetrical arrangement of arms and mantling amid the raffles and offset swags on the Hancock teapot are a somewhat more conservative expression of the Rococo style, which received livelier treatment in the Kneeland example.

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

"Ex Dono Hon. di Dom. ni Thomae Hancock Armigeri" [The gift of the Honorable Sir/Mr. Thomas Hancock, armsbearer] engraved on scrolled banner beneath armorial. Scratch price of "£ 74=16-0" incised on base.
The Hancock arms engraved to the left of the handle display a dexter hand couped and erect gules on a chief gules three cocks; crest a phoeniz or a demi-griffen erased on a torse. The whole surrounded by asymmetrical Rococo decoration of raffles, diaper patternng, scrolls, and pendant foliate decoration; swagged below.

Markings

"Minott" within a rectangle on base below center point.

Provenance

According to family history, the teapot was a gift from the Boston merchant Thomas Hancock (1703-64), to his nephew, Ebenezer Hancock (1741-1819), and his wife, Elizabeth Lowell [dates uncertain], m. 1767. The teapot descended to Ebenezer's son, John Hancock (1774-1859) and Elizabeth (Betsey) Scott (b. London 1830/31), m. 1799. The silver then descended matrilineally to their daughter, Elizabeth Lowell Hancock (1814-1857), and Dr. Joseph Moriarty (1810-1847), m. 1839; to their daughter Elizabeth Lowell Hancock Moriarty (1844-1929) and Charles Henry Wood (1843-1923), m. 1868; to their daughter, Mary Elizabeth Wood (b. about 1876) and George Albert Cole (1877-), m. 1901; to their daughter, Elizabeth Lowell Hancock Cole (1902-1983) and Walter Amory, Jr. (1899-1937), m. 1923. The teapot passed to their son, Walter Amory (b. 1924), and his wife, Shirley Gay Waterman (b. 1947), m. 1947, the donors.
Sources:
n.a. "An extract from the Wrentham Records," NEHGR 9 (1855):353; Demar R. Lowell, ed., The Historic Genealogy of the Lowells in America, 1639-1899 (Rutland, Vt.: [published by the author] Tutttle Co., printers, 1899), p. 35-59; Edward Wheelwright, "The Lowell Pedigree," NEHGR, 54 (1900):315-19; Clay W. Hlmes, comp., A Genealogy of the Lineal Descendants of William Wood who Settled in Concord, Massachusetts in 1638 (Elmira, N.Y.: no publisher, 1901), p. 75; Vital Records of Gardner, Massachusetts to the end of the year 1849 (Worcester, Ma.: Systematic History Fund, 1907), p. 66-7; Ernest Byron Cole, The Descendants of James Cole of Plymouth, 1633 (New York: Genealogical Publishers, 1908), p. 270; Harvard Class of 1923, Fiftieth Ann'y Report, p. 9; Harvard Class of 1946, 10th Ann'y Report, p. 6; G. Andrews Moriarty, "Moriarty Family of Salem, Massachusetts," NEHGR 101 (1947): 227-28; Clifford K. Shipton, Harvard, Vol III, p. 429-48; Vol VIII, 427-29; vol. XIV, pp. 619-23.

Credit Line

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Amory