Cup, part of set
Whiting Manufacturing Company (1866–1875 MA, 1876–1924 NY)
Object Place: Providence, Rhode Island, United States
11 x 12.5 x 8.5 cm (4 5/16 x 4 15/16 x 3 3/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
Sides bulge out slightly from lip, then taper down to molded edge, the body resting on an applied slightly raised molded base. Applied handle is in shape of banded stalks with lotus blossoms near top joining to the body and at the bottom. Surface of body has grainy texture except for center plaque bearing inscription. Engraved on side opposite handle is cluster of Egyptian motifs surrounding panel with inscription.
The enthusiastic revival of interest in Egyptian styles in the decorative arts in the 1860s and 1870s has been credited to the construction of the Suez Canal (completed in 1870) and the Cairo opening of Verdi’s Aida in 1871.
This impressive beverage service, dramatically plain in form and embellished with bold Egyptian motifs, served as a rich and fashionable gift in 1876, when it was presented to John Gilbert, the prominent stage actor, on his sixty-sixth birthday. It was given by Lester Wallack, a fellow actor, manager of New York’s Wallack’s Theatre, and Gilbert’s friend. Gilbert was known for his comedic roles, and the inscription encircling the cover is a toast from the second act of Oliver Goldsmith’s comedy She Stoops to Conquer (1773). Gilbert remained with Wallack’s company until it disbanded in 1888. Although Gilbert’s work kept him in New York, he maintained a home in Boston, where he had been born and raised and where he made his acting debut in 1828.
The Whiting Manufacturing Company was originally located in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. After a fire in 1875, F. Jones of Newark, New Jersey, salvaged the company’s property and reestablished factory and commercial operations in a large corner building at Broadway and Fourth Street in New York City. Since wares made after the fire have “New York” as part of their manufacturing marks, this beverage service, which carries the earlier Whiting mark, was probably produced in Attleboro. Having survived the fire, it may have been sold in New York in January or February of 1876. In 1924 the Whiting firm was purchased by Gorham and merged with its Providence, Rhode Island, operations.
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.
"JG from LW / Feb. 27th 1876"
Lion holding cartouche with "W / Sterling / 121 / A"
Given in 1876 to John Gilbert (1810 – 1889) by Lester Wallack (1819 – 1888); later history unknown until purchased in 1975 from Richard B. Pierce of Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts.
Marion Davis Fund