Samuel Buel(l) (American, 1742–1819)
Object Place: Westfield, Connecticut, United States
Overall: 9.2 x 18.1 cm, 0.33 kg (3 5/8 x 7 1/8 in., 0.73 lb.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
The raised hemispherical bowl with applied rim has a splayed foot with an applied foot rim. Bands of bright-cut swags encircle the rim beneath its molding edge.
Born in Branford, Connecticut, Samuel Buel was a third cousin of silversmith Nathaniel Crittenden (1752 – 1828) and a second cousin, once removed, to the engraver and counterfeiter Abel Buel (1738 – 1822). It is likely that Samuel Buel’s master was Ebenezer Chittenden (1726 – 1821) of Madison and later New Haven, Connecticut. Chittenden produced communion silver for nearby Connecticut churches, and his mechanical ingenuity brought him into association with Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin. As Chittenden was Abel Buel’s brother-in-law and master, Samuel Buel may have learned the craft from him as well.
By 1777 Buel had established his own shop and advertised the sale of “hangars,” or broad swords for officers, “made in the neatest manner.” In 1780 he announced the move of his shop to Hartford, where he sought the assistance of a journeyman. In later years, he moved to Westfield, where he died in 1819. Silver by Buel ranges in form from spoons to a cream jug, bowl, beaker, and coffeepot, although scarcely ten objects are known.
Buel’s skill as an engraver is evident in the light and assured touch seen in the bowknot, swags, and crest of this bowl. The elliptical reserve, surmounted by this delicate ornamentation, was at the time the classic method for rendering an owner’s initials; the engraving of a crest in this location was somewhat unusual in American silver. The unidentified owner, whose surname begins with the letter “H,” was probably from Connecticut, where Buel spent his career.
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.
Crest of a goat on a torse over the letter "H" engraved within an ellipse engraved on the side, pendant from a bowknot
Marked twice on base: "S[pellet]B" within a rectangle
Early history unknown; collected by Nathaniel T. Dexter, Boston, Massachusetts, and bequeathed to the Museum in 2000.
Gift of the Nathaniel T. Dexter Fine Arts Trust