Mug with added lid

about 1705–15
John Coney (American, 1655 or 1656–1722)

Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts


13.7 x 13.7 x 7.8 cm (5 3/8 x 5 3/8 x 3 1/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View




Silver hollowware

The mug has straight tapering sides; molded rim with applied molding below; and broad stepped baseband. The hollow scroll handle has a thumbgrip at shoulder. The handle is attached to the body with rounded drop at shoulder and with shaped tongue at terminus; a small circular vent hole is below. The domed bezel-set lid with button finial and beaded edge was added later.

This mug is identical in its original appearance and probable ownership to another by Coney in the Museum’s collection.1 The inscription “I / S + R” over effaced script on each may represent the initials of the first or second unidentified owner. Sometime in the nineteenth century, when the vessels were separated, each mug was altered to suit changes in taste.
The nineteenth-century bias against alcoholic drinking vessels may have prompted the fashioning of a spout on the mate to this mug, which was published in 1972 by Kathryn C. Buhler. This example was given a lid to emulate a larger tankard or perhaps to protect a sauce or drink from the air. Together, these vessels bear witness to changing American taste in the use of domestic silver.
The passage of this mug through the Vose family during the nineteenth century illustrates one family’s approach to the inheritance of silver. The mug was engraved with the initials of each new owner, followed by the death date of the preceding owner, and descended to male and female members alike. However, the importance of keeping family silver in the patrilineal line is borne out by the gift of Caroline Freeman Kettell Brewster, one of the later owners, who returned the silver to the Vose family.

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.


"I / S + R" is inscribed on base in roman capitals, the "I" and "S" over effaced initials. Later script initials "F.V. / 1856 / R.G.K. / 1880; C.F.B. / 1890 / H.V.G. 1916." appear on base. "E. V." in a modern hand is engraved on body of mug opposite handle.


On base at center is stamped "IC" crowned over a coney, within a shield-shaped cartouche; the same mark appears faintly to left of handle.


Original owners unknown, although the mug was probably made as a pair with the Museum’s other example by Coney (21.1256). The earliest likely ownership, as indicated by the later engraved text, can be dated to the early nineteenth century, beginning with Elijah Vose (1790 – 1856), m. Rebecca Gorham Bartlett in Charlestown, Massachusetts, in 1816. Upon his death, the mug may have passed first to his son Francis Vose (1821 – 1880), who died unm.; and upon his death to his sister Rebecca Gorham Vose (1819 – 1890), m. John Brooks Kettell in 1838. Their daughter Caroline Freeman Kettel (1846 – 1924) inherited the mug. Having no children through her 1878 marriage to William Brewster, she returned the silver to the patrilineal line through a gift to Henry Vose Greenough (1883 – 1973), the grandson of her uncle Henry Vose (1817 – 1869), who passed the vessel to his children, the donors.

Credit Line

Gift of Barbara Greenough Bradley, H. Vose Greenough, Jr., and Peter B. Greenough