John Edwards (American, about 1671–1746)
Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts
33.5 x 24 x 11.2 cm (13 3/16 x 9 7/16 x 4 7/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Manning House (Gallery LG36)
The tall, raised, tapering cylindrical form has a drawn molded rim. Its seamed scroll handle has a pointed tonguelike terminal. The five-part hinge has a molded drop and a double-cusped thumbpiece. The stepped flat-topped lid has an inner flange and turned finial. Bands appear below lip and above a tall convex foot with applied foot rim. The donor’s crest and inscription are placed directly opposite the handle.
Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor William Dummer, the donor of this magnificent flagon to the First Church of Boston, was the son of silversmith Jeremiah Dummer and his wife, Anne (Atwater), and the grandson of Richard Dummer (about 1598 – 1678/79), a wealthy Newbury landowner and cattleman. The First Church of Boston was probably William Dummer’s family church; a communion cup made by his father was given to the church as a bequest from his maternal grandfather, Joshua Atwater.
Dummer made an excellent political marriage in 1714 to Catherine Dudley (1690 – d. before 1756), the daughter of Gov. Joseph Dudley. Dummer became lieutenant governor in 1716, and served as acting governor and commander-in-chief of the colony between 1722 and 1728. He settled one of the French and Indian wars in 1726 that was known as “Dummer’s Indian War,” or “Râle’s War,” the same year in which he gave this finely engraved flagon.
Dummer gave generously to churches. The Hollis Street Church in Boston received a flagon in 1753 bearing the Dummer arms; he also gave two wine cups to his ancestral church, the Byfield Parish Church of Newbury, Massachusetts. A gold snuffbox, one of the handsomest of the colonial era, belonged to Dummer; it carries the fully engraved family arms.
The crest on the Edwards flagon was one granted in 1711 by the College of Arms to Dummer’s English cousins, based upon ancient seals held by the family. However, the crest was later found to be that of the Pyldren family, who had married into the Dummer family in the sixteenth century. The English branch of the Dummer family discovered the error in 1720 and received a modified coat of arms in 1721. The lieutenant governor nevertheless employed the Pyldren crest for this flagon and the complete arms and crest on his gold snuffbox.
The flagon is one of only two known examples made by Edwards. The other, fashioned more than a dozen years earlier for the Brattle Street Church and also in the Museum’s collection, is about eight ounces lighter and slightly shorter, having a compressed stepped lid and contracted body. This example shows a more fluid line from foot to finial, with only a slight alteration in proportions.
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.
"The Gift of the Honerable William Dummer, Esq.r / to the First Church in Boston. 1726." engraved below a cartouche framing a rampant lion holding a fleur-de-lis.
"I E" crowned over a fleur-de-lis, all within a shaped shield, struck on lid ans to left of handle. A third mark may be obscured by a circular disk applied later to base.
1726, given by William Dummer (1677-1761) to the First Church in Boston; 1906, lent by the First Church to the MFA; 1906, returned; 1910, re-lent; 1970, the First Church merged with the Second Church to become the First and Second Church, Boston; 1999, purchased from the church by the MFA. (Accession date: June 23, 1999)
Museum purchase with funds donated anonymously in honor of Jonathan L. Fairbanks