Thomas Aspinwall Davis (1798–1845)

Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


15.2 x 10.7 cm (6 x 4 3/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View




Silver hollowware

This raised beaker has a bell-shaped form with a thick, applied rim and a splayed, stepped foot.

Although their inscriptions commemorate the years 1729 and 1733, these two beakers were produced in the nineteenth century to maintain the memories of gifts to the church during its early history. Boston jeweler and retailer Thomas A. Davis used this mark until 1835, when he formed a partnership with Julius A. Palmer. Boston silversmiths were known to wholesale marked and unmarked wares to the trade. Davis may have purchased the beakers umarked and stamped them with his retail mark.
Born into one of Brookline’s founding families, Thomas Aspinwall Davis was the fifth of seven children born to Ebenezer and Lucy Aspinwall Davis. He attended public schools and was probably apprenticed to a Boston jeweler. Davis was first listed in the Boston Directory of 1820 as a jeweler at 83 Market Street, in partnership with Thomas N. Marong. Both men disappeared from the following year’s directory, and only Davis resurfaced in 1822, listed on his own as a jeweler at 2 Market Row. He married Sarah Jackson of Newton on November 11, 1824. In 1825 Davis moved his shop to 1 Washington Street, where he remained for a decade as a retailer of imported watches. In 1835 he formed T. A. Davis & Co., another short-lived partnership with A. Langford, and in 1836 Davis moved the shop a few blocks south, to 87 Washington Street.
During these years, T. A. Davis’s mark appeared on these two beakers, several other pieces of ecclesiastical hollowware, and some spoons. Although some jewelers were trained as silversmiths, it is unclear whether Davis was the maker or the retailer of the silver wares that carry his mark. In 1837 Julius A. Palmer, formerly a partner in a retail hardware business in Boston, and Josiah G. Bachelder joined Davis to form Davis, Palmer & Co., retailers of imported watches, jewelry, coin flatware, and hollowware (see cat. nos. 187 – 88). They were located at 87 Washington Street, Davis’s longtime address.
Like the majority of other Boston shop owners in the early nineteenth century, Davis lived in the city where he worked. Involved in politics and especially interested in the drive to purifiy the local water supply, Davis ran as the candidate of the new Native American party and was elected mayor of Boston. He was sworn in on February 27, 1845, but served only a short time before his death in November of that year.4 Reorganized as Palmer & Bachelder, Davis’s former partners remained in business at various addresses on Washington Street for at least the next twenty-five years.

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.


Engraved "The Gift of / Mrs. Anna Longly / to the / Church of Christ / in Newton Mar. 23. / 1733." on body of beaker in flowing script.


Twice marked "T. A. DAVIS" in roman letters within a rectangle, on bottom of vessel above and below center point.


1973, gift of the First Church of Newton, Mass. to the MFA.
The beaker was fabricated in the early nineteenth century, about one hundred years after its donor made her gift. Anna Shephard (about 1677-1758), the daughter of Francis and Sara (Osburne) Shepherd of Charlestown, Massachusetts, married 1) Nathaniel Longley (c. 1676-1732), the son of William and Joanna Longley of Groton, Massachusetts. Within a year after the death of her spouse, Anna Longley married 2) Thomas Hammond, who predeceased her. A beaker, perhaps lost or damaged, or funds for that purpose were probably given to the First Church in Newton by Longley shortly after the death of her first husband, as indicated by the engraved date and her surname.

Credit Line

Gift of the First Church in Newton