William Swan (1715 or 1716–1774)

Object Place: Worcester, Massachusetts


39.7 x 10 x 5.6 cm (15 5/8 x 3 15/16 x 2 3/16 in.); 3 oz 15 dwt 7 gr (117.1) grams including wooden handle.

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Silver with turned wood handle

Not On View




Silver flatware

The ladle has a raised, fluted, elliptical bowl with flared pouring lips at each end of the ellipse. Silver portions of the handle, possibly repaired, include a cast forked section having articulated elements that are composed of notched arms with curling tendrils at the juncture with the bowl. The cast C scroll with scrolled return is soldered to a ferule with seamed, tapering cylinder. The turned wooden handle of later date is secured to the cylinder with a silver pin.

Ladles with raised, fluted bowls and exaggerated pouring lips were the most elegant forms of their type. With their extended wooden handles, most were probably used to dispense punch from large porcelain vessels imported from China or, less frequently, from silver bowls such as the one made by John Coney for Capt. Walter Riddell (cat. no. 32).
The refined forked and scrolled elements connecting the bowl with the handle add to the delicacy of the ladle. When guests gathered for refreshments, such ladles would reflect light from many angles as they dipped and swayed in the service of drink. However, the fragility of their construction may account for the few surviving examples. Similar ladles were made in New England by Jacob Hurd (cat. no. 83), Samuel Edwards, and Paul Revere II. Closely related to this group are New York examples having shell decoration made by Elias Pelletreau and Myer Myers and dating from the 1740s to 1760s.
Ladles were not made en suite with punch bowls until the mid- to late nineteenth century. In the eighteenth century, they were purchased separately for use at family and larger social gatherings. The Masonic Order, a fraternal organization with many lodges, ordered ladles from Paul Revere, presumably to serve libations for their events.

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.




Inside bowl at center, stamped "Swan" in italics, within a shaped cartouche.


Early history unkown.

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. Graham P Teller. In memory of Charles and Jean Gorely