Coffeepot

Probably 1798
Attributed to Paul Revere, Jr. (American, 1734–1818)


Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Dimensions

Overall: 30.5 x 29.2 x 16.5 cm (12 x 11 1/2 x 6 1/2 in.)

Accession Number

2000.826

Medium or Technique

Silver

Not On View

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver hollowware

The raised coffeepot is urn shaped and has a reeded rim, concave neck, and reeded shoulder. The detached circular lid with a flange has a shallow dome and a spherical finial peened in place. The slender S-curved spout extends from the base of the urn and has a long lower lip. The upper handle socket has a stylized petal design; the lower socket is circular in section. The tiger-maple handle is a replacement. The splayed circular foot has a stepped edge with reeded banding. Bright-cut wavy lines frame a repeating band of acorns and leaves, which encircles the top of the urn. Wavy ribbons crown a buckled medallion on each side of the vessel.


Close study of the engraving on this elegant, but unmarked, coffeepot, combined with its history of ownership, strongly suggests that the vessel was almost certainly produced by the shop of Paul Revere.
The distinctive acorn-and-leaf decoration also appears on at least six other examples of early American silver. A sugar urn, two bowls, and two teapots bearing this design are marked by Revere. A large urn-shaped coffeepot, marked by Nathaniel Austin, is the sixth example. Made for President John Adams, Austin’s first cousin by marriage, and his wife, the former Abigail Smith, the Austin coffeepot was also probably made by Revere.
The Revere bowls share two common elements with the coffeepot. In addition to a bowknot, the bowls display the unusual device of a buckled medallion encircling the owner’s initials, a feature reminiscent of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, an English heraldic emblem that is found on no other colonial New England silver. Along with the coffeepot, the bowls, sugar urn, and teapots have nearly identical engraving styles; the Adams coffeepot exhibits less assured engraving of the acorn border.
The initials on this coffeepot probably stand for William and Hannah (Carter) Smith, who purchased quantities of silver through Nathaniel Austin, their cousin by marriage. Curiously, however, Austin produced little hollowware. Surviving bills of sale from Austin to William Smith document that a variety of tea equipage was “bot of Nathl Austin.” The Revere daybooks prove that it was Revere who supplied the finished work, although in some cases it was marked by Austin using his own touchmark or that of his uncle, Josiah Austin. By extension, the Adams coffeepot can be attributed to Revere.
The MFA coffeepot may be the same one listed in a receipt signed by Nathaniel Austin on October 22, 1798, accepting payment of $81 from William Smith for a “Coffee Pot.” Although there is no corresponding record in Revere’s daybooks (the silversmith did not always enter work into his log), it is likely that, based on the engraving and known working relationship between Revere and Austin, the pot was also made by Revere.
Indeed, Revere was the leading maker of coffeepots in
eighteenth-century Boston. The form gained popularity during the Revolution, when resistance to the tax on tea prompted colonists to change beverages. From the time of the Townsend Acts in 1767 until the end of the war in 1783, Revere made at least seven coffeepots. Following the war, the taste for coffee continued, as evidenced by this example, the closely related Adams pot, and at least five others. These late examples included retardataire double-bellied forms with Neoclassical engraving, one elegant and elongated variant thereof (cat. no. 169), and one urn-shaped Neoclassical form with a pineapple finial, which was made for David Greene of Boston.

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

WHS in entwined script within a buckled medallion engraved on side

Markings

none

Provenance

The coffeepot was made for William Smith (1753/55 – 1816) of Boston and his wife, Hannah Carter (1764 – 1838), m. 1787. It descended to their daughter Elizabeth Storer Smith (1789 – 1859) and her husband, Boston merchant Edward Cruft (1776 – 1866), m. 1810. It then likely descended to their daughter Harriet Otis Cruft (d. 1913), d. unm., who was a benefactor of the Museum and owner of other pieces of the Smith-Carter family wedding silver. It then passed to one of her nieces, either Eunice McClellan Cruft (1872 – 1939) or Francis Cordis Cruft (1874 – 1941), both d. unm. The next owner was their niece Anita Chandler Hinkley (b. 1911) and her husband, Charles F. Hovey, who consigned it to Shreve, Crump, and Low in Boston about 1970. It was purchased by Gebelein Silversmiths of Boston before 1984 and acquired from them by the Museum in 2000.

Credit Line

Marion E. Davis Fund